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12 Reasons Why You Feel Sleepy in Online Classes

Adapting to remote learning can be difficult. One of the issues often faced with online courses is dozing off during class. I should begin by reassuring you that you are not alone, as a recent survey indicated that up to 65% of learners feel sleepy during online classes (source).

Here are 12 reasons why you feel sleepy in online classes: 

  1. You are not getting enough sleep at night. 
  2. You are not engaged during class. 
  3. You are too cozy. 
  4. Your desk is not facing natural light. 
  5. Your class schedule is not optimal. 
  6. You are consuming heavy meals before class. 
  7. You are not drinking coffee before class. 
  8. You are not drinking enough water. 
  9. You have not been exercising enough. 
  10. You are not eating healthily. 
  11. You are stressed out. 
  12. You have a medical condition. 

This article will explore each of these reasons in detail and provide you with solutions on how to overcome them so that you can stay alert during your online classes. 

Online classes making you sleepy? Here's why!

1. You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep at Night

One of the most common culprits for dozing off during class is a lack of sleep. Basic biology says that if you do not get enough sleep at night, your body will compensate by taking a nap during the day. 

Solution: Get enough sleep at night.

However, when you’re young and a student in college, this is easier said than done. But it is essential that you get enough sleep at night so your body can function properly during the day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting at least seven hours of sleep per night (source).

While at it, try to maintain a regular sleep routine, as this allows you to train your body to know when it is time to go to bed and when it is time to wake up. It also helps you to enjoy better sleep. 

This means: 

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. 
  • Avoid using laptops, tablets, or other electronic devices before going to sleep. These emit blue light that can interfere with your circadian rhythm and ability to fall asleep at night.

2. You Are Not Engaged During Class

Another reason you may be feeling sleepy during online classes is that you are not engaged. If you are not paying attention, your body will naturally begin to doze off. However, it is important that you pay attention during class and stay engaged.

Solution: Be engaged during class.

Here are some simple things you can do to stay engaged during class: 

  • Prepare for your lectures by reading your course material ahead of time. 
  • Use study aids, such as flashcards and mind maps to remember key concepts. 
  • Concentrate on what the instructor is saying rather than daydreaming or chatting with other students. 
  • Take notes and ask questions. In fact, taking notes is one of the best ways of staying alert since it forces you to concentrate on the lecture. It also ensures you get the best bang for your buck since you will be able to go back and review the material after class. 

3. You Are Too Cozy

Another reason you may be feeling sleepy during online classes is you are too comfortable. 

If you are sitting in a comfortable chair in a warm room, it is easy for your body to start dozing off because our bodies often associate comfort with rest. When we are in a comfortable environment, our body begins to slow down and prepare for sleep. 

Solution: Sit up straight and avoid getting too comfortable.

When you sit up straight, you will signal to your body that it is not time to rest, so this will help you stay alert during class. 

In addition, if you are wearing something warm and comfortable, such as a jacket, consider taking it off. Doing that will make your body work harder to keep you warm, thus keeping you alert. 

You could also open the window in your room or turn on a fan to make it less comfortable for you. 

4. Your Desk Is Not Facing Natural Light

Natural light triggers our bodies to secrete serotonin, a hormone that helps us stay alert, and it is directly tied to the circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. This rhythm heavily relies on natural light to stay on track (source).

Solution: Move your desk to face a window. 

If your desk is not facing a window, consider moving it. 

If that is not an option, consider investing in an artificial sunlight lamp like the Circadian Optics Light Therapy Lamp (link to Amazon), especially if your room is dark. This lamp mimics natural sunlight and will help keep your circadian rhythm on track. 

5. Your Class Schedule Is Not Optimal

Another reason you may be feeling sleepy during online classes is that your class schedule is not optimal, which means that you are taking too many classes or scheduled at odd times during the day. 

Solution: Find an optimal class schedule. 

Take a look at your schedule. If you find that you have too many classes or class times that are not optimal, consider dropping one or two of your classes. Alternatively, consider taking a class during the weekend to give yourself a break during the week. 

Doing that will allow you to be alert during all your classes and get the most out of your overall learning experience. 

6. You Are Consuming Heavy Meals Before Class

Avoid eating large meals before class at all costs, as your body uses a lot of energy to digest the food, which decreases your levels of alertness. In addition, it will cause your blood flow to shift towards your digestive system instead of your brain, making you feel drowsy. 

This is especially true if the meal is high on carbohydrates, as carbs trigger the brain to increase serotonin secretion. While serotonin boosts energy levels, too much of it can cause an increase in the production of melatonin. 

Melatonin is a hormone that helps promote sleep, which in this case will only add to the feeling of drowsiness. 

Solution: Avoid eating large meals before class. 

