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How to Stay Awake & Alert While Studying (without Coffee!)

October 29th, 2007 admin

With midterms and final exams rearing their very ugly heads, you’re probably finding thatHow to Stay Awake While Studying study time is increasingly important. Too bad you have a job, clubs, a roommate, friends, family, dorm-room sleep hours (read: 3am bedtime), a cafeteria diet, and a bunch of classes wearing you down. Once you start reading that text book, suddenly a nice nap seems like a much better idea.

Read on to find out how to keep yourself awake, even if you’re studying in the wee hours of the morning:

  1. Drink a Lot of Water
    Remember this from my tips on how to stay awake in class? Well, water is even better for staying up when you’re studying. Dehydration can make you sleepy, so keeping your body hydrated will stave off those symptoms. If you are really sleepy, drink a lot of water to make sure you stay up—if you have to get up to go to the bathroom, it will definitely keep you awake! (Weird, but it works!)
  2. Take Breaks
    Your brain needs to rest if you want to study hard for a long time AND do well on your test. Schedule out your time so you can take a break—I would study for 45 minutes, break for 15, and so forth. Set the alarm on your cell phone so you don’t forget (or if you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep). Watch a TV show, talk to a friend, read a book, or listen to some music—but nothing school related at all!
  3. Exercise
    Exercise can be a great way to wake yourself up—take a short walk, dance to some music on your iPod, or head over to the gym for a little while. Taking a shower after a workout can wake you up even more.
  4. Don’t Study Somewhere Comfortable
    Don’t curl up on the common room couch or lean against some pillows in bed and expect to make it through 50 pages of text—getting comfortable is a sure fire way to sleep through your study time. Go somewhere with good, strong lighting, a non-squishy chair, and a table or desk. Sit up while you study, and change positions now and then.
  5. Eat a Snack
    Get your blood sugar up by eating a healthy snack (junk food will just give you a burst of energy but then you’ll crash). Apples are a good food to help you keep your blood sugar stable so you can stay awake (a lot of people say they will wake you up better than caffeine!)

Remember, I also shared some ideas to help you stay awake in class, so if you’re really sleepy, you might want to try those, too! Good luck!

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How do you stay awake during study time or worse–all-nighters? Any other study tips you couldn’t do without?

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63 Comments Add your own

  • 1. EXAM FREAK  |  December 19th, 2007 at 3:39 pm


  • 2. Jamie  |  December 19th, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    @ Exam Freak: I think staying awake during finals week is hard for everyone! Good luck!

  • 3. karen  |  January 2nd, 2008 at 9:27 am

    thank u i hope these ideas work for me

  • 4. Jamie  |  January 2nd, 2008 at 10:08 am

    @ Karen: me too–good luck!

  • 5. fiona  |  January 16th, 2008 at 12:18 am

    thankss i just seem to fall alseep EVERYTIME i open my book hopefully i’ll do better in tomorrow’s exam :)

  • 6. Jamie  |  January 16th, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    @ fiona: no problem, i really hope it helps. Good luck on your exam!

  • 7. j.cool24  |  March 11th, 2008 at 12:56 am

    I dont know if I can do this,but thanks anyway. What time of the day can u say is the most appropriate time to study? Wawiting for your reply…

  • 8. Jamie  |  March 11th, 2008 at 8:17 am

    @ j.cool24: I’d say the best time to study differs for different people. Choose the time of day when you usually feel most awake. If you’re a morning person, study before classes. I usually studied between 4 – 8 p.m., except during finals week when I pretty much studied non-stop.

    Also, figure out your “cut-off time.” For me, it was 8 p.m.–at that point my brain got sleepy and any studying I did was ineffective, so I tried to get it all done before then.

  • 9. Amy  |  March 30th, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Ok I’ll try i have 2 finish 6 more homeworks by 6 am and now it’s 1:05

  • 10. Nichole  |  May 4th, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Actually, the best time to study is the same time you typically have your tests or classes (on different days). The research is called “state-dependent” memory cuing. Basically, you should study in a state (alertness, environment, hunger level) as close as possible to what your state will be during your test.

