I am sitting here on these nice chairs in my college building with my two cups of coffee, and still my eyes are blood red from the lack of sleep. Nothing seems to wake me up right now. The temperature here is nice and cool for the heat outside but also just warm enough. The guy napping next to me is not helping at all. I am trying to stay awake.
I have to submit an assignment by 11:59 p.m. tonight. It is 10 a.m., and I am already tired. The commute to school is long during the rush hours: 8 in the morning is worst and 5 pm on the way back. 2-3 hours are spent in the car.
That is my typical day, but I have to go to my next class and need to pull myself together. Below are some personal tips I have learned to help me function again.
1. Sit in the front row
Being an insomniac, I knew that morning classes were going to be a bigger struggle. I asked my doctor what I could do to be in class. He asked me, "Where in class do you sit?" I told him I sat in the back row. He said go and sit in the center front row.
He was clearly right. I went in the next day and took the center seat in the front row. That way I could not only watch myself from dozing off but also minimize distractions of those people in front of me. The center seat literally made my professor and the lecture the center of attention. The first part of the mission was accomplished.
2. Hot coffee or iced water
Slowly sip on your coffee. Slowly drinking coffee, in my opinion, works better than chugging the whole cup at once. It is like every minute I reach for a boost when I reach for a sip. Sometimes coffee doesn't do it, and other times we have maxed out our caffeine limit (mine is two cups) and start getting jittery. For those who don't consume caffeine at all (you amaze me), you probably know about iced water. Not just cold water but iced water that serves as an eye-opening refreshment, literally. Iced water, too, shall be sipped on moderately slowly because, you know, brain freezes.
3. Do not get too comfortable in your seat
As soon as you catch your elbows reaching for your desk, you trigger that "I wanna take a nap" feeling. For me, that is the first indication of my muscles getting fatigued. Keeping my arms on chest level with only my hands on the desk and not the elbows ensure I don't get in the napping-while-sitting position.
Also, do you have a class where the temperature in the room too chilly? I have a 9 a.m. in one of such classrooms, so I started to take a comfy hoodie just for that class but very soon decided not to. If you give me a blanket in a chilly room at 9 a.m., it will officially be nap time. People in hoodies, wear something not so comfortable—a light jacket would do.
4. Switch back and forth between writing utensils
Keeping a nice pen is great, but we are talking about trying to stay awake. Get at least two different types of writing utensils and keep switching between them. For example, writing a few points with a pen and a few others with a pencil then repeat. If this seems to tedious, then keep a highlighter and highlight after you jot down a point. Switching between a pen or pencil and highlighting not only helps me stay attentive but also encourages active note taking. Not to mention, color coding is a form of effective note-taking and helps in memorization.
5. Reduce carbs for lunch
Stress-related hunger leads to impulsive eating and cravings, which usually consist of foods that are loaded with carbs. A burger, giant sub, pasta, pizza, or even chips. Carbs are needed for energy, but too many carbs, even in the morning, make me sleepy. There is a reason why black coffee is more effective than coffee with more milk, so keep meals frequent but light.
6. Regulate breathing for attention span
You know those lectures when the professors keep going and going without a pause, and you want them to stop and take a breath? They get fatigued talking, and we get fatigued writing down everything they say. It is a workout. What makes workouts easier is breathing, and what really puts a strain on the muscles is unregulated breathing. Whether you are extensively taking notes or typing at an unbelievable speed, remember to regulate your breathing.
7. Shoulder rolls and watch the posture
You don't need to get out of your seat to stretch, and you don't need to hit the person next to you while stretching. Shoulder rolls are a bliss. Roll the shoulders to the front and back twice during lecture, and these serve as wonderful refreshments. Remember, it is all about not getting too comfortable. I do not have strong core muscles that naturally give me a good posture, but one way to keep me sitting up straight is sucking in my gut to keep the core tight.
8. Print out the slides
Professors spend a great deal of time explaining one slide, and sometimes it can feel like staring at a blank page on a computer for hours. Some professors do the favor of putting up slides online before class. One of the favors you can do for yourself is printing those slides out before class. That way you can actually pay attention to what the professor is saying, instead of copying the slide. Also, take notes right on top of the printed slide, that way when you look back at your notes it will be easier to remember exactly what the professor said about that particular slide.
9. Gum, baby carrots or dates
I have heard that snacking on things helps keep people up during long drives. Snacking can keep us from dozing off, but snacking on the right snack is crucial, too. I prefer carrots. They keep me full and prevent those dreadful whale noises my stomach makes when I get hungry. When I get hungry, I cannot pay attention to anything else.
Chew on gum if you can't eat in class. Keep in mind gum can increase the growling noises in the tummy, so munch on a quick, healthy snack between classes. I swear by dates. I never liked the taste until recently, and I do not step out of the house without keeping at least three in my bag. If you are craving candy and want that energy but also need it to be long-lasting and healthy, then eat a date. Getting a quick, sweet, healthy, and effortless snack sounds too good to be true. Well, it is true. Try eating a date. Tennis players do it too during matches!
10. Sit where the light is bright
Out of the front and center seats in one of the lecture halls, the lights are placed directly above three of them. I make sure to pick one of those three seats. With the light too bright, I do not physically or mentally doze off. Do so while studying in different places across campus, too. Picking that spot right under the light will keep you attentive—that is for sure.
11. Don't forget the music
Music relaxes and revitalizes. Keep your headphones in the front pocket of your back pack, and while walking to the next class get pumped! That is the best part!