You were up late last night — either plugging away at your homework or trying to make the day feel longer.
Maybe you just wanted the day to end with something other than work or school.
But now you’re wondering how to stay awake in class when all you want to do is sleep.
Because you have to stay awake — no matter how dull the class might be, and no matter how tired you are.
So, what can you do?
How to Stay Awake in Class: 12 Tips To Keep You Awake
1. Take an invigorating shower.
For a quick pick-me-up, take a shower before heading off to class.
Start with cool water (not cold), then follow that with about 30 seconds of water as hot as you can stand it.
Then, before you finish, switch to cold water, taking as long as you need to for the transition.
Spend 10 to 30 seconds in the cold water — enough to wake you up and make you more than ready to get dressed.
If you can’t take a full shower, try giving your face the same treatment: cool to wet it down before rubbing in the cleanser, warm to rinse it off, and cold to close the pores and wake your face right up.
2. Sit up straight.
It’s easier to feel awake and alert when your body language says you are.
Sitting up straight in your chair tells your brain you’re awake and paying attention. So, no slouching.
Even better, sitting at the edge of your seat and leaning slightly forward tells your brain you’re anticipating something important.
Keeping your pen or pencil at the ready for note-taking is another way to use body language in your favor.
Keep your feet planted on the floor. If it helps, imagine the connection between your feet and the floor as invisible roots that reach all the way to the Earth’s core, drawing in power with every breath you take.
As you exhale, imagine you’re expelling anything toxic and making more room for light and energy.
3. Use essential oils as natural stimulants.
Aromatherapy oils like peppermint and grapefruit help you feel more alert.
And, while you can definitely enjoy those scents in the shower, you can also keep your favorite scents with you for quick pick-me-ups.
Take a whiff of peppermint oil or a citrus blend from a small bottle. Or use a roll-on or a spritz bottle with a diluted form of the oil.
You can even wear a pendant or bracelet with an essential oil diffuser (lava rock, etc.) to keep the scent within smelling distance.
Keep in mind, though, that those around you might be sensitive to perfumes. It’s best to go light on the scents, for their sakes as well as your own. Less is more.
4. Stay hydrated.
Keep a bottle of water (or fruit-infused water, etc.) handy, and top it up if you have to.
Hydration will do you more good than just taking in more and more caffeine throughout the day.
And don’t forget to wash down your meals and snacks with water or something equally hydrating.
If you feel the need for caffeine, try swapping out at least one of your coffees for a mug or tumbler of green tea (hot or iced).
Add whatever you like for flavoring: lemon or lime wedges, ginger, berries, honey, cucumber slices, etc.
5. Be an active participant.
Ask and answer questions. Contribute to the conversation. Look and sound alive and interested in what’s going on around you.
Even if you’re exhausted from a poor night’s sleep, if you actively engage in the classroom discussion, you’re likely to feel more awake and alert.
It also helps to take notes as if a sick friend depends on them to pass the class.
During quiet moments, take the time to highlight, circle, or underline important points. Imagine your friend asking for clarification, and jot down or sketch your own answers.
Making yourself draw or articulate what you understand keeps your brain engaged.
6. Breathe deeply and be grateful.
If all you can do is sit there as straight as you can and keep your eyes open, breathe deeply (as discreetly as you can) and pay attention to your breath.
Notice the sensations in your nose, chest, and abdomen as you breathe in and breathe out.
If you’re also breathing in lively scents of peppermint or citrus, pay attention to that, too.
Allow yourself to feel grateful that you reached your classroom safely, and that you’re alive to notice the good things in another day.
If you can, write down at least three things you’re grateful for in that moment.
7. Break for activity.
Between classes, do something active (but not exhausting) to wake yourself up and get the blood flowing.
Try a 5- to 10-minute workout to get the blood flowing. You don’t have to work up a sweat — and if you’re at school or work, it’s probably best not to.
Just do something to remind your body that you’re awake and fully in control of your actions.
Studies have even linked leg strength with better brain function, giving you even more reason to give those muscles a regular workout.
Besides that, your brain will enjoy the extra oxygen.
8. Chewing gum helps.
Chewing gum keeps your jaw muscles moving, helping you stay awake.
If the gum is minty or has a flavor that you love, it’s even more effective at keeping you alert and in a better mood.
As long as you’re not smacking your lips or snapping bubbles in class, most people around you won’t mind.
Stop chewing, though, when the flavor is gone and before your jaw muscles get tired.
If you want the minty flavor without the chewing, brushing your teeth and rinsing with minty mouthwash before class can also help you feel more awake.
You can also keep some mints handy and quietly dissolve them as the cooling mint vapors wake up your sinuses.
9. Get some fresh air.
Open a window, if you can, to let in some fresh air.
Otherwise, if you’re seated near a window with a view of trees, and the wind is blowing, imagine you’re out there enjoying the wind as it moves through the tree branches.
Or, if it’s winter, imagine you’re lying in the snow or sledding down a hill.
Don’t spend the whole class daydreaming, but sometimes a quick in-house movie can help you wake up and feel more alert.
If you can’t move much during your class, just imagining yourself actively enjoying the outdoors can help you feel more awake.
If you can, take a walk outside before or between classes. If you can walk barefoot, so much the better.
10. Put on a fresh face.
Before class (or between them), splash some cold water on your face. Or wipe it down with a fresh facial wipe.
You can also spritz your face with rosewater or an herbal mist and follow it with a light moisturizer for extra hydration.
Skin gets tired, too, when it’s thirsty.
Personal grooming makes a difference in how you feel. If you like the way you look, you’re more likely to feel awake and alert than when you look in the mirror and wish you could hide your face from the world.
If you don’t have time for an elaborate morning ritual, even a quick, focused routine can make you feel more attractive and ready for anything.
11. Take a power nap between classes.
If you’re able to do this, take a 15- to 20-minute power nap between classes.
Set a timer, shut out as much light as you can, and let yourself drift off.
Maybe it won’t be magic the first time around, but if you build the habit of taking a power nap every day, that 15 to 20 minutes of extra sleep can give you a burst of alertness.
It also improves motor function, memory, and creative thinking ability.
According to WebMD, longer naps of 30 to 60 minutes help improve your decision-making skills.
Napping for 60 to 90 minutes — with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep — helps create new connections in the brain and primes you for creative problem-solving.
A daily power nap can reset your body for the rest of the day. And unlike caffeine, it doesn’t lose its effectiveness when it becomes a habit.
12. Take a bathroom break.
If you’re really having a hard time keeping your head off the desk, ask to be excused for a bathroom break – even if you don’t really have to go.
Just getting up and walking can make a difference in how awake you feel.
Take advantage of the break to get in a good all-over stretch, waking up your muscles and improving your circulation.
Get a drink of water – the colder the better.
Remove one of your layers, if you can, since you’re less likely to fall asleep when you’re feeling a bit on the cool side.
If possible, grab a quiet snack to nibble on when you’re back in class (if your teacher will allow it).
Stay awake in class . . . if you want to pass!
Now that you know how to stay awake in class with little sleep, I hope you sleep better tonight — or maybe later today.
When you’re well-rested, the tips in this article can help you feel even more alert and fully functional, no matter what the day brings. After all, you want to pass the class, right?
That’s the beauty of self-care; give your body and your mind what they need, and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish, even if sometimes a good night’s sleep eludes you.
What will you do today to help yourself stay awake and alert, even when everything around you threatens to put you to sleep?
And how will you get the sleep you need when you need it most?
Here’s to making it all count. And may your gratitude and resourcefulness influence everything you do today.