I've been falling asleep in my cultural anthropology 101 class. I don't find it boring and I don't want to offend the teacher, but I keep falling asleep despite myself. What can I do to stop this from happening and should I explain myself to my professor?

I generally get enough sleep and I try to drink coffee before the class when I get a chance. The class is at 2:30 and I find that I always feel kind of groggy between 2-4. Is my fatigue due to my Circadian rhythm?


Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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First, don't make excuses for yourself if you talk with the prof. If there is something in your life going on, you should talk with the prof and be clear that you find the material engaging, but caring for an ailing parent or something of that sort is really taking away your energy. Go talk with the prof during office hours and be honest, unless you are tired because you are having too much fun. Consider going to the student support office if you need some help with time management.

Lisa Hiton, Professor of English and Arts, Poet, Filmmaker, Writer

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OH OH OH and also: - If you're eating turkey for lunch, definitely avoid it. I was having lots of turkey sandwiches and not realizing that just because it's a smaller dose than Thanksgiving dinner, it doesn't mean that tryptophan won't creep up on you, especially if you're eating it on bread, because carbs really get into that blood sugar, which makes napping unavoidable.

Lisa Hiton, Professor of English and Arts, Poet, Filmmaker, Writer

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I used to have this problem in one of my favorite classes as a high school student at around the same time of day you are describing. It can be a combination of things--when you're eating lunch, working out, and Circadian rhythm are all factors to watch for.

As for acknowledging this to your professor: if she or he has seen you fall asleep, then I would say yes. As a professor myself, I would be empathetic with the student. I would also feel better that it isn't about my lecture or course plan, but rather, that it's something physiological in a given day.

Here are some tips that help me when I notice I'm getting that afternoon slump:

  • Oranges are the fastest way to get a boost of energy (old sprinter's trick from my track days...), so you might even bring slices to class or eat them just before if you know you're getting a bit tired.

  • Caffeine can help, but be sure to pay attention to when you are drinking it. Some tea/iced tea with lunch could be good.

  • Change up the time you're eating lunch at and/or make sure what you're eating for lunch is plant and protein forward.

  • Change some of your exercise routines. For me, a regular yoga practice is the best regulator of my sleep. I do also like evening spin or a long walk when the weather permits. As a yoga instructor, I find that for myself and my yoga students, this is the best thing for less lethargy during the day. You could even do morning practices instead of night practices, but I think you'll find it really helps your body with those Circadian things.

University Tutor, World's largest global marketplace for independent tutors.

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Every student has unique preferences when it comes to class and study schedules. While a 2:30 p.m. class may suit your best friend, you may benefit from morning or evening courses. You can keep that in mind for future registration periods, but in the meantime, consider sitting in the front row of the class. The proximity to your professor may be just the motivation you need to remain awake. You can also try to replace your coffee with naturally energizing options like water or cherry juice with chia seeds. Foods like blueberries and walnuts have similar properties - without the downside of a caffeine or sugar crash.

Should you address the issue with your professor? That depends. Has he or she noticed? If he or she has commented on your unintentional naps, you can acknowledge the problem and stress that you are exploring solutions. Your professor may even have suggestions! Above all else, do not make excuses. They are unlikely to be well received and are not productive. Good luck!

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