Help...Falling asleep in class everyday.
September 16, 2009 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Advice...I can't stay awake during my class lecture. How can i stay awake and cure my problem???

Well let me start off by saying I am a full-time college student and a part-time worker, working 20 hours a week. I defiantly do not get the right amount of sleep that i really should be getting. Since i am stuck closing just about every other night i don't usually go to bed till around 12 am or 1 am on those days. The other days if i usually attempt to go to bed around 11 pm or 12 am. And i wake up at around 7 am everyday during the week.

The problem is i wake up fine and am usually ok during my first lecture, then a few hours later during me second and third lecture i just really start crashing and start to really fall asleep (closing eyes, bobbing head up and down every few minutes). It is pretty bad, one of them is in a small lecture room where i can tell the professors have noticed. I don't really drink coffee, and kind of don't want to start. But when i do drink something it is either an iced coffee or an energy drink. ( these do work but are expensive, and I have never had a problem like this, this bad.)

Normally a professor puts me to sleep when i just don't care about the subject and don't care. I really do not one to sleep in class but i am so tired and it just starts to happen. i end up stabbing myself with my pencil just to keep me awake which doesn't work to well.

If any one knows what might be the problem or something to help, please i really can't keep falling asleep in class.
posted by loser8008 to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sit in the front row.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:00 PM on September 16, 2009

Lots of good answers in this recent question about sleeping in class.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:00 PM on September 16, 2009

posted by mrmojoflying at 9:00 PM on September 16, 2009

I always force myself to take detailed notes with an eye toward writing a summary later. Not only will it keep you awake by forcing you to focus, you'll actually learn more, too.
posted by aquafortis at 9:25 PM on September 16, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks helps a bit... I always sit in the front center area of the class room usually, doesn't make to much of a difference for me. I am a Senior in college, just never had this type of problem before. The class is interesting and the information is material that will be vital for me in the future. It could be the PowerPoint lectures, and the fact that i am a good learner and grasp material fairly well. Haven't taken any notes really, neither has the rest of the class. It just has been bugging me lately, i really get so tired.
posted by loser8008 at 9:33 PM on September 16, 2009

The problem is that you're not getting the amount of sleep your body wants. There are ways to temporarily mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation (e.g., caffeine, splashing cold water on your face, amphetamines, poking yourself with a stick), but the only way to "cure" your problem is to get more sleep. Can you go to bed super-early on the nights you don't have to work late? Are there any days you can sleep in? Can you nap during the day? Sleeping more on the weekends may help a little, but it won't fix the problem in the long term. If you want this to go away, you need to find a way to sleep more during each 24 hour period.
posted by decathecting at 9:42 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get plenty of sleep. Experiment with different levels. If you can, sit in the front row. If you are still falling asleep, talk to the professor and explain that it will help you pay attention if you can get up and walk around during lecture. Sit closer to the back if you need to do this - most professors are okay with it.

If I am sitting in class and I feel myself drifting off, pop a piece of very strongly-flavored mint gum. I prefer wintermint, but peppermint works equally well. It keeps me engaged because I worry about falling asleep and my gum falling out of my mouth or choking on it in front of 200 people(hey, it's stupid, but it works for me).
posted by honeybee413 at 10:21 PM on September 16, 2009

Sadly my area of expertise! I graduated a year ago and also worked about the same number of hours you're trying to hold now, so this is still fresh in my memory. Like you, I'm not a coffee drinker, so that wasn't really an option for me.

I'm sure you're well aware of the fact that sleep deprivation is the crux of the problem. Even if you did the same exact thing before, it might wear you out now. (I think one of the most disappointing things for me in college was realizing that I could no longer function on 6 hours of sleep like I could in high school).

Things that helped me:
- Watch what you're eating and when you're eating it. No large meals. I usually grabbed a fruit or a granola bar for breakfast, but I'd refrain from a huge lunch. When I made the switch to a salad, I felt that I wasn't hit with that intense, overwhelming feeling of sleepiness.
- Bring trail mix or nuts to class. Most professors (in large lectures) won't really notice if you're munching on something in class (if they care at all), and nuts are quiet and discreet enough so that you won't bother other students. It'll keep you busy, and it'll help you maintain your energy.
- Walk briskly between classes. I'm not sure how big your campus is, but it easily took us 10-20 minutes to get to our classes. Walk briskly, and you'll find that you're naturally more awake. Don't overdo it though. On days where you're really tired, this will actually wear you out. It'll take some trial and error before you figure out whether or not you can "handle" that 20 minute speedwalk.
- The thing that helped me the MOST though was NAPPING IN BETWEEN CLASSES. If you don't like napping on the lawn in public, try the library or any of the numerous lounges that are bound to be on campus. It feels awkward at first, but you slowly get into the habit of it. You lose all sense of shame and develop the uncanny ability to nap head down on a table within 15 minutes of getting into the library. (This later proved to be detrimental when I would go in to study for finals and found myself snoozing for 15-20 minutes before I could start working. Oops). It's amazing what a 15-20 minute power nap can do. I used to take 8 or 9 AM classes, get out of the first lecture by 11, eat something light, nap for 20, and then head to my 1PM class. The food + nap usually gets me through the first afternoon class easily. The brisk walk and the trail mix would usually get me through my second afternoon class.

