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How Do Korean Students Stay Awake?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

The study schedule of Korean students is grueling. They spend the better part of the day going to regular school, followed by private school and extracurricular activities. 

The average middle school, high school, or college student easily spends at least 15 hours a day on their studies.

With such a demanding workload, how do Korean students stay awake? The answer is, that they don’t. This type of schedule is rather overwhelming and exhausting, with young minds not being able to handle it. 

So, they often sleep during class at regular school because they will relearn the material at their hagwon, or private school, later.

However, there are things students do to keep themselves alert and focused. 

For instance, high school and college students drink several pots of coffee throughout the day. 

They also exercise, play video games, sing and eat, among a host of others.

Let’s dive deeper.

1. Coffee

Koreans love their coffee. Not only does it give a great kick-start to the day, but it’s also handy throughout the day. 

Whenever sleepiness starts coming on, students get a boost from the bit of instant coffee they bring with them to school or at a local café.

Plus, the act of making or going to get coffee provides a break to the brain. 

Stepping away for an hour allows the mind to process new information and gives space to think about practical applications for that new information.

2. Exercise

The best way to stay awake is to keep the blood hot and to flow. 

When you sit for many hours at a time, as is common for Korean students, it’s imperative to get up and move around for a while. 

They will do low-key exercises like walking, light jogging, standing on their head (to let the blood rush in the opposite direction), and yoga.

Korean students avoid vigorous activity since this will expend more energy than they can afford. 

So, for about an hour or two, they do something to get the blood going just enough but not so much they break a sweat.

3. Water

Depending on the time of year, the temperature of the room, and how the student feels, water is a good and quick method for fighting the urge to sleep. 

Some will splash their face with near-freezing water, while others will warm their hands and temples with hot water.

But, cold water tends to be the more common option. This is because of the shock it sends to the sensitive and delicate nerve endings in the face. 

Once cold water hits those, it’s a healthy and natural way to wake up and feel refreshed.

4. Video Games

Of course, the go-to activity for Korean students is video games. They will often opt for ones that are exciting, lively, and engaging. 

After kicking some serious butt or achieving a high score, it gives a boost of energy to continue with their studies.

However, there are some obvious problems with this. If the video game is too enthralling, it will gobble up huge chunks of time. 

This can be detrimental to information recall, especially where tests and exams come into the picture.

5. Movies & Animation

Another thing many Korean students do is watch a good movie or animated cartoon. 

The bright colors, silly antics, or intensity with sound and energy can be the perfect fix for being able to stay awake.

But, they have to be careful about which movies to watch. Some of them can be too relaxing, which puts the students to sleep. 

This means only action-packed, mentally involved movies and animation will do the trick.

6. Music & Singing

When the mind begins to wander, and the eyes start to droop, some Korean students will either listen to music or go sing somewhere. 

A few K-pop songs from Secret or BTS usually give the perfect impetus and inspiration to continue studying.

Some students love listening to Western heavy metal. They will turn on things like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Deep Purple, or some other band. 

The high energy of the music provides the best way for them to stave off their desire to sleep.

However, other Korean students will sing songs they know or make up their tunes. 

Not only does it provide an excellent stress release, but it allows the mind to focus on something other than studying. 

Besides, a nearby café will likely have strong coffee and live karaoke, allowing for two methods at once.

7. Eating Specific Foods

Yet another trick Korean students employ in their drive to stay alert is eating a specific food. There are many healthy dishes in Korean cuisine that are excellent for studying. 

However, much caution goes into selecting the food due to the fact that the street food in Korea will surely have them snoring in no time.

Samgyetang, or ginseng chicken soup, is merely one such example. It’s warm and nourishing yet full of excellent things like ginseng, ginger and garlic that provide an energy boost. 

Plus, you can find it almost anywhere. Students will also eat other things like fresh fruits, veggies, and rice bowls.

However, they will avoid overfilling foods, like Korean Corn Dogs

Although sweet, they are full of carbohydrates and fat.

This is counterintuitive to what they require the food to do.


It’s difficult for Korean students to stay awake because of their demanding schedules. 

They will wake up at 7 or 8 am and won’t go to sleep until at least midnight, but this is more like two or three in the morning. 

So, they have to get creative with how they stay awake while being innovative and healthy at the same time.

Therefore, they will drink coffee, eat nutritious food, watch movies, play games, listen to music, sing, walk, or do some other similar activity.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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