Here at study sutra, we have discussed a wide variety of study topic from time management tips for getting things done more effectively to make better notes and excel examinations. Few of the advice that we give you to be an excellent student is to get everything out of class that you can; take detailed notes, listen intently to the lecture, and record lectures for later listening.

These tips are great, but I’ll be the first to admit that even a life-hacker like me is prone to the hypnotic of a boring lecture. We all tend to get sleepy in class, whether it be due to a lack of good rest or uninteresting and boring subject.

However, it’s painfully evident that sleeping in class is one of the ultimate wastes of time. So let’s tackle the main reason we’re sleeping in class; not sleeping enough at night.

The absolute best way to make sure you’re awake and attentive in class is to make sure you were sleeping for more than seven hours the night before. Being well rested is incredibly important; not only for staying awake in class but for your overall health as well. Just to name a few sharp minds, good digestion, reduced aging, faster learning is some of the benefits of good sleep.

You already know this, so I’m not going to leave this entry with just an anecdote.

Let’s learn how to hack sleep.

Sleep occurs in cycles. What?

The full sleep cycle has five separate stages; four of the stages are classified as non-REM sleep, and one (the last one) is when REM sleep happens.

Wait. Wait. What is REM?

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement; this can be understood as waking up like state although you’re sleeping.

When you lay down to go to sleep, your body starts out in a state of quiet wakefulness. Think of this as a pre-stage, it only happens right before the first cycle begins (hopefully!). As you drift off to sleep, your body starts its path through the five sleep cycles.

During the first four, non-REM cycles, your brain activity is gradually decreasing, your heart rate is slowing, and the sleep you are in is deepening. When you hit the third stage, your body temperature actually drops a little, and by the fourth stage, you are in your most inactive state. This is also the state of deepest sleep. No dreams, nothing. This is the stage where your body actually recovers from all tiredness and your body rehabilitate its tissues and muscles. If your exercise or go to a gym, this is the stage where the magic happens.

These first four stages account for almost 75% of all sleep. The fifth state is the REM state; in this state, your brain activity sharply increases, same as the level as it’s when you are awake. Dreams occur in this state, and your brain immobilizes your body to prevent you from acting out your dreams.

So what does all this have to do with staying awake in class? The key point here is recognizing the best time to wake up.

Sleep cycles are controlled by the body’s circadian clock,(internal timekeeping system of your mind) and on average a person will complete a sleep cycle in 90 to 110 minutes.

You want to wake up right after a sleep cycle is completed; that is, you want to wake up during the first stage of sleep. Since you are in the least deep sleep at this period, the transition to the waking state will be much less jarring and you will get up feeling much more rested.

Sometimes you must have noticed that you have slept more than 9 hours but you still feel tired and sleepy. That is because, you have woken up in between of your sleep cycle, while you were at stage 3 or 4.

So how do you figure out how to consistently wake up during this stage?

One traditional way to do this is to just experiment; keep a notebook by your bed and note your wake-up experience each morning. Try going to bed at the same time each night and waking each following morning at different times – five-minute intervals is all it should take to start seeing a difference.

Doing this should help you to understand how your personal circadian clock works and will lead you to find the optimal time to wake up.

For iPhone and Android users out there, there’s an app for this; it’s called Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock . This app uses the accelerometer to monitor your movements during sleep.

Since your body is in a different state of restfulness during each stage, the app can use the movements to detect when the best time to wake you up is.

Do take into account that circadian rhythms aren’t the only thing that influences how rested you feel. If you’re doing these experiments, remember that diet, hydration, exercise, and stress can all affect the quality of your sleep.

Don’t slack off in these areas! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my own advice and get some sleep!

Other sleep resources:

Awesome post on sleep at forums

#sleep at lifehacker

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