“What are better options for staying awake than using energy drinks?”—Hannah P*, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

*Name changed

Interesting question. First, let’s talk about energy drinks. There are numerous brands, which typically all contain caffeine (usually in large amounts) and sometimes other stimulants in the form of adrenaline derivatives, as well as other junk of no use. Therefore, much like coffee, tea, Ritalin, and speed, they’re all stimulants. This is why people who ingest these products stay awake, whether they want to or not.

Energy drinks also have an effect on other bodily functions. For example:

  • Your heart rate increases.
  • Your blood pressure goes up.
  • Your muscles twitch and tremble.
  • Your digestion could suffer (i.e., you could get diarrhea).

Unmistakably, during the exam period, students come in hyper, anxious, nauseous, and twitching in front of me, unable to concentrate and wanting a sick note.

Now let’s talk about sleep. Sleep is important for our physical and mental health; it also helps us to learn and perform better during an exam. So, not sleeping kind of defeats the purpose. That being said, there’s no magic pill to stay awake if you find yourself needing to. But there are some tips that may help you feel less drowsy:

Exercise Working out regularly can help you sleep better at night so you’ll learn better and be more productive, therefore decreasing your load come crunch time.

Take breaks While marathon studying or working, take breaks to do a little cardio, have a snack, whatever you need to help you to study better.

Take a nap If you insist on staying up late, then try to fit in some catnaps. Computer work will tire your eyes, so rest them for short periods.

Snack frequently Eat small healthy snacks instead of large meals to prevent low blood sugar.

Reduce the need to cram Stay on top of your material, study daily, and learn time management skills, so you’ll meet your deadlines.