Instead, eat small snacks before class, such as fruits. 

This is because fruits contain glucose and fructose, two sugars that help you stay alert and fight fatigue. You could also drink coffee or tea, as both of these beverages contain caffeine, which helps keep you awake. 

7. You Are Not Drinking Coffee Before Class

Taking a cup of joe before class is crucial. Drinking coffee helps keep your energy levels steady by giving you a caffeine boost of about 20 minutes. Coffee also helps curb your appetite, thus reducing the amount of insulin your body produces.

Insulin is directly tied to drowsiness, and the higher the insulin level, the sleepier you will feel (source). 

Since coffee allows you to go for longer periods without eating, your body does not have to focus on digestive processes, thus promoting blood flow to the brain. This can help keep you alert during class as your body is sending more energy to the right places. 

Finally, caffeine helps clear adenosine from your brain, which is a chemical that makes you feel tired (source).

Solution: Drink coffee before class.

If you are not drinking coffee before class, start doing so. 

Not only will it help keep you alert, but you will also be able to focus better and retain more information. Just make sure to avoid drinking caffeine too close to bedtime as it can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. 

The amount of caffeine one needs to stay alert varies among people, based on factors such as: 

  • Sensitivity 
  • Age 
  • Weight 
  • Metabolism 
  • Medical conditions 

If you are not sure how much caffeine is suitable for you, talk to your doctor about it. Alternatively, you could opt for green tea, as it does not contain as much caffeine as coffee, but it contains L-Theanine. 

L-Theanine helps you stay alert without increasing your heart rate or blood pressure the way caffeine does. It also has subtle calming effects that can help relax you after a long day of work or class. 

8. You Are Not Drinking Enough Water

One of the effects of dehydration is sluggishness and fatigue because your body’s cells require water to function properly. In addition, when you do not have enough fluids in your body, the blood concentration thickens, reducing blood plasma levels. This causes your heart to work harder to circulate blood, making you feel tired. 

Solution: Drink enough water.

Make sure to drink plenty of fluids during the day, especially water. 

You could also try drinking tea or eating fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelons, and grapes. 

Try to drink at least three liters (nearly 13 cups) of water each day. However, drinking that much water right before class is not advisable as it can make you feel nauseous and bloated. Instead, drink about half a liter (two cups) of water about 20 minutes before your first class or lecture. 

You can also have a water bottle beside you in class and drink little sips every now and then. Just be sure to use the restroom before and after class, as that much water can go through you within a short period of time.

9. You Have Not Been Exercising Enough

Sitting down all day can make us feel tired, but this feeling is exacerbated if we do not exercise regularly. Physical activity increases blood flow to the body, supplying more oxygen to our cells. This helps keep our bodies active and feeling refreshed. 

Solution: Exercise more often.

We know that exercise is crucial for good health, but it also helps energize us. Try to go for a quick workout at least three times each week. Alternatively, you could try doing some simple stretches throughout the day. 

Any physical activity is better than none, so try to be more active throughout your day, even if you can’t commit to a full workout routine. 

10. You Are Not Eating Healthily

Eating unhealthy foods can make us feel tired and sluggish because our bodies have to work harder to digest unhealthy foods than they do to digest healthy foods. In addition, unhealthy foods are often low in crucial vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function correctly. 

Solution: Eat more healthy foods. 

Instead of eating processed foods or fast food, try incorporating more whole, unprocessed foods into your diet. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, so try to make them a regular part of your meals. 

If you find it challenging to cook meals from scratch every day, try prepping your food ahead of time. This will make it easier for you to eat healthy even when you are short on time. 

11. You Are Stressed Out

Stress can have several adverse effects on our health, including making us feel tired and sluggish. When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol, which is a hormone that helps us deal with stressful situations, but it also has some side effects. 

One of these side effects is that cortisol can make us feel tired and unmotivated. 

Solution: Manage your stress.

There are a number of different ways that you can manage your stress. One strategy is to practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Another option is to exercise regularly, as this can help release tension and promote feelings of calmness. 

You could also try talking to a friend or family member when you feel stressed to reduce negative emotions. 

12. You Have a Medical Condition

Sometimes, feeling tired and sluggish is a sign that something is wrong with our bodies. There could be an underlying medical condition causing your fatigue, such as thyroid disease or diabetes. The problem might also be the result of a medication you are taking. 

Solution: See a doctor 

If you have been feeling tired and sluggish for an extended period, it is crucial to see a doctor.

They will help identify the cause of your fatigue and recommend the appropriate treatment. 

Fatigue can be a sign of many different medical conditions, so it can be difficult to self-diagnose.

Therefore, it is essential to see a doctor even if you are not sure what the cause of your fatigue might be.

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