College Tips for Pulling An Effective All-Nighter

By Pamela Rossow

The holidays are rapidly approaching—along with them, finals and the conclusion of another college semester. You are looking forward to wrapping up your coursework...
However, there are times when life gets in the way and you unwittingly procrastinate. You might work in retail, and your boss calls you in for extra hours. You come down with the flu, and can’t do anything except lay in bed and try to survive.

So how can you conquer an immediate deadline—like finishing your literature analysis for English 101—if you’re already way behind schedule? You may have to pull an all-nighter. While all-nighters are not ideal, there are some tips that can help you make the most of them. Here are some suggestions for these emergency cram sessions.

Pick your place

Choosing a location is a critical step in the all-nighter process. If you think your bed looks like a great spot to memorize physiology terms for your nursing exam, think again. You’re more likely to end up snoring long before you accomplish any significant studying. Instead, get out of your bedroom and head to a spot that is well-lit and conducive to staying awake. A library is a great space where you can find the things you will need: quiet, outlets to charge your laptop or iPad, bathrooms, vending machines, etc. If your college library doesn’t have late-night hours, try to recreate the same environment in your kitchen or home office.

Show up fully prepared

Being fully prepared means more than just bringing the appropriate textbooks, pens, pencils, index cards, charger, laptop, and paper. You also need healthy foods that will make staying awake easier. Try dried Goji berries, which are packed with antioxidants and known to fight fatigue. If you prefer the caffeinated/sugary route, Mountain Dew or Surge might work for you—or just a large thermos of piping hot coffee. If caffeine makes you jittery, chewing gum or hard candies are sometimes effective substitutes; they keep your jaw moving and your eyes open.

Get help from friends

Hopefully by now you’ve made some friends in your classes, or found other students who share your college major. If they’re available to help you cram, take them up on any free hours they have. Study partners are great for final exam prep. They can quiz you on vocabulary terms, ask you to discuss sample essay questions, or remind you of concepts you’re forgetting. If you’re up all night writing a paper, study buddies are less effective as in-person supports. Instead, ask them to keep their phones nearby, so you can send drafts or citation questions when you are ready for feedback.

Take care of yourself beforehand

As soon as you realize that an all-nighter is necessary, take steps to get your body in gear. Start drinking more water, since hydration can help ward off fatigue. You should eat a protein-rich dinner later in the evening—preferably not a turkey dinner. (Turkey contains L-Tryptophan, an amino acid that can give you an after meal snooze effect.) Don’t load up on junky carbs either, since they tend to temporarily boost your energy but cause a blood sugar crash later on. A vitamin B supplement is a natural way to increase your energy—especially one that includes B-12.

Dress for success

When pulling an all-nighter, the dress code should be comfortable but not too comfortable. Unless you want to wake up the next morning with papers stuck to your forehead, it’s smart to forego the fuzzy slippers and PJ bottoms. You also shouldn’t try to impress your all-nighter study buddies with heels and skinny jeans. Go for casual, breathable clothes—something like what you might wear to the gym. These duds will come in handy when you take periodic breaks to stretch, walk around, or wake yourself up with a set of jumping jacks.
If you follow these tips and find out what has worked in the past for some of your friends, you can improve the results of your all-nighter. Of course, after depriving your body of needed rest, you should catch up on sleep the next night by going to bed early.