Many freshmen do not expect to have night classes in college. They don't even think about the possibility until they start registering for courses and building their schedules. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a three-hour lecture from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. appears. I'm one of those freshmen that simply didn't expect it until I saw a three-hour sociology lecture appear on my schedule on a Monday night. I was of the mind that I would be able to take most – if not all – of my classes in the middle of the day and early afternoon. Now, with the realization that it is most definitely not a realistic expectation, I need to figure out ways to deal with having a lecture so late, as I assume many freshmen all over the world have to do as well. After doing research and interviewing former college students, I have a few tips to share with students who fear the dreaded night class.
1. Try to maintain a positive attitude.
Moping about your night class won't change the fact that you have a night class; it will only stress you out. If you have to take a night class, it can be very hard to try to stay positive, but there is something that can help boost your mood; the first thing that many of the upper-year students and former college students have said to me is that night classes are actually awesome! When I ask them if they have ever had a night class and how they managed to deal with it, they look at me like I'm crazy and say, "Night classes are great. I preferred them." Why is this? After hearing my teacher relate it to a process known as circadian rhythm, I decided to hit the internet to find out why this answer continues to come back and what this rhythm thing was all about.
What I found was a shock at first, but it isn't surprising when you really take the time to think about it. Everyone has a "body clock", also known as a circadian rhythm. Because I am no scientist, I have no choice but to make this simple; your circadian rhythm determines when you feel alert and when you feel tired or fatigued throughout the day. The circadian rhythm can determine this without considering how long you have already been up or what you have been doing throughout the day. According to Science Daily, "There are clear patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities linked to this daily cycle."
Now, here is the interesting part – the part that explains why you should look at night classes positively. The National Sleep Foundation explains that, "Changes to this circadian rhythm occur during adolescence, when most teens experience a sleep phase delay. This shift in teens' circadian rhythm causes them to naturally feel alert later at night, making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m." Considering that this happens in our teen years, it takes a while for the rhythm to change and for us to start being more tired at night in our early adult years as well. Additionally, because our rhythm tells us to be alert later at night, we normally feel much more tired in the morning. Wondering why you can stay up so late doing homework? There you have it. So if anything, be stressed out about morning classes, not night classes! I guess you can say that most freshmen are naturally nocturnal. Therefore, the perfect time for a lecture is at night. Stay positive!
2. Take a night class that you are interested in.
The worst thing that you can do is take a night class that revolves around a completely boring subject to you. If you do take a boring subject, you'll most definitely lose focus and doze off in the middle of your lecture. So, if for whatever reason you took molecular biology as an elective but you aren't very interested in it and it happens to be scheduled in the evening, you may want to reconsider.
3. Be schedule smart.
Normally, post-secondary institutions have a few different scheduling options for students. For example, I can have my sociology lecture on a Monday night or a Tuesday night. If you have this option, which you probably do, then try schedule your night class on a day that isn't already packed full of other lectures and seminars. I opted on a Tuesday night because I only have two other classes that made up a total of two and a half hours that day. The less classes you have on the day in which you decide to schedule your night class, the less stressed you will be because you won't be running from class to class. You can take time to nap prior to your lecture, go for a walk or even workout because staying active helps you feel less sluggish. If you plan your day tactfully, you can fight and overcome your night class!
4. Eat something before your night class.
This is the key. In fact, this was recommended to me by three former college students. Don't go to your night class without eating prior, even if it is something small and even if you don't feel very hungry. Trust me, if you have a three-hour lecture at night and you do not consume something, you're going to start to get hungry during your lecture and the only thing on your mind will be food. That being said, you won't concentrate as well and you'll get frustrated later on when you're trying to decipher your scribbly notes and trying to remember what the professor said while you were too busy thinking of hitting up that awesome burger joint downtown.
5. Stay hydrated (with water).
Bring water to your night class with you and drink water over other liquids as often as possible. This includes substituting your coffee for a bottle of water. If you weren't aware, coffee will make you feel energized for a little while, but eventually you'll crash unless you continuously drink it. According to a study conducted by the Department of Psychonomics at the University of Amsterdam, coffee is actually harmful to your sleep patterns and can make you feel tired during the day. If you drink a lot of coffee expecting it to help you and you're actually finding yourself to be more tired, then you should swap your coffee for water. Water is one of the best and most healthy sources of energy. According to Christina Sarich of Natural Society, water helps your bodily processes involving your enzymes, which then contributes to proper sleep and staying energized. So drink up and bring water to your night class!
6. Stay safe!
Once you finish your night class, you'll have to walk to the bus stop, the parking lot or to your residence building, which could potentially be dangerous at night. Most institutions recommend that you always walk with someone at night. Do your best to make sure you have someone to walk with. This could be a friend or even a classmate. It never hurts to ask and they would probably prefer if they could walk with someone too. Also, you may wish to look into the security programs offered at your school. My school has a program that allows me to request that a person walks me to my dorm on my phone. Some schools actually pay people to do that!
That is the best advice that I can give you, dear reader. There are only so many ways to combat night classes. Though, if you would like to find more strategies that will aid you in your combat, consider getting in touch with upper-year college students or even your current teachers and guidance counsellors. A great website to get tips from upper-year students would be yconic.com. It is considered a place to go for bursaries and scholarships, but it is also a student community and there are many discussion groups that allow you to ask your questions. Upper-year students will usually get back to you!
Lead Image Credit: Aaron Burden via Unsplash