College students typically have a lot on their plate. Between getting to class on time, maintaining a good GPA, getting involved with clubs and activities on campus and studying for tests, it can be hard to stay awake. This is why many college students might resort to caffeine to help get through the day and stay alert during a study session.

Caffeine can come in many forms, and although the most common one might be coffee, college students may choose to get their dose from soda, tea or energy drinks. Unfortunately, having too much caffeine can take a toll on the body and even have the opposite effects. It's important to be aware of healthier alternatives to caffeine before resorting to that daily cup of coffee.

Pros and Cons of Caffeine

Most coffee drinkers know that as many benefits there are to drinking it, there are just as many downsides. The biggest benefit that caffeine can provide for the lives of college students is that it helps you wake up in the morning and stay awake after each cup throughout the day.

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Caffeine also, surprisingly, has other health benefits. It can help reduce the likelihood of a person getting certain types of cancer, like oral cancer, reduce headaches in certain individuals and even stabilize the nerves you might be feeling in your stomach. Coffee has been said to help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

But caffeine can have a dark side too. While caffeine can do a great job of waking you up and keeping you up, usually, it's only a matter of time before you'll crash. Crashing can make you feel drowsy until you drink another cup of coffee, can of soda or an energy drink. Too much caffeine can cause a person to feel jittery, anxious and even nauseous. Caffeine can also cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, irritability, a rapid heartbeat and confusion. It can stain your teeth, which isn't ideal for young college students.

How to Stay Awake to Study

Many college students feel the need to rely on coffee to get through a study session. And, you can't really blame them. College students, in general, have a lot of things to manage on a daily basis, and it can be hard to find the time to do even the most basic things, like eating a meal or washing clothes.

But, having to stay awake in order to study for a test on top of all that can be extremely difficult. This is why it's so common to see a huge increase in caffeine intake among college students. However, there are many other strategies you can try that don't involve relying on any sort of substance whatsoever. These include:

  • Setting an hour a day to study at a time when you know you won't feel sleepy, perhaps on a lunch break or in between classes.
  • Studying with a friend or with a group. This can help you stay more alert.
  • Avoiding studying at night. While some people are night owls, it's not always ideal for studying. Use nighttime to relax and get into your routine before bed instead.
  • Trying to get plenty of sleep in the days leading up to a test. This may mean forgoing some social activities, but you'll be glad you did.
  • Eating healthy. Much of the time, that coffee tends to come with a bag of chips or a candy bar. These will naturally give you less energy.
  • Exercising often. College students spend a lot of time sitting in chairs all day. By getting up and moving -- either heading to the gym or playing a pick-up game with friends -- you'll feel awake by the time you need to sit down again and study. 

How to Stay Awake Without Coffee

Maybe cutting down on caffeine is easy for some people, but not for you. If you're a person who has had a cup of coffee every day since high school, then you're probably less willing to try something new right before a big test comes up.

If you feel that you need some type of "substance" to get you through a study session, there are many alternatives to caffeine that will help you get the job done, and without all the nasty potential side effects. They include:

  • Water. Water is a natural energy booster that our body needs. The more you hydrate, the more alert you'll be. Ditch the coffee cup for a water bottle and continue drinking throughout the day. 
  • High-protein snacks. Nobody is saying you can't snack during your study session. But, instead of eating something unhealthy, try to eat nuts, seeds or a whole-wheat chicken wrap to increase your protein intake, thereby increasing your energy.
  • Vitamins. Vitamins, like vitamin-B, can really improve your energy. This is because a lack of vitamin-B can make you feel tired and fatigued. Vitamins B-6 and B-12 should do the trick, but make sure to ask your doctor first.
  • Peppermint tea or ginseng. Peppermint can increase brain oxygen concentration, while ginseng can help boost concentration, energy and endurance.
  • Herbs. In addition to vitamins, there are other natural substances you can take as an alternative to caffeine. Things like berry extract or ginger root may be what you need to stay awake during study sessions. 

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.