We all have that one college friend. The one who, a week or so before exams, would exile themselves to the library to study, only to emerge after their finals with a much paler complexion and heavy rings around their eyes.
As September waves goodbye, it's already time for many college kids to start hitting the books to study for midterms. While voluntary isolation can be a study tactic that works for a select few, trying to cram eight weeks worth of information into a sleep-deprived brain isn't the most effective way to learn.
Get the most out of your study sessions (and your college experience!) with these seven tricks and tips.
Trade up your Red Bull
Days full of lectures and nights full of studying (and other extracurricular activities) can leave eyelids feeling heavy, especially by the time comes to hit the books. Fuel up on energy sources that grow naturally, not funky chemicals crafted in a lab. Sip on guayusa tea, an Amazonian plant that's lauded by locals for its revitalizing effect. The tea has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee plus antioxidants from the organically occurring polyphenols. The extra nutrients can help the brain focus while revving energy levels.
Create an ambience
Dorm rooms are anything but cozy, and the overhead lights in most university libraries can be jarring. Filling the room with bright lights might be beneficial for keeping students awake while they're studying at all hours, but this tactic actually has a detrimental effect on the brain and memory. Fluorescent lights emit cool toned light, and a study of the effect of color on memory found that warmer toned light helps increase brain function and memory. Try plugging in a pink salt lamp: These beautiful and functional light sources emit a soft, pink light, and are lauded for their ability to purify air.
Get a good night's sleep
From 24:7 Instagramming to staring at the laptop while typing an epic senior thesis, college kids are maxing out their screen time. And it's messing with their sleep cycles in a big way: In a recent study of 21 college aged students, those who used a computer without color-blocking glasses experienced depleted levels of melatonin. Melatonin is the compound that helps the body fall asleep, so even when these students are tired, drifting off into dreamland can feel like a struggle.
Try a melatonin supplement 20 minutes before bed to get much needed rest—you'll be counting sheep in no time!
Load up on antioxidants
This one's for the 21 and older set: Resveratrol, a polyphenol antioxidant, is a darling of medical researchers for its potential abilities to help the prevent cancer, heart disease, and neurodegeneration. Found in berries, grapes, and red wine, the antioxidant could boost memory and brain function. But sip that merlot slowly—drinking alcohol in excess has deleterious effects on memory!
Feeling stressed? Grab a comfort-food favorite
As any good procrastinator will tell you, taking breaks is totally necessary when cramming for midterms. Make the most of your 15 minutes of breathing time by chowing down on a quick and easy dinner that reminds you of home but helps improves your brain function. Mac and cheese is an old favorite, but when it's made with grass-fed dairy, it contains omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, and B vitamins—all of which are high on the list of foods that help build memory and cognitive performance.
Pop a memory pill
No, we're not talking about some secret new performance-enhancing drug. Try turmeric: The pungent yellow spice is full of curcumin, which has proven to have a plethora of health-boosting aspects. Most importantly for those cramming in last minute study sessions, curcumin has crazy awesome effects on recovering short term and long term memory. Take a few turmeric capsules before you crack open your textbooks to help retain as much information as possible.
If you're trying to pull off a productive all-nighter, pack some peppermint oil in your bookbag. The powerful aromatic is proven to help increase memory and learning time, so take a whiff of the stuff to wake up when you feel yourself dragging!
Most importantly, take time to breathe. Exams can be stressful, but you've got this. Study hard, eat your grass-fed mac and cheese, and ace those exams.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho