It’s almost a guarantee that sometime during your college career, you will end up having to pull an all-nighter. Maybe it will be during finals week, when you realize that you completely forgot to study for that extra exam that was sprung on you. Or maybe it will be to write that paper that has been looming over your head for weeks, but you just couldn’t ignore the call of the beach in order to sit down and get it done.
Whatever the reason, pulling off a successful all-nighter requires concentration, willpower, and a lot of snacks. Here are a few tips to help you ensure that those twelve hours you should have spent sleeping aren’t wasted:
Take an afternoon nap
If you have enough foresight to know that you’re going to need to stay up all night to get something finished, then try and prepare for it by getting a few hours of shut eye in the afternoon. This will help give you a little extra boost before your body has to figure out that it’s not going to get a break that night. Even if you don’t have the time to sleep for three or four hours, any sort of rest that you can “stock up on” is going to help you out, at least for a little while.
Schedule in breaks
No one can work for twelve hours straight, even in the daytime. Not to mention that, after awhile, everything you’re doing will seem to become robotic with no thought behind it (and this will make it easier for you start daydreaming/drifting off to sleep). That’s why it’s important to schedule in a break every hour or so. Set your alarm clock to go off and let you know when it’s time to rest, and you’ll get the added benefit of that jolt that runs through your body as you hear the buzzing begin.
Pick good snacks
It’s tempting to load up on candy and chips while you’re studying—if you’re going to do it, you might as well get the full experience, right? Sadly, this can be detrimental to the ‘Staying-Awake-All-Night’ goal, since sugar will cause a spike and then dip in your blood sugar levels and will make you sleepy. Not to mention that carbohydrates and fats take longer for your body to process, which will also make you tired. Instead, go for some fruit/veggies, a sandwich, cheese, or something similar. If you are going to go for the sugar, try for something like chocolate milk, which will help satiate your hunger and give you a sugar boost.
Sip, not slurp, your caffeine
Obviously, one of the first things you think of to help you stay awake is caffeine, right? Well, it can definitely help, but as soon as your caffeine buzz wears off, things can go dangerously wrong. However, coffee and energy drinks definitely do have their uses—it’s just important to ingest them slowly so you have a “stable” energy buzz going on, rather than a high that can make you shaky and unable to concentrate, followed by a low that just makes you want to sleep.
Study the hard stuff first
If you need to cover a lot of material over the course of the night, start with the difficult stuff. As the night goes on, your ability to concentrate will start to diminish and attempting to tackle the really hard stuff will make you frustrated and a little delusional. Start with the subjects you have the most trouble with at the beginning of the night and then move on from there. This will also help motivate you to move through the material, since you know that you have a “reward” coming as soon as you finish.
Once the night is over, go for a little run or some form of exercise to help get your blood circulating and your body moving again. Then take a nice shower, eat a decent breakfast, and do your best to focus on the task in front of you. Once that exam is over or that paper is written, you can go hit your bed and hit it hard!