Most 2020 Winter Term 2 courses are primarily online—read UBC’s announcement.

Room assignments for in-person courses are subject to change.

Students chatting and smiling in a classroom
February 20, 2020
4 mins read

A latte ways to stay awake without coffee

With midterm season in full stride, it can be tempting to operate on 4 hours of sleep a night—and then doze off in your comfy lecture room the next day. What’s the solution to staying awake? Coffee…or is it?

As lovable and essential as coffee can be, drinking it can easily become a habit. As a non-coffee drinker, I’m here to share some alternative ways to stay alert, refreshed, and energetic on the go!

Get some shut-eye

Illustration of shut eyes

Sleep. Sounds obvious, right? I’m not expecting you to get the full 8 hours every night, but let’s keep a few facts in mind.

Research shows that lack of sleep not only impacts your brain’s ability to digest and retain information, but it also increases your anxiety and lowers your mood. Those who are more sleep deprived also report feeling less friendly and more irritable. Basically, you should be getting 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye per night to be on your A-game the next day!

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, time management is key to a great sleeping schedule! Quality matters more than quantity, so rather than squeezing hour-long naps between your breaks, it’s better to sleep like a baby for 7 hours, uninterrupted.

Try planning your time backwards. If you want to get to bed by 11:00 pm tonight, what time should all your daily tasks be completed by? Try creating a schedule for yourself to follow, including blocking out certain time periods for you to focus without distractions.

You can even reward yourself by scheduling in leisure time (Netflix, anyone?) for getting things done. Best of all, you’ll be cozied up in your sheets by your desired time, with a clear and stress-free mind.

But maybe you’re like me, and planning doesn’t always go, well, as planned. Here are some tricks I use:

  • My household cuts off Wi-Fi at 11:30 pm every night, so I won’t be tempted to stay awake.
  • I put my phone far away from my bed.
  • I use the tool, a bedtime calculator that uses sleep cycles to tell me the best time to wake up to feel refreshed!

Beat the food coma blues

Foods for energy

Are you cursed by the food coma? Some foods to avoid if you’re trying to stay awake include greasy food (like cheeseburgers and fries), and foods high in MSG, sugar, or carbohydrates. (My weakness is udon. After finishing a bowl of that warm, soupy, MSG-filled meal, I doze off instantly.)

Alternatively, there are healthy foods that are good for keeping you awake, and excellent for a pre-exam snack. Try shopping at H-Mart at the University Village for some cheap deals on:

  • Walnuts
  • Salmon (how about a Poke bowl?)
  • Eggs
  • Citrus (did someone say lemon iced tea?)
  • Beans
  • Kale smoothies
  • Dark chocolate

Best of all: water! People often feel sleepy after a meal due to dehydration. UBC has an abundant supply of water fountains in every building. Remember to bring your own water bottle to refill on campus, to prevent unnecessary waste.

There are countless benefits to this magical thing called H2O. Drinking it can boost your energy, help you manage feelings of stress, cleanse your body of toxins, and best of all, build muscle tone. (Who doesn’t want toned arms?)

My personal favourite stay-awake diet consists of smoothies, smoothies, and more smoothies. The great thing about this healthy drink is that it’s extremely easy to make!

Stock up on those fruits (berries, mangoes, apples, and more) and veggies (carrots, kale, you name it) and get creative with your combinations. Check out these mouth-watering smoothie ideas on The Food Network and get blending!

Get moving


Exercise is one of the best ways to stay alert, and no—it doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym 5 days a week. It’s as simple as walking your dog, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a stretch break during work!

By the way, February is Move UBC month, with great opportunities to help you move more around campus. Take advantage of them while you can—grab a friend and try out the Wellbeing Challenge for the chance to win some awesome prizes. 

Shift your lifestyle


It’s a lot easier to get out of bed and stay awake if you’re filled with excitement! Fill your days with activities that you love, whether it’s exciting courses, fun extracurriculars, or checking off the next item on your UBC bucket list.

Unmanaged stress is one of the biggest contributors to poor sleep. Remember to prioritize your health and wellness over anything else! It’s okay to say no when your plate becomes too full. Balance your lifestyle by giving yourself time to breathe and relax!

Worried about staying accountable to yourself while you’re working towards these changes? How about to somebody else? Grab a motivation-buddy, and help each other improve! Now you can crush your exams together, get sweating, and gain some sweet shut-eye. Goodbye, eyebags!

Bedtime routines also make sleep 1000 times more enjoyable. Try to be digital-free for half an hour prior to your bedtime! Reserve time to put on a face mask, read a good book, or wind down with your bullet journal. Going to sleep with a smile on your face is a dream come true—especially knowing that you’ll be energized enough the next morning to truly seize the day!