For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Nov 19 2017
by Jessica Vuong

7 Ways to Not Fall Asleep in Lectures

By Jessica Vuong - Nov 19 2017

We've all had those days where our minds are fried because we pulled an all-nighter or have messed up sleeping schedules. Then, we're forced to deal with the grogginess and sluggishness that comes as a consequence of not getting enough sleep. Instead of relying on espresso shots to get you through these less than desired days, here are a few ways you can stay awake during your lectures (and there's no caffeine involved)!

1. Drink lots of water (instead of coffee).

It's easy to grab a large cup of coffee if you feel like your eyelids are about to shut tight, but switching out that coffee for a tall glass of water can be more beneficial to your health. After all, about 60% of the human body is made of water. When we become dehydrated, we start to feel tired because water is what helps transport oxygen and other nutrients to our body's organs. So instead of opting for coffee, which dehydrates your body due to it diuretic nature, drink up a tall glass of water and feel your energy levels begin to rise. Regardless of whether you're sleepy or not, you should be getting at least two liters of water per day (which is basically eight 8-ounce glasses of water). 

2. Listen to your favorite music.

Before lecture begins, spend a few minutes listening to your favorite upbeat music. It's no secret that happy music puts everyone in a good mood. Listening to your favorite songs will activate pleasurable feelings in your brain, which in turn releases a feel-good neurochemical, dopamine, known to boost your energy levels and mood, while helping you stay focused on the lecture material.

3. Expose yourself to bright light or sunlight.

Try walking or biking to class (instead of driving or taking the bus) to soak up some natural sunlight. Research shows that there's a connection between bright light and alertness. Bright lights activate neurons which release a neurotransmitter called hypocretin (aka orexin) which stimulates our wakefulness. Research from the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that people felt "less sleepy, more vital and happier when exposed to bright light." So when you get the chance to be outdoors, be sure to soak up that Vitamin D before heading to class!

4. Take a 10-20 minute power nap.

I don't mean nap during class. Before lecture, you only need about 10 minutes for a quick power nap, which will leave you feeling refreshed with better cognitive function. Whether you're running on a few hours of sleep or you've just pulled an all-nighter, the key here is to only nap for 10-20 minutes. Why only 10-20 minutes? This amount of time is optimal for boosting your alertness and energy levels because the short time frame prevents your brain from entering into the REM stage of your sleep cycle, so that you can wake up without the grogginess and sluggishness that comes from a longer nap.

5. Stretch it out.

Stretching doesn't only feel great but it also has a bunch of health benefits besides increasing your energy levels, such as lowering both blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. You don't need to lay out a yoga mat to reap the benefits of stretching. If you find yourself falling asleep during lecture, you can do some simple desk stretches without making too many big movements. Tense areas you should focus on stretching would be the shoulders, neck, lower back, wrist and hands. Here are some simple on-the-go or desk stretches you can try today!

6. Chew gum.

Not only does chewing gum give you fresh breath and strengthen your teeth, but it also keeps you awake. A study found that chewing gum can actually increase your alertness, which can potentially improve your test performance (which is what every college student needs). Go for a minty fresh flavor, since peppermint is known to stimulate your brain and help you to be more awake. 

7. Sit up straight.

It's no wonder why adults kept telling us not to slouch when we were kids. You'd be surprised how much your posture has to do with your mind's cognitive functions. If you're slumped over in a chair during lecture, you're only setting yourself up to fall asleep. When you slouch or slump over, you're negatively impacting your body's circulation, which is not ideal for your joints and can result in earlier exhaustion. A study at San Francisco State University tested the relationship between body posture and energy levels and found that those who walked with better body posture found themselves with higher energy levels. As a bonus, research has also found that good body posture may be linked to feelings of power, confident decision making and control. So during lecture, remember to sit up straight and tall to boost your brain power and your self-esteem at the same time!

Now go grab a bottle of water, take a power nap, chew a piece of gum or do whatever else you need to so that you can soak up all the valuable information that college has to offer you!

Lead Image Credit: Mikael Kristenson via Unsplash

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Jessica Vuong - University of California, Davis

Jessica is currently attending UC Davis and majoring in Managerial Economics. She was vice-president of teensReach, a community service organization, and has competed in several SJPL art & design contests. She loves coffee, sarcasm, and rainy weather. Follow her on instagram: @jsscvng | pinterest: jessvjess | VSCO: jessvjess

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