  • 11. Jamie  |  May 5th, 2008 at 8:14 am

    @ Nichole: That’s a great point–I’ve heard that, too, but I never found it practical. But if you can work your schedule around it and discipline yourself (not listen to music, munch on snacks, etc), it is definitely supposed to make a difference. Anybody actually tried this?

  • 12. Lydia  |  June 9th, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    i like to drink lots of water and tea,.. and eat small snacks :)… during breaks, i like to play a game in between or take a walk outside….

  • 13. Jamie  |  June 10th, 2008 at 8:09 am

    @ Lydia: Taking a walk is a great idea. I do that a work, too, when I’m having a really hard time concentrating. Somehow the fresh air & outdoors helps me get my head back in the game. : )

  • 14. me  |  August 12th, 2008 at 7:58 am

    who are you jamie? what credentials do you have?

    where did you go to school?

    what was your major and your GPA?

    if available, what was your class rank?

    thank you

  • 15. me  |  August 12th, 2008 at 8:02 am

    oops- i know where you go, i found the “About” section.

    your major and your GPA still, however, elude me…

  • 16. Jamie  |  August 12th, 2008 at 8:21 am

    I majored in Lit/Writing with a minor in Psychology. A lot of friends & relatives have majored in Bio, Pre-Med, etc. so I take note of the differences between the science and arts majors (you’ll see their experiences come up in some of my posts about med school, too).

  • 17. Felipe Sentelhas  |  August 28th, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Thanks for the advices, I’ll surely put then to use. Although my reality is quite different, since I live in Brazil and dorms here are a faint reality, I travel about 1h by train/subway everyday back and forth to college and home, sometimes I think its this traveling that kills me when I try to study.
    Anyway, I’d like to ask, is there a possibility that the drowsiness is somewhat caused by a hormonal problem?
    Now to the protein bars, the water and the books!

  • 18. Deloran  |  September 30th, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I think these are great ideas. Taking breaks is a good one since your mind needs time to process all the info you have been studying. I try and break my studying down into a few days instead of having to study for hours all at once.

  • 19. michael  |  October 21st, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Thnx man i really need this If i dont pass this test tomorrow i’m screwed really need alot of late night studying

  • 20. Patrick  |  October 30th, 2008 at 3:17 am

    Hmm, why am I reading blog posts on how to stay awake instead of writing this term paper??


  • 21. Binh  |  November 29th, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you for these tips! I’ll be sure to try them out!

  • 22. Alex A.  |  December 9th, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    When I study. I try to make sure I have everything I could need to study with. If I have to get up 10 to 15 times during my study session, then I am unable to get into the mood. Also that tip about an apple is helpful, although I usually go for a banana.

  • 23. Jamie  |  December 12th, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    That is a great point, Alex. I am the same way–too many distractions and I’m off to Facebook instead of doing what I need to do!

  • 24. Mousie  |  January 3rd, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    An hour of exercise before I study helps, especially capoeira.

  • 25. sz  |  January 20th, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    yeh, i really tend to get distracted…for example, i’m writing this rite now..

  • 26. korneel  |  January 24th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    hmm, i think not surfing on the internet should help a little too, doesn’t it… :D!

    why did i just google “how to keep you awake while studying”…

    pff, only one week to go! :D!

  • 27. mrd  |  January 28th, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    lol…I totally googled “how to stay awake while studying”…as I sip my Rockstar and look at my study bed, with my books and papers all over it.

    I guess you shouldn’t study on your bed with your comfy pillows and blankets. Its just soo comfy and quiet…bad feng shui tho as well

  • 28. Stephen  |  February 10th, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Hey Jamie,

    Great article. I was studying for a final last semester and these tips helped. I never really drank much water while studying but it really helped. I also found that drinking ice cold water kept me much more alert.

    Some other tips I would suggest:

    Chewing gum while studying also keeps me much more alert for some reason.

    Taking an ice cold shower wakes me up as you alluded to in the article.

    I find it easier to stay focus when studying if I study with a few people from class. You feel obligated to give your best effort to your peers.

