Best ways to stay awake while studying

April 01, 2022

It's Thursday evening 7:00pm, you’re exhausted.

Let’s set the scene

The week has been insane and you still have a day to go. You’ve endured but another day, capped off by a make-or-break test or assignment, testing your mental and physical endurance to the limit.

On Sunday, your diary showed you had plenty of time to complete work with enough time to spare. That didn’t happen and you’re only 30% of the way, with a long night ahead. 

How are you going to stay awake for another 7 hours, never mind being able to take in what you’re studying?

Don’t reach for that energy drink 

It’s true that energy drinks can help you focus in certain cases. However, when you’re suffering from chronic fatigue, sleep deprivation and high levels of stress, energy drinks make things worse. They affect your focus and add to exhaustion. Luckily, we have some natural and healthy ways to get you through the night.

  • Don’t get too comfortable 

Studying in bed or laid out on your favourite couch is a fast, one-way ticket to dreamland. When you’re exhausted, sit at a table or a desk. Pull your chair in, sit up, don’t lean on the table, remember your brain is looking for any excuse to induce sleep, try to circumvent that by sitting upright.

  • Work in a well-lit area 

The more light, the better. Staring at your laptop or monitor in a dark environment is a sure recipe for shuteye. Turn on as many lights as possible. A single small lamp will not do it. Remember, normally we sleep when it’s dark and are awake when it’s light. Do your best to replicate that.

  • Hydrate 

Being even mildly dehydrated can cause fatigue and exhaustion. Do you drink enough water? The Mayo Clinic advises 3.7 litres per day for men and 2.7 litres for woman. If you are one of the majority that don’t then you are adding to your fatigue and exhaustion.

Spend time in the sun, play sports or workout? You’re losing electrolytes, and your brain and body can’t function optimally without them. Drinking large amounts of sugary drinks (including fruit juice), coffee or tea with sugar or eating sugar laced high-carbohydrate foods causes hormone imbalances in your body that add significantly to fatigue and exhaustion so avoid them at all costs.

The solution: drink a lot of water at least half a litre an hour. Not only will the water help remove toxins, it helps brain activity and promotes focus. Another benefit is, you get up to pee, which keeps you moving. That’s next on our list.

  • Keep moving

Movement increases energy and relieves stress. You took our advice and are drinking at least half a litre of water every hour and are therefore getting up often. However, this is not enough. Get up at least once every 45 minutes and stay up for 5-10 minutes. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stretch a little, try these simple stretches. You’ll feel energised and less stressed. 
  • Put on some music and dance a little, dancing is a well-known stress reducer. 
  • Do some jumping jacks and/or 10 press-ups and sit ups. 


  • Chew gum

Yes, you read that correctly. Studies have shown that chewing gum while studying improves memory and concentration.

  • Cram together

Studying with a classmate or study group is a great way to beat the sleep monster. Knowing you’re not alone in the struggle is a motivator and reduces stress.

Plus, if you study with other people, you can keep each other in check. Only students can explain the elation you feel when a study mate tells you “it’s time for a break”. When you’re exhausted, it’s difficult to grasp concepts. Having someone to explain them differently can quickly get you over a hurdle.

It’s tough, but so are you

There is a t-shirt from the 2001, 94.7 Cycle race that reads “Joburg’s toughest race for the world’s toughest people”. Toughness isn’t reserved for Joburgers, it’s universal among South Africans. We have to be tougher because of where we live and what we deal with daily.

Add all of that to the fact that, as students you may be for the first time completely on your own and thrust into a completely unknown environment. Many of you are far from home and didn’t know a soul when you arrived.

That’s just the start. A hectic schedule of lectures, assignments, exams, part-time work and extra-mural activities, just pile on the stress. We can feel the pressure just by writing about it.

There is no easy way through this besides hard work. However, you can help yourself by being organised and staying healthy.

The Fields, Pretoria exists to provide students with the best value off-campus living solutions. But we are more than that. Without you, the student, we don’t exist and that’s why we publish these blog posts, because we want to help you, be the best you can be. We want you to flourish in your studies, but most of all we want you to be healthy, so we encourage you to read the blog series – First Wealth is Health part 1, part two and part three.

The Fields offers multiple accommodation solutions at great value. So don’t hesitate to reach out to us as we are here to help. We hope to hear from you soon. Good luck with your exams and staying awake and focused so you can ace them, we are rooting for you.

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