How does everyone stay alert while studying? Probably coffee – a few shots and you’re up and wide-eyed.
But coffee’s effects run out after a while. After that you’re dosing yourself regularly just to keep to normal levels of alertness. Doesn’t work when you have to study months at a time.
So how can you maintain a good level of alertness, while keeping healthy and without resorting to caffeine? Here is a countdown to my top 13 ways to do it, by descending order of importance and effectiveness.
Music helps me study, and it should for you as well. Action movie soundtracks and video game soundtracks work best for me, and I highly recommend those to you too. It increases my ‘study stamina’, i.e. I find I can go on studying for longer before tiring out, and increases my concentration as well.
12. Drink Lots of Water
This is almost a involuntary tic with me. I have a bottle of water with me at all times when I’m working, and whenever I’m thinking something over, I automatically reach out to have a sip. Having this repetitive action keeps me more alert, plus you’ll get a bonus of having to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes. It works well!
11. Stay Cool, Man
A warm and stuffy environment is the room’s way of saying ‘go to sleep’. Make sure your room is well ventilated, and a touch on the cool side. If you’re getting cold, I find that donning a jacket works much better for my alertness level than dialling up the thermostat.
I’m not much of a snacker (too punishing on my waistline), but the jaw action does keep your mind awake. I use chewing gum instead – keeps me going at the CFA sessions much longer. As we’ve touched on as well, chewing gum also helps your memory and exam performance as well.
9. Be An Exhibitionist
You’re less likely to doze off when Big Brother is watching. Try studying in a public place like a library or cafe. Failing that, try meeting up or having a Skype session with a study buddy. Even if you don’t discuss questions, it’s useful to keep yourselves in check and ensure the other isn’t slacking off.
8. Take A Hike
Getting some fresh air and some light exercise does wonders too. I bring out my dogs for a walk, they’re happy, I get some nice sunshine and come back refreshed. You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time for the benefits to kick in – just 15 minutes would do in a pinch.
Ever get the feeling of intense drowsiness after a really big meal? That’s insulin at work (usually due to a heavy carb intake). So don’t shoot yourself in the foot by taking in a large meal before your big study marathon. If you have a study session coming up, try and take meals in smaller portions, eat slower, or just get slower-digesting foods, less in carbs, more in fibre and protein. It’s good for you too! Here are some recommended superfoods that will also help feed your brain.
6. Move On to the Next Topic
Sometimes it’s not that you’re tired, but rather what you’re studying is making you sleepy. When I find that I’m ‘zoning out’ a lot and rereading the same section over and over again, I just bookmark that part, and skip ahead to another section, or even a brand-new study session. Obviously, remember to study up on the section you left later on!
5. Turn On The Lights
I use light exposure to combat jetlag, and it works like a charm for me. When your eyes are constantly exposed to light, you don’t get sleepy as easily. For example, if you’re browsing your phone right before bedtime, your mobile phone screen may be the reason why you’re not getting good quality sleep.
So hack that to stay awake when you need to! Make your study environment as bright as possible – you’ll really see a difference.
4. Write Notes, Even If You’re Not Using Them
You get 2 for the price of 1 here. Writing improves your memory by leaps and bounds, even if you have no intention of using the notes later. Don’t worry if your notes don’t make perfect sense or aren’t 100% coherent. You’d be surprised how much comes rushing back about a particular Ethics concept just by seeing a scribble you made next to your study text.
Another 2-in-1: doing a bit of exercise, such as pumping out a few press-ups, pull ups, or squats, will get your heartrate going and your alertness levels soaring. For logistical purposes, when studying my exercise breaks aren’t enough to break a sweat, but enough to get me panting. Another great exercise that I’m trying out at the moment are handstands. Learn a new skill, keep healthy, and keep awake: win-win-win!
2. Take A Shower
A shower doesn’t just wake you up, but brings your mood up as well. Minute-for-minute, this is the best cure for study blues and sleepiness after a long FRA session. You can always shower one more time – if you’re worried about too much laundry, just change back into your existing stuff. It works. Do it.
1. Get Enough Sleep
The most obvious, but also most-ignored tip. Nothing, NOTHING beats having an adequate amount of sleep every day. You should have figured out your body clock by now and know how much sleep you honestly need, so meet your quota, and you won’t have to pay that sleep debt later when you’re trying to remember whether John should long or short his options.
Do you have any other tips that work well for you? Add to the list in the comments box below!