Why Do You Get Tired When Studying?
Do you often feel tired when you’re studying? We may know why! Find out the 6 main causes of mental fatigue here.
Updated 16 May 2019
Have you ever felt the familiar feeling of fatigue and exhaustion that comes not long after starting your study session? No matter how much you tell yourself you’ll eventually snap out of it, you simply can’t concentrate on the words in your textbooks and lecture notes.
If you’ve wondered why you feel so drained when studying, these 6 possible causes may help you identify the problem so that you can combat it and achieve maximum study productivity!
#1. You’re going through a brain strain
Did you know that constant studying with little to no breaks can tire your brain, causing you to lose focus? When this happens, it may seem as if the words in your notes are swimming around and the pictures in your textbook are jumping out at you.
The reason for this is because although the brain is only 2% of our body weight, it uses 20% of the energy we consume. And the more we use our brain to perform mental tasks, the more energy (i.e. glucose) is being used. This results in less glucose in the blood for other parts of the body, leading you to feel extreme exhaustion after long hours of thinking.
The solution to this? Feed your brain with the right foods, which leads us to our next point.
#2. You’re lacking nourishment
Exam period often means skipping meals to focus on your studies. And even if you do have 3 meals a day, you may be lacking certain types of food that will fuel both your brain and body, given your penchant for instant noodles and fast food during this critical time.
This spells bad news for your energy levels and brain health.
According to associate nutritionist Jo Lewin, it’s important to eat well to boost your brain’s superpowers. Want to increase memory and concentration? Munch on sage, blueberries and pumpkin seeds. To lift your mood, nosh on salmon, mackerel, soya beans and chia seeds. Most importantly, if you want to avoid brain strain and have a steady supply of energy throughout the day, opt for whole grain bread and rice over the white version.
#3. Your study environment is weighing you down
You’re probably well aware of how important your physical study space is set up — no studying on the bed, getting rid of clutter on your desk and studying in a brightly lit environment.
However, your ambience plays a crucial role too. You may feel comfy sitting on your padded seat by the window with steady light streaming in, but if your other senses are frequently disturbed, then you are more likely to feel tired faster.
A big part of this is due to the type of music you’re listening to. Music with lyrics may make your brain work extra hard as it is competing to recall lyrics while memorising study notes — hence, tiring your brain faster.
Our solution? Switch up your study environment every once in a while to give your brain a much needed refresher. Consider taking your study sesh to a cafe, studying in silence or changing your music playlist to keep you motivated throughout the day.
#4. You’re suffering from a burnout
If you’ve noticed a drastic change in your study behaviour compared to when you first started out, it could be due to burnout. For example, you have always been at the top of your game in the past, but lately, it’s just been a constant slump and you’re just pushing yourself through for the sake of it.
Described as “chronic stress”, burnouts can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Because of this, you’re simply not motivated to go through with your studies anymore.
But fret not! There are many ways you can recover from a burnout and prevent it from ever happening again. This includes taking well-deserved breaks and scheduling alone time for some self-reflection. With some effort and self-care, you’ll bounce back in no time!
#5. You’re focusing on the negatives
Being put in tough situations will tend to make you think of the worst, picturing scenario after scenario of the worst possible outcome, such as, “What if I fail this exam? If I fail, I won’t graduate. If I don’t graduate, I can’t find a job. No job means no income.”
When you only look at gloomy outcomes, you’re also overworking your brain, causing unnecessary stress on yourself. Truth be told, it's totally not worth your mental energy!
According to life coach Diane Lang of Discovery Wellness, one way to cope with overthinking is to consider if what is stressing you out is realistic and if it will affect you in your immediate future (e.g. in a month’s time). When you consider the many factors that could affect your future, you’ll eventually come to see that it isn’t actually that big of a deal, and that it’s something you’re able to overcome with a little bit of grit and determination.
Remember, there are always two sides to the coin — if you’re thinking of the bad stuff, know that there could be positive outcomes too!
#6. You’re physically unwell
Besides the usual fuzzy vision you get from straining your eyes too much (which can also make you tired), there other physical factors that may be the cause for your exhaustion while studying.
One reason could be because you are falling sick. If you feel like this could be the reason, give yourself a boost by taking vitamin C supplements or effervescent tablets and having a rest till you feel better.
If you’re all too familiar with headaches, loss of appetite and insomnia during your study sessions, you may also be going through a mental block that’s taking a toll on your body. The stress you’re feeling in your head may be displayed as physical symptoms in the form of illnesses and physical pain, even though your body is in tip-top shape.
So how can you overcome both mental and physical fatigue? Simply by incorporating everything good into your study sessions, of course! Make sure you eat the right foods, drink enough water (at least 8 glasses a day), take sufficient breaks in between study sessions and most importantly, get enough sleep (scientists recommend an average of 7 - 9 hours of sleep for college students).
Of course, there are various other factors that can cause you to feel sleepy when you’re studying — it could be as simple as feeling bored of your revision content. But if you’re noticing a change in pattern and don’t feel so good, we recommend switching up your study routine and checking in on your health. Good luck!