Trouble Staying Awake or Paying Attention During Lectures? It might be this!

Trouble Staying Awake or Paying Attention During Lectures

One major issue I had in high school was I had trouble staying awake through the 3rd and 6th periods. I just couldn’t stay awake in those classes, no matter what I did. I chalked it up to a warm room for one class, but then it happened in a cold room later. Then I thought it was due to the fact that I could never fall asleep at night. It kept happening and became more frequent the older I got. Looking back now, I realize it was my diet, especially a gluten-filled diet.

I would eat a gluten bagel with cream cheese every morning when I got to school around 7 am. By third period, around 10 or 10:30 if it wasn’t an interactive class, I was out like a light. Lunch would be either 4th or 5th period where I would probably eat either a sandwich, pizza, sometimes a salad, mozzarella sticks, macaroni and cheese or french fries, along with a cookie or other little dessert treat. I loved those Little Debbie snacks. (I think they changed their recipe or supplier because the last one I ate before going gluten-free tasted like a mealy, cardboard cake covered in plastic, so I figure I’m not really missing out.)

Then 6th period would come, sometimes it would be 7th period, depending on what the class was and if it was interactive. If a teacher spent the time lecturing, I was out like a light, no matter how animated they were. My 9th grade history teacher was especially good at telling historical stories and knocking me out. I was incredibly embarrassed every time I fell asleep in their classes, I apologized if they caught me or if it happened two days in a row.


I’ve had interesting things happen while falling asleep in class. Once I dreamt that I slipped on ice and almost fell out of my desk. Another time my teacher dropped the heavy, metal trash can right next to my seat to wake me up. I about jumped out of my skin! These types of events had the entire class laughing. I felt like I was hugely disrespecting my teachers by falling asleep, it was through no fault of their own. I wanted to stay awake and I tried very hard.

I took a ton of notes to try to stay awake. Sometimes my sentences would taper off into squiggly lines in my notebook because I had fallen asleep while writing. Because it was happening so frequently, I began to buy a Coke and a bag of M&M’s, Twizzlers, or another type of quiet candy or snack to munch on while I was in those classes thinking the chewing motion and sugar would help me stay awake. Sometimes it worked but I usually ended up with a belly ache and headache afterwards, then crashing for a nap after I got home.

Me in 2003, the year before I graduated college. Posing to hide the pudge.
Me in 2003, the year before I graduated college. Posing to hide the pudge.

It happened in college, also. I ate a semi-healthy diet after my junior/senior year of high school because I gained weight both years, seemingly out of no where. After I lost a bunch of weight, my mother told me her and my father wondered if I was pregnant because I had gained so much. I couldn’t believe they would say that! Now I know it was because I looked pregnant with my gluten-baby belly. Though I am surprised she would wait until after I lost the weight to mention that.


Looking back, it was all due to gluten and stress. My weight fluctuations always came after dealing with a stressful situation. I would eat to compensate for being overly stressed or pressured. It came from all angles. I loved pizza and comfort foods, ice cream and cookies. All the things my stomach can’t handle now. I was most likely always lactose and gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive and we believe that when I had radioactive iodine treatment for my thyroid that the celiac disease was triggered. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster ride to get to this point, but I’m here, still rolling on.

These are only a few of the symptoms I experienced as a teenager and young adult with gluten and lactose intolerance. If you or your child is experiencing similar issues with staying awake, alert or paying attention, it would be a good idea to get checked for food sensitivities or intolerances. Trust me, eliminating those foods will make paying attention and staying awake so much easier.

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