The Dreaded 8 a.m.: A Survival Guide

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Eye boogers plague your eyes with a near biblical pestilence. Putting on Thursday’s dirty sweatpants posed as much difficulty as donning a three-piece suit. The kid in front of you just passed out sitting up. As the semester drags on, you notice more and more empty desks.
You probably thought waking up at 8 a.m. would be easy after years of 6 a.m. bus rides. News flash: things change. You (hopefully) didn’t pull all-nighters and partake in the occasional weekday drinking extravaganza in the fourth grade. On top of dragging yourself out of bed after a night of Captain and Coke, you must muster the focus to examine the molecular function of nucleic acids. 
Fortunately, you can break the curse of everlasting sleep and make it to class with the proper planning. Although you might not get a full eight hours, you don’t have to become the Walking Dead. Here are nine ways to survive an 8 a.m. with your GPA and sanity intact. 
1. Alarm Clock Roulette
Setting Siri to wake you up at 7:45 might not make the cut. In the half-sleep stage following the first chime, the snooze button proves too seductive. “I set a string of alarms because I know the most tired version of myself likes to turn my alarm off without realizing it,” said Penn State student Amanda Rees. Allow yourself multiple alarms by putting a traditional alarm clock in the corner of your dorm.  If you have to get out of bed to stop the ear-punishing blare, you’ll be more inclined to wake up. 
2. Schedule Your Sleep Cycles
While it can’t guarantee you fall asleep, keeping track of your sleep schedule betters your chance of getting the maximum amount of rest. Every evening, keep track of the time. Before you watch “just one more episode” of Orange is the New Black, remember what time you have to wake up in the morning. Apps like ease the process by calculating the maximum rest potential of your sleep cycle given when you plan to sleep or when you plan to drag yourself out of bed. 
3. Go Into the Light
Though those blackout curtains are ever so tempting, a little bright light in the morning is a great way to wake up. There’s a reason you can’t sleep when sunlight invades the room like a luminescent conquistador. National Geographic reports that light prods the brain out of unconscious dormancy through cells that convert light waves into energy. During the winter and on cloudy days, such an effect can be created artificially through various forms of light therapy. 
4. Prepare in Advance
Don’t waste precious moments you could spend on sleep digging through your closet or rummaging in the pantry. Save time by picking the day’s outfit and packing your lunch the night before. A little planning can cut minutes off of your morning routine. You don’t need to wake up at 6:30 to make a PB&J and decide to wear the same hoodie as yesterday
5. You’ve Got a Friend in Me 
Let’s be honest, none of us are perfect. You’re inevitably going to miss a class or fall asleep during a lecture at least once…or seven times. Rather than continuing to share a casual nod with the classmates that share your torment, make an effort to become friends. Compare notes or get the homework from the morning that Vlad kept you in bed. You might even get a party invite out of the deal.
6. Do you even lift, Bro? 
Physical activity before 10 a.m. may seem sacrilegious. Moving your eyelids poses a big enough challenge. Despite your body’s protests (and there will be many) a little exercise serves as a major energy boost. The Huffington Post reports that morning exercise increases productivity and mental clarity by activating endorphins. Hit the gym, ride a bike, or just increase the distance of your morning walk. Any effort will increase alertness and thereby your tolerance for your professor’s droning. 
7. Step Away From the Starbucks
Grabbing a steaming cup of Joe shouldn’t be your very first step in the morning. When I worked the morning shift at Starbucks, a glass of icy water woke me up more than any sample cup of espresso. According to, dehydration affecting oxygen flow to the brain serves as one of the causes of morning tiredness. Properly hydrating eases the pump of oxygen from your heart and makes you more vigilant. 
8. Channel Your Inner Teacher’s Pet
Actually engaging with the professor and the material will ensure you stay awake. Throw your hand up when you have a question or when you have a comment you like to share. Being the nerd won’t seem so shameful when you make the Dean’s list. 
9. Incentives are Everything
Earning that “A” might not be enough to bid your electric blanket adieu on a cold winter morning. Make your 8 a.m. a day to look forward to by rewarding yourself. Go to a special place on campus or eat a favorite food. William and Mary graduate Paul Tucker always went to his favorite bakery on class days. “ If I’m up this early I deserve to treat myself.” A toasted everything bagel can replace the gold stars your professor won’t be giving out for a job well done. 
(main image via

Daniel Kuhn is a senior studying journalism at Penn State University. A great companion. Just don't feed him after midnight.

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