Jessica Casebolt | Strategies for students to fight exhaustion

image1In life, there are two totally different types of people. You have the folks who have the ability to force themselves to stay awake even though they’re really tired; these are the best overnight nurses, truck drivers, soldiers, and parents. Then, you have the other camp, those of us who, despite our best efforts, literally can’t keep those eyes open. It’s system shutdown when the feeling strikes whether you like it or not. I’m the head-dropper, the foot tapper, the nap fighter, the doodler; full disclosure, I’m writing to you right now to keep from falling asleep in my international finance class!

If you’re like me and you struggle with classroom fatigue, you know how absolutely painful it can be to try and force yourself to stay awake when your body is fighting against you. It can seem like you’re uninterested in the class or disrespectful of the professor, which you know can be totally false but your actions say otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a perfect system or a cure, but I can let you in on some of the strategies that have helped me overcome my moments of exhaustion.

The best defense is a good offense. Sleep more at night, you know, that time when everyone else sleeps too. This always ranks super high on my priorities list and I don’t care if that makes me a lame college student. It’s mostly for the safety and wellbeing of those around me anyway because when I’m sleep deprived, you probably don’t want to be nearby. Eight hours are gold but aiming around that number is OK, too. You wouldn’t be the first person to try and cram all your sleep on the weekend and skate by on four or five hours through the week. Eight hours a night for seven nights a week comes out to 56 hours of sleep a week. Consistency is key. You can’t beat the system.

Another idea I have embraced whole-heartedly is quality over quantity. Big tests and important projects can sneak up on you, and many college students pull the infamous all-nighter. First of all, due to my nature which places me in the second camp of people who are physically unable to stay awake all night, this method of study and I are incompatible. Even if you can force yourself to tough it out, you’re probably not getting as much bang for your buck with each additional study hour. At 4 a.m., I guarantee you’re moving pretty slowly. What you accomplish in the middle of the night could probably be done twice as fast during normal hours. Short of an emergency, do your best to avoid the all-nighter. It’s not very productive and it comes at a high cost.

next-logo-300x149Also, if you find yourself drifting away during class, a super easy way to perk up is to keep gum, mints, water, and/or snacks with you. It’s kind of strange, but if I’m moving, even if it’s just my jaw, I have a better chance of staying alert and engaged. I think this is where the toe-tapping comes into play, too. Keep a little stash of goodies in your backpack, especially mint-flavored candy. This is always my last line of defense against drowsiness.

It’s also quick and easy to take a short walk before class. I know last semester, I had three classes in the same building. This meant I only had to walk down the hall to get to my next class. I noticed I was much sleepier in the classes later in the day than the first one. The commuter lot feels like it’s 200 miles away from my classroom building so I was getting a lot of walking in before my first class. Changing up my routine by throwing in walks and stairs between my other classes helped to get me re-energized.

A good diet is another factor that can affect your energy levels. Remember that carbohydrates burn quickly just like a sugar rush that causes you to crash shortly after. Protein and complex carbs take longer for your body to process and therefore extend your energy supply longer throughout the day.

No matter which camp you’re in, the sleep fighters or the head-nodders, we all get tired. I hope these tips help to keep your eyes open during class!


Jessica Casebolt, a former Miss Kentucky, is a correspondent for the The Lane Report. You can reach her at [email protected]

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