Good luck! Enjoy your senior year :)
posted by mittenedsex at 10:28 PM on September 16, 2009

During some desperate (but crucial) lectures, I've also walked outside to get some fresh air. This is especially useful for those 3 hour lectures where everyone inevitably starts to feel rundown during the last 30 minutes. This probably is not something you want to make a habit of ("Why does he always take a bathroom break at 2:35?!"), but it's helpful when you really need to stay awake.
posted by mittenedsex at 10:31 PM on September 16, 2009

Take a bottle of cold water with you. Sip intermittently. You may be surprised how much a cold drink of water can perk you up, even compared to coffee.

Also, if your university has the power point slides available for download before the class, as my university did, download and print them before time. That way you can focus on listening and taking occassional notes inbetween sips of water.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:19 PM on September 16, 2009

You are trying to fight nature. Nature usually wins. Get enough sleep.

In the meantime, sit in the front where it is harder to nod off, don't eat a big carb load breakfast, but rather eat a light protein breakfast, and of course don't skimp on coffee. Staying well hydrated seems to help me in these situations but that may be all in my head.
posted by caddis at 11:32 PM on September 16, 2009

Echoing the nap suggestion. You will probably feel weird at first. But at my university, I noticed after awhile that I was not the only one staking out comfy chairs at the library and in my building lounge for such purposes. (I wasn't working, but at one point on Wednesdays my first class started at 7:45am and my last class ended at 8:55pm and at no point did I have more than an hour or so between any two. I was exhausted those days.) I don't know if Pzizz still has a student discount, but I got it cheap when it was relatively new and it was a wonderful, wonderful thing. I'd just hook my headphones up to my laptop, but you can also generate MP3s. I still use it for anytime I can use a nap. But even the alarm clock on your cell phone is fine!

As an occasional rather than constant thing, caffeine tablets are way cheaper than energy drinks, etc.
posted by larkspur at 4:20 AM on September 17, 2009

Consider taking to the prof as well. Might help out if he/she knows you aren't doing it on purpose. As one who slept in class on and off throughout the years I never took any action against sleeping students myself, but you never know. Some people have egos. Admitting the issue (blame it on work schedule!) might help defuse any tension.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:00 AM on September 17, 2009

As Effigy2000 mentions, taking a bottle of cold water. This is how I got through many of my undergrad classes, where sleep deprivation was the norm. Sip at it the entire time - if it runs out, take that as a quick bathroom break and dash out to refill.

As a graduate student, I regularly have 3 hour, once a week classes. These are small (8-20 people), so I just dash out refill my water bottle and come back in. The act of drinking water (and the ensuing issue of having to pee like crazy) will shake you up, I guarantee. I've also tried chewing a strong, minty gum as someone else suggested, but my main issue is that, especially early in the morning, that strong of a flavor can be nauseating for me.
posted by SNWidget at 5:14 AM on September 17, 2009

Learn to twirl your pen, and/or do a basic puzzle that will take some but not most of your attention (sudoku, kenken, easy crossword, for example). But do it surreptitiously.
posted by telegraph at 5:45 AM on September 17, 2009

Munching something, such as nuts or trailmix. Anything, as long as it's quiet. Having your mouth busy while listening, otherwise sedate, helps! Sure, you probably need more sleep. Welcome to the real world. (warning: sleep deprivation may be habit forming. Not that the OP sounds to be going that way, yet).

I am capable of falling asleep most anywhere. I am fascinated by the process of falling asleep, and find my mind just wanders off down a long chain of association, which become progressively more silly or fantastic.
posted by Goofyy at 5:48 AM on September 17, 2009

Talk to your bosses and see if you can change shifts. Tell them -- SCHOOL COMES FIRST! If they can't or won't work with you, start putting out applications. Are there places on campus hiring that will certainly understand and accommodate your primary job as a student?

In the meantime, you may have to start with caffeine. It doesn't necessarily need to be coffee. A bottle of soda at lunch will keep me up way past my bed time. Also, many grocery stores sell mild caffeine pills in the pharmacy section. I'm suggesting those because if you're not big into a caffeine high, you'll probably want to avoid the 5-Hour Energy packets by the register!

But really, before going the pill-popping route, tell your boss that your schedule interferes with your studies and must change!
posted by motsque at 5:49 AM on September 17, 2009

1. Avoid sugar (and the subsequent crash) like the plague.

2. Go to a sleep clinic and make sure you don't have the starting signs of narcolepsy. FYI, I have narcolepsy and started exhibiting my first symptoms when I was in college. I remember having a three-hour class with seven people in it (including the prof) and I would still start nodding off half-way through. Now that was embarassing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:53 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

This might be odd, but sunflower seeds. You have to concentrate on separating the seed from the shell, so it keeps you awake. Not to the point of having to concentrate that you don't pay attention to the lecture, though. It keeps your mind occupied just enough so that you don't drift off. Try it.
posted by elder18 at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2009

In addition to trying to get more sleep and other good advice above, I would add - try doodling. It actually helps you focus better on boring tasks/presentations.
posted by oblique red at 9:51 AM on September 17, 2009

Suck on licorice, preferably the salty kind. This sounds weird, but was recommended to me by a helpful colleague and worked well when I was nodding off at a company symposium, in full view of the company's president/owner.
posted by everichon at 10:34 AM on September 17, 2009

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