The Real College Guide

As you read this article, are you awkwardly hunched over your keyboard, your back aching? Are your wrists bent at unnatural angles? Do you feel pins and needles creeping from foot to calf as your legs painfully “fall asleep”?

If you’re currently experiencing any of these symptoms -- or have experienced them during a long study session or paper-writing marathon, you’re in luck: You’ll never fall victim to your study space again!

Just follow these tips to make studying more comfortable:

1. Light it right

Dorm lighting is infamously bad, so don’t rely on your room’s overhead lights. Not only will poor lighting keep you from being able to see your work clearly, but it can make you drowsy and affect your concentration. Make the splurge and purchase a desk lamp. When you combine that with maybe even (gasp!) sunlight, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to read that 50-page paper.

2. Mind your posture.

Did your mom ever press in the small of your back and yell at you to keep proper posture? Turns out, Mom wasn’t just being a nag. According to Baltimore chiropractor Paul Abosh, ideal seating and computer usage prevent joint stiffness and postural stress. Without the ideal seating posture, “you could be setting yourself up for decreased flexibility, muscle stiffness, postural problems later in life, and it can develop into headaches, neck pain, back discomfort and even arthritis down the road,” says Abosh.

He also offers the following tips:


“The first thing you want is both feet flat on the floor and every joint bent at a 90-degree angle,” says Dr. Abosh. “Be sure knees are bent so thighs are flat on the seat and parallel to the ground, and hips are bent so the pelvis and torso are straight up the back of your chair.” Too tall? “Put a pillow under your buttocks to raise your hips to get that 90-degree bend.” If your feet don’t quite touch the ground, just place old textbooks on the floor to serve as a footrest.


“You want the back of your chair to have some sort of curvature in the lumbar section to support the natural forward curvature of your low back,” says Abosh. “The height of the back of the chair should be adjusted so the curve in the chair matches the curve in your back. If the chair doesn’t have a support, roll up a small towel or fold a thin throw pillow in half like a crescent roll to place behind your lower back.”


“Do not bend your head down or crank it upward, but keep it perfectly vertical so you’re looking straight ahead. Whatever position in front of you your eyes focus on is where the center of your monitor should be,” says Abosh. Use old textbooks as a stacking mechanism if you need to raise your monitor.


“Position the chair from the desk so your shoulders and upper arms stay relaxed, hanging at the side of your body, not in front of your chest or behind your body. With elbows bent at 80 to 100 degrees, sit as close to the desk as possible. Wherever your hands and fingers end, that’s where you should place your keyboard,” says Abosh. Then, position the mouse right next to the keyboard so you only have to move your forearm a couple degrees to go from keyboard to mouse.


“The term we use for the wrists is ‘neutral position.’ When typing, keep the hand parallel to the forearm to form a straight line from your fingertips to your elbow,” suggests Abosh.


To prevent your dominant hand from bearing the brunt of the load, move your mouse to the other side of the keyboard at least once a month, advises Abosh.

3. Take stretch breaks

No matter how good your posture is, Abosh says, “Just get up and move the body around once every 45 minutes so you don’t get stiff.”


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Smooth Moves to Make Studying More Comfortable