    Thanks again Jamie,


  • 29. Jamie  |  February 11th, 2009 at 9:35 am

    @ Stephen – Thanks for adding your tips! I had to remove the link you added to those pills because I don’t advocate using any kind of medication to stay awake. We’re all natural here. 😉

  • 30. Stu  |  March 17th, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Great tips on staying awake without coffee. However if drinking something to get you going without caffeine is your thing, check out this article on alternative sources of energy for college students

  • 31. josie  |  March 20th, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    lol I’m with korneel and mrd, I get way too distracted on the internet. I have a paper to write and i’m over here reading blogs and posting on them 😛 geesh, I really have a problem.

  • 32. shannon  |  May 9th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    well get back to work

  • 33. Nadine  |  May 11th, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Thanks a lot! I’m going to go drink tons of water now…but i’m not too sure about breaks, I don’t trust myself….

  • 34. Kelechi  |  May 12th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I think i’ll give this a try and see if it would work. Thanks man.

  • 35. Marion  |  May 31st, 2009 at 7:26 am

    i hope this helps, i have been drinking loads of energy drinks this past month while studying but i have come off them as i am aware that they are unhealthy so really need to find something to keep me awake. Im hoping the study breaks do because i find myself going on and on then getting exhausted. So thanks :-)

  • 36. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  September 29th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    […] How to Stay Awake & Alert While Studying (without Coffee!) […]

  • 37. Gabe  |  September 29th, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    chew sunflowers, with shell, one by one, seem to keep you awake, and is low carb low fat, no caffeine, explanation, chewing stimulate the vagus nerve, this is one of the basic nerve and override sleeping, while chewing and swallowing you cannot go to sleep, self protection. This is used by truckers to keep awake. Remember the idea is keep the vagus nerve entertained, no to eat bags of sunflowers. Hope this helps.

  • 38. Bex  |  November 1st, 2009 at 2:27 am

    Thanks so much for these tips Jaime! I wish I’d found them before the night before my first exam though! Haha and like others who’ve also said I am now typing this rather then studying.. I get distracted too easily and the internet is perfect for distractions! >.< I will try with the apple and drinking more water and also taking breaks.. Though whenever I take a short break it always goes on for too long and I can’t get back into study too easily :/ I wish I could go for a walk but at this time of night I wouldn’t feel safe outside.. :( Tomorrow morning before my exam I will try get a couple of walks in between study :) Thanks again so much for your tips! I really hope they help, and hopefully I will learn in the future for next semester, to not leave most of my study till the last night! xD

  • 39. Sheena  |  December 1st, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Thanks for the tips!

  • 40. Cousin Vinny's cousin  |  December 8th, 2009 at 5:52 am

    It’s the freakin’ MORNING of my final!! Time for some sewper epik crammingggggggggggg. These tips aren’t really gonna work in my situation. :(

    Maybe an apple on the road…

  • 41. Kare  |  February 22nd, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    I had the whole day to study,but i somehow couldnt,now its 1a.m and im trying to cram..but that bed..looks so comfortable from my study comfy

  • 42. Anthony  |  March 7th, 2010 at 10:13 am

    i have a serious problem studiying… Like for example i had all the week-end to study and of course now its sunday evening -_- to stay awake, caffeine helps but i always have the feeling that its not healthy :s anwy thx for the tips 😀 gonna try drinkin water, eating apple, and take walks :)

  • 43. Olan  |  March 22nd, 2010 at 1:34 am

    this would be really helpful. because looking at a book is a sleeping pill. -.-

  • 44. Uniq  |  March 26th, 2010 at 2:28 am

    Thanx 4 the tips Jamie…
    I just wanted to know… I can’t study much when i’m not studying with a ground, but i don’t get to study with a group cos I dont have a study group, neither can i get one. What do i do? Pls i need a reply.

  • 45. Susan  |  May 23rd, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Okay I’ll give these tips a try. Its just I procrastinate and I cant help it and when I finally start my homework, it will be around 6pm and then i get soo sleepy and tired and I stay up to 12 am finishing my homework and studying and i wake up early in the morning around 6 am to go to school.

