Walk into any classroom or lecture hall and you are guaranteed to see a few students that are falling asleep or have already fallen asleep. We know it is difficult to stay awake in class – especially when you have an instructor that is not the most interesting or dynamic person in the world! However, by staying awake you will ensure that you don’t miss out on any important information. If you have tried really hard to stay awake but automatically find yourself falling asleep in class then you are probably wondering why it happens? Wonder no more. There is a very scientific explanation to why students fall asleep during class. If you understand why it happens, then you can take actions that will prevent it from happening.
Why it happens…
The graph below is from Brain Rules, a New York Times bestseller by John Medina.
It shows that just 10 minutes into a lesson, student attention levels drops drastically! So, do you want the good news or the bad news first?
The bad news is that this happens naturally. Your attention will drop after ten minutes of doing the same thing regardless of what that thing is. The good news is that we can regain attention and bring it back to where it started. In order to regain attention, we simply have to introduce variation. Remember, our attention drops only when we are doing or listening to the same thing for ten minutes. To kick our brains back into action, we simply have to change the current monotonous state i.e. do something different. By introducing variations, you can continually reboot your attention in the classroom and avoid falling asleep and rendering your time in the classroom virtually useless. This is illustrated in the graph below.
Unfortunately, most instructors are unaware of the learning process and the patterns of attention levels. Even after most students attention levels have dropped, instructors will still go on teaching in the same monotonous voice and tone, thus they fail to regain your attention. A good instructor will introduce some sort of variation every ten minutes – maybe play a short video clip, or show you a projected image, tell a joke or pose an interesting question. A variation is some sort of activity that is not simply talking in the same rhythm and tone. You will find that in a few classrooms with dynamic instructors, your attention will be rebooted throughout the lesson. This is due to the variations that more dynamic instructors will introduce – because they understand the learning process.
What can you do to regain attention?
The question remains: If you have a boring instructor who does not introduce variations, then what can you do to stay awake and reboot your attention every ten minutes? Well, you have one option here.
Introduce your own variations! After ten minutes when you notice your attention dropping, simply put your hand up and ask a question. Or tell your friend sitting next to you to ask a question. Simply put, introduce a variation that will reboot your attention level. You could even get up and change your seats. Ask your instructor if some sort of activity or exercise could be done to apply some of the concepts being taught. Do anything that will bring something different to the table than what you have been listening to for the last ten minutes. All of this will break the current state and escalate your attention levels again! Repeat this every time you find your attention dropping.
Possible other causes for falling asleep
There are other triggers for sleeping during lessons too. These include:
- Eating a large meal immediately before the lesson: Avoid eating a lot before a lesson.
- Poor ventilation in the classroom: Open the windows to fix this.
- Tired students: Getting enough sleep is pivotal. Lack of sleep and irregular sleeping patterns is a common problem for students.
- Sitting far away from the instructor or at the back of the classroom: Yes, we know the cool kids prefer to sit in the back of the classroom. Those are also the students that fail when exam time comes. Sitting closer to the front and closer to your instructor can and often does make a huge difference. If you don’t believe this, try sitting in the back and then sit in the front the next day. You will find it far easier to stay attentive when you are closer to the action!
- Missed some part of the lesson- If you missed some part of the lesson(either some previous session or some part of current session due to some distraction) you might not be able to follow what is being discussed. Therefore, you want to avoid becoming distracted and missing parts of the lesson.