Safe ways to stay awake while studying

If you need a few extra hours to get your studying in, here's how to stay awake without resulting to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Avantika Vaishnav
Avantika Vaishnav

This article was written by an external contributor. Seren Morris advises the best ways to stay alert whilst studying. 

Ahhh, the January blues. Exams are upon us and everyone is exhausted. Students are walking around campus like zombies, falling asleep in lectures and struggling to concentrate.

However, if you find yourself on hour three at the library, barely having made a dent in your work and feeling yourself falling asleep right there at the desk, do not reach for the caffeine tablets just yet – there are other safer, healthier ways to stay awake while studying.


stay awake

Do you struggle to get a good night’s sleep? If so, make time to exercise, whether it’s an early gym session or yoga before bed, exercising will ensure you get better sleep. You might not want to pull yourself away from the library to go for a run, but making time to exercise will benefit your studying long term. Get up half an hour earlier than usual to fit in a run before class – you will thank yourself at bedtime.

Get an early night

Yes, all nighters at the library can be tempting, and sometimes, necessary. But do not get into the habit of staying awake all night and then find yourself struggling to stay awake the next day. It’s more productive to work during the day and give yourself time off in the evenings, so try to start working earlier rather than later. Plus, the earlier you start, the earlier you can finish!

Aim for about seven to nine hours of sleep every night, and try to get a few early nights a week. You will be feeling refreshed and ready to go the next morning.

Drink up

stay awake

Staying hydrated is so important, especially for your energy and concentration levels. Keep your water bottle full and drink water regularly, aiming for about two litres a day. Try to avoid sugary drinks – you might feel like they are keeping you awake but you will soon be crashing when the sugar wears off.

Eat well, feel good

Eating well is key to staying awake. Avoid sugary foods that will give you an energy boost only to leave you crashing an hour later. Instead, try to eat high energy snacks like nuts and fruit, and incorporate foods high in protein into your diet. Never skip breakfast and always take a lunch break, and keep snacks on hand to keep you going throughout the day.

How much coffee is too much coffee?

stay awake

Coffee is everyone’s go-to before a long day of studying. However, there are coffee dos and don’ts that will keep you as productive as possible. Firstly, drink coffee early! Caffeine’s half life is between four to six hours, so you should feel its benefits all morning. It’s safe to drink about 300mg of coffee a day, which is around four cups, so try not to have more than four (although it can be tempting!) Also, start limiting your coffee intake after midday, and do not drink any coffee after 5pm, or you might have difficulty falling asleep.

Avoid energy drinks

Energy drinks seem like an easy fix to a long, tiring day at the library. But they might be causing more harm than you think. Some energy drinks have more caffeine and sugar than you realise, so you could be consuming more than is safe without even realising. Also, energy drinks might be a quick solution to feeling sleepy, but they are not sustainable long term. Pick up your bottle of water instead.

Study drugs and energy pills are not your friends…

stay awake

When the stress and desperation of exam time sets in, it’s easy enough to reach for study drugs that promise you hours of concentration, productivity and hard work.

Yes, some caffeine tablets available in stores are mostly safe and will keep you awake – when used properly. If you are going to resort to these pills, make sure you know how much caffeine you are consuming, and avoid coffee and other food and drinks high in caffeine when taking them. Too much caffeine can cause restlessness and insomnia among other side effects, which do not result in a productive study day!

When it comes to illegal study drugs, think twice. There are so many other, safer ways of staying awake and maintaining your concentration; it is not worth risking your health for a day at the library.

Always use common sense and trust your instincts. Put your health first and remember: no grade is worth sacrificing your health for.

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