How to Pull an All-Nighter

Published on December 5th, 2012

Finals are here and everyone is tripping over himself/herself trying to finish strong. There’s so much to do between twenty page term papers and that huge cumulative exam in your hardest class. Not to mention that your internship is asking way more of you since you’re leaving for break in a week and a half.  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 and be at least moderately functional the next day.

1. Man Up and Rally

You know you should have managed your time better but even then you’d probably have to stay up for some other crap reason. 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 they’ll wake you up if you happen to drift off.

3. Pick Your Study Location

Library, study rooms, kitchen table, desk or floor. There are infinite options for places you can get work done. Pick a spot that you can hunker down in for a long time but please avoid anywhere too comfortable. That means beds, squishy armchair 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 or I can’t even stop compulsively checking my e-mail as if the president is going to spontaneously drop me a line. If you tend to be prone to distraction/procrastination like I am it may be worth it to download an app like SelfControl that locks you out of the websites you 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 probably going to be starving. Try to avoid eating yourself into a food coma and pick 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

Schedule your night ahead of time regardless of what you’re doing. 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 ahead of time 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!

words_shivani aluru. photo_courtesy of getty images.