Whether you're reading for an assignment, studying for a test or reading for pleasure, drowsiness can throw off your concentration. It's natural for your eyelids to grow heavy when you're sitting still -- even more so if the material you're reading isn't very interesting. Learning how to stay awake while you read helps you get to the end of the book efficiently and remember what you read.
Time It Right
If you're already sleepy, staying awake to read is more of a challenge than normal. Our natural patterns of sleepiness and alertness, known as circadian rhythms, play a role in timing your reading assignments. Your body naturally gets sleepy between midnight and 7 a.m., with another sleepy period midafternoon. You're more likely to feel alert between 6 and 11 p.m., according to the National Institutes of Health. Since not everyone's circadian rhythms are the same, you should tune in to your body's specific rhythms to identify your alert times. When possible, time your reading to when you're alert.
Control the Environment
The environment is a factor in how alert you stay when you read. If you curl up in bed with your book, you're more likely to fall asleep. Choose a spot with bright lighting so you can focus on the words and aren't lulled by dark. Find a spot comfortable enough for you to focus, but not so comfy that you doze off. A quiet spot outdoors gives you fresh air to keep you alert, and may help you focus. Others might find the outdoors too distracting. Test different reading spots to find one with minimal distractions that also allows you to stay awake.
Go Beyond Reading
For a school assignment, getting actively involved in the reading can help you stay awake. Instead of just reading the material, take notes as you go. The physical action of writing the notes can help you stay awake. The notes also give you a reference for studying later, and may help you better remember the material. You also keep your brain engaged by focusing on the material to pick out the key points for the notes.
Break It Up
Sitting in one spot reading for too long increases your chances of falling asleep. If you give yourself plenty of time to complete a reading assignment, you can break it into smaller chunks. Take frequent breaks to energize yourself. Instead of using the breaks to check your phone or stare at a screen, get up and move around. Go for a quick walk or do a few exercises. The break from one continuous focus also takes some of the strain off of your eyes. Deep breaths can also increase your energy by increasing your blood oxygen. Schedule regular breaks during your reading assignment. If you notice yourself getting drowsy, take an unscheduled break to energize your body.
Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.