Dear Nicole: Why Can’t I Stay Awake In Class?

Falling Asleep in Class

Dear Nicole,

I’m a college student and I have a problem staying awake in class. I’ve fallen asleep in most of my classes since the start of the semester. I’m not tired, but when class starts I doze off. I try to focus on taking notes, but I still fall asleep. I’m getting four to six hours of sleep each day. I seriously need help staying awake in class!


Note: The question has been edited for length and/or clarity.

Dear Sleepy,

I know your struggle!

I had one class in particular that I had difficulty staying awake in.

The lecture wasn’t boring and I wasn’t tired but for some reason, I was always falling asleep in class.

Not even coffee could save me!

I knew I needed to solve my problem when I woke up and found that my notes consisted of a bunch of squiggly lines!

falling asleep in class

Get More Sleep!

Ideally, it would be great if you could get 8 hours of sleep each day, but as a college student, I know that’s unrealistic. 

But I imagine that trying to function on four hours of sleep each day isn’t helping you.

Aim for 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Sleeping in Class


Take advantage of that gym membership you’re paying for at school!

If you work out regularly, you will feel refreshed and awake during the day.


Drink Black Coffee

Confession Time: I wasn’t drinking black coffee in the class I had trouble staying awake in. My “coffee” consists of 60% vanilla creamer and 40% coffee. 

Black coffee is strong, don’t add anything to it! 

Drinking Coffee

Take A Power Nap During The Day!

Set your alarm for 15 minutes and make sure you get up after that. 

I wouldn’t consider anything after 30 minutes to be a nap. Don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes or you’ll feel tired afterward. 

I don’t remember the science behind power napping, but I got the advice from a friend and it worked for me.

Avoid Scheduling Your Classes Right After Lunch/Dinner Time

You could be falling asleep in class because you’ve just eaten. I know I get sleepy after a meal.

If that’s the case, try arranging your schedule next semester in such a way where you avoid those peak hours.

Falling Asleep in Class

Change Your Seat!

In college, I found that a lot of people sitting in the back weren’t focused on the lecture.

I was easily distracted sitting so far, and sometimes I would get bored, which would lead me to fall asleep.

Avoid the inner corners of the room, you might feel a little too cozy and end up falling asleep in class.

If you’re sitting in the front row, you’ll feel pressured to stay awake. It’d be pretty embarrassing to fall asleep in front of your professor!

Good Student

Try A Different Class Next Semester

Maybe the course you’re currently taking is taught in a method that doesn’t work with you and you’re falling asleep because your professor is focused on lecturing.

You might have an easier time staying awake in a class that engages in group work. Or where you know the teacher will require active participation.

Or where you know the teacher will require active participation.

Story Time

I had an Anthropology course where the professor would kick you out if he saw you sleeping. So you can imagine that no one was falling asleep in class.

Plus, he would walk up and down the isle of a 500 room class and call on people to answer questions.


Talk To Your Doctor

It’s normal to feel sleepy when you’re not getting enough rest. But if the advice above fails, you might want to consult your doctor.

Have you ever had trouble staying awake in class?

What was your solution?

Need advice, ask me, it’s totally anonymous!

Falling asleep in class

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