It is always a familiar vibe across campus a few weeks before winter break. The library is packed with study groups, coffee seems to be a necessity and students have large, dark circles under their eyes. Online students have the same amount of work and study material as traditional students, and often more stress due to a job and family responsibilities. Students tend to pull all-nighters thinking that the extra few hours of studying will make a difference, when in fact, getting a good night’s rest is the key.

Dr. Philip Alapat, Medical Director at Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, recommends students study throughout the semester, set up study sessions in the evening (the optimal time of alertness and concentration) and sleep at least eight hours the night before exams.

Alapat’s other recommendations:

  • Get 8-9 hours of sleep nightly (especially before final exams)
  • Try to study during periods of optimal brain function (usually around 6-8 p.m.)
  • Avoid studying in early afternoons, usually the time of least alertness
  • Don’t overuse caffeinated drinks (caffeine remains in one’s system for 6-8 hours)
  • Recognize that chronic sleep deprivation may contribute to development of long-term diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease

Not only are online students doing the same amount of work as traditional students, they are exposed to blue light on computer screens much more. The physical act of staring and/or responding to e-mails increases the tension in the body which may create more stress. As a result, the body produces the stress hormone cortisol which is released and can make it very difficult to sleep. Getting a good night’s rest will help increase the chances of doing well on final exams.

The Center for E-Learning offers many services to online students to help them succeed in their college career. For more information please visit