  • 46. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  June 16th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    […] How to Stay Awake & Alert During Study Time (Without Coffee!) […]

  • 47. Lovely  |  June 22nd, 2010 at 7:23 am


    I really find drinking water effective in fighting off heavy eyelids:)
    I woke up early in the morning for school and only slept for about 6 hours only. I felt really sleepy in class the whole day but when I drank water, I felt refreshed. But when I came home, I had to sleep. :)

  • 48. saffy  |  August 13th, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    it will surely help me out

  • 49. Rachel  |  August 16th, 2010 at 1:46 am

    This may sound silly and a little corny but I try to study on campus as much as I can during crunch time (even though I should be doing this almost daily lol). I find being around other students who are studying for finals helps me stay awake and persistent. It reminds me of the way I feel when I’m at the gym and others are motivating me (without them knowing it)when I see them work out hard.

    I study at home as well, but when I study at home alone I feel more stressed, isolated, and tired. I try to mix studying at home and on campus. I try to find a place on campus that is and open-space, nice scenery, and comfortable.

    I completely agree with not studying on the bed!! I have fallen asleep way too many times on my bed. I like sitting upright on my couch while leaning on the arm chair. It’s still cozy, but I don’t fall asleep.

  • 50. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  September 9th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    […] How to Stay Awake & Alert During Study Time (Without Coffee!) […]

  • 51. Sam  |  September 17th, 2010 at 1:28 am

    Your Awesome I followed your Taking break rules and I have to say my memories is improving by far YEWR AWESOME :DDDDD

  • 52. educatedswimmer  |  October 2nd, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I am studying for the psat’s and well….i am having a hard time staying awake since i have two hours of swim practice in the morning so i have to wake up early but then i get soooo tired during the day!!!!!!!!!…..i want to learn more but i am just too tired…my mom says to drink a lot of juice or sweet things because sweetness keeps you hiper and erjised!!!!!!!….anymore tips???

  • 53. Persta Yawakei  |  November 2nd, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    You forgot to mention going for a jog in your underwear.

  • 54. How To Stay Awake On Coll&hellip  |  February 17th, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    […] the urge to drink caffeine and instead use some of these tips from Surviving College Life: – Exercise – Exercise can be a great way to wake yourself up-take a short walk, dance to […]

  • 55. Kathleen  |  March 6th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Thank you Jamie. I appreciate you taking the time to help us out. I’ll give your tips a try.

    P.S. I got distracted while studying for my accounting midterm, and that is how I found this blog. :)

  • 56. Neetha  |  March 8th, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Actly, i used to get up at 3.00am in the morning. Bt nw i am not able to wake up at that time. Not able study after 9.30pm also wat to do?

  • 57. Inheriting my brotherR&hellip  |  March 30th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    […] These study tips seem really helpful and they include some stuff that I haven’t been doing, like studying in a place that’s similar to where you’ll be taking your test. […]

  • 58. paul  |  April 21st, 2011 at 5:02 am

    Thanks Jamie! I’m going to try these ideas. I hope they’ll work for me

  • 59. Anna  |  April 26th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    I like to change locations every couple of hours. It doesn’t have to be far, you can move seats at the library or move from your kitchen table to your desk. I particularly like changing buildings. Every 2 or 3 hours, I’ll move to another library, study room, random classroom, etc. Not only does the change of scenery help, but the brisk walk outside does wonders to wake you up! =)

  • 60. waka  |  May 6th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    stay away from Facebook,twitter,mobil or ipod to keep focused on study.

  • 61. theophilus  |  May 18th, 2011 at 8:08 am

    i’ve alwz been tryn 2 stay awk whle rdn in d 9t but couldn’t.i hope ur tips wll work 4 me.thnx.

  • 62. sepesa  |  May 19th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    thanks for the tips……I’ll go nd try it today nd hope it will work out well….lol…)()()()(……malo e!!

  • 63. Kelebogile  |  May 30th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Thanx 4 d extrmly gud tips, am abt 2 apply dm 4 my 1st semester exam

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