How To Stay Awake in Class

Students listening in lecture
Staying awake in class or other places is hard for everyone from time to time. We have all been there, and it can be quite embarrassing and taxing at the same time. Sometimes, we are more successful than others in overcoming the strong desire to nod off, but we have to bring our minds back into the world of staying awake. Let's explore some ways to avoid and control this dreaded feeling.

Step 1

First and foremost, a good night's sleep is needed every night. Most people need seven or eight hours of sleep. Younger children will work well with nine or ten hours of sleep. Neither children nor adults can focus or learn when sleepy. 

Step 2

Eating something in the mornings makes people more alert and gives them energy for the morning. It doesn't have to be bacon and eggs, but cookies are not a substitute. Cereal, fruit, milk, juice, coffee, toast...even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than nothing to jump start your day. Your metabolism needs a start every day.

Step 3

When that oh-so-familiar feeling starts, think of something exciting. Stimulate the brain with an experience that stimulated you, an exciting moment, what you are going to do after class, what is for lunch...anything to get over that sleepy feeling. Don't let your mind wander too very long, just think of something else long enough to squash the sleepy feelings.

Step 4

Listen even more intently to what is being said in the classroom. Stay involved in the activity or whatever is taking place.

Step 5

Squirming is probably not acceptable but you may try:

  • Cross your legs, or uncross them if they are already crossed.
  • Put your hands in your lap, then you can rub them together, interlock fingers and undo (but don't pop your knuckles).
  • Don't have your elbow on your desk to hold your head up--that is way too relaxing.
  • Sit straight and don't slump into a comfortable sitting position.

Of course, none of the above may work, and often we cannot get up and move around or get water. If it is acceptable to do so, then go for it. Sometimes all of the suggestions above done within a short period of time may work, and I am sure you may have to repeat steps more than once. Sitting in an uncomfortable way makes you uncomfortable, and that should help the brain concentrate on being uncomfortable instead of on being sleepy. If you can chew gum or put hard candy in your mouth, the sugar may also help give you a boost. Like I said earlier, it happens to us all, but we have to make a conscious, concerted effort to avoid or overcome the situation.

Ann Scruggs is a retired teacher who wants to continue educating through her blog and articles.  See her main blog at  A reading, writing, and math blog are also accessible from this page.  Enjoy!


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You've used good pictures! :-) I went down memory lane to my college days after reading this.

By Sadaf Farooqi