How to Pull an All-Nighter
Finals are here and everyone is tripping over himself/herself trying to finish strong. There’s so much to do between 20-page term papers and that huge cumulative exam in your hardest class. Doing well in class, or at the very least, not failing, requires more work than skimming a textbook five minutes before walking into the exam room. Unfortunately, studying takes time, and usually the only “spare” time anyone has in college is bedtime. Whether you’re banging out a writing portfolio or cramming for an organic chemistry exam, these tips should help you stay up all night and be at least moderately functional the next day.
1. Man up and rally
You know you should have managed your time better, but feeling guilty won't help. Face it: you’re in for a rough night. This is about willpower and desperation, and hopefully you have enough of both to make it long enough to finish your project.
2. Stay up with a friend
Even if you’re not studying for the same thing, having a friend to stay up with is helpful. Besides keeping you company, he’ll wake you up if you happen to drift off.
3. Pick your study location carefully
Library, study rooms, kitchen table, desk, floor...there are infinite options for places you can get work done. Pick a spot where can hunker down for a long time, but please avoid anywhere too comfortable. That means beds, squishy armchairs, and couches are off limits unless you want to fall asleep and lose four hours of your night.
4. Caffeinate (and hydrate) into a frenzy
The jury is out on whether or not caffeine truly helps or hurts your performance and your health, but personal experience says that pounding Starbucks before a late night really does keep you awake and alert. Just be careful not to overdo it. There’s a fine line between being alert and shaking so much that you can’t write legibly. Remember that caffeine is a diuretic and as such you’ll need to replace a lot of water that you’re losing. A good rule is to drink three cups of water for every one cup of coffee you consume.
5. Don’t wear anything too comfortable
Or more generally, don’t be too comfortable. Sweatpants are okay, but day clothes are even better. Pajamas remind everyone of snoozing, so it might be best to leave those at home.
6. Avoid distractions
It seems like every time I need to get something important done, I can’t get off of Facebook or Tumblr, and I can’t stop compulsively checking my email as if the president was going to spontaneously drop me a line. If you're prone to distraction/procrastination like I am, it may be worth it to download an app like SelfControl, which locks you out of the websites that distract you most until you finish working.
7. Eat something
Sleeping less automatically means eating more. Think about it: you’re staying up an extra eight to ten hours, and dinner was probably at 7:00 pm. Six hours later, you’re going to be starving. Try to avoid eating yourself into a food coma by picking light, high protein, low-carb foods. They’ll keep you energized and help you avoid passing out.
8. Take a break
Every hour or so, stand up and stretch. Take a mental break and check your texts. Do whatever you feel like doing as long as you only take five minutes to do it. After three hours of studying, take a fifteen-minute break to reorient yourself and shake off any fatigue.
9. Stay organized
Make a schedule. If you’re trying to get through four chapters of calculus, do practice problems, and finish two practice tests, you definitely need to plan out your night. Blocking out what you’re studying and when to move on will keep you from freaking out when the sun rises and you’re still reading the back half of chapter three.
10. Set alarms
Make them loud, obnoxious, and repetitive. If you fall asleep, they’ll wake you up, and if you’re in the zone they’ll remind you to take a break. Setting them for every hour, or according to the schedule you set up for yourself, will help you stay awake and on track.
Good luck with finals!
Have you pulled an all-nighter recently? How did it go?