So, you’re down to the pointy end of school. There’s heaps to do and not enough time to do it, and the appeal of smashing some study and assignments by pulling an all-nighter is growing. You’re living on a diet of coffee, Netflix and sheer, bleary-eyed willpower. All you want to do is collapse and sleep for three days straight.

You’re really tired. Power naps aren’t gonna cut it. But you also need to finish off your essay and make some notes for Thursday’s exam. Getting the right amount of sleep and study seems impossible so when should you call it quits and head for bed? And when should you power through to get your work done?

When you should head to bed and get some sleep

You’re probably looking for any excuse to get some more sleep. Even though it might feel like you’ve got no time to squeeze in an extra couple of hours of decent sleep, there’s definitely some times when you should just head to bed.

In the lead up to exams it’s important to get as much shut-eye as possible, but you can always play around with your schedule; if you work better having a quick nap in the arvo then studying until one in the morning, go for it. If you prefer to wake at dawn and smash out some study in the library, do that. Just make sure you’re getting enough sleep overall, and that you’re not napping through your regular classes.

If you’ve got an exam the next day, you’re going to want to be getting a solid amount of sleep to improve your concentration. All-nighters right before you have to sit an exam should be avoided where possible–cramming at the last minute isn’t going to get you an extra marks if you can barely stay awake during the whole two hours of writing time.

Most importantly, when you’re absolutely exhausted and burnt out, go to bed. There’s no point in trying to study when you can’t keep your eyes open and forcing yourself to stay awake is only going to make you more stressed overall.

When you should pull an all-nighter

It’s inevitable; a cheeky all-nighter here and there is going to happen throughout your academic life. But they’re best done when you know you’ll be able to catch up on that missed sleep as soon as possible. If you’ve got an assignment due –that’s when bad sleeping cycles and some killer dark circles start to develop and hurt you more in the long run.

The thing is, all-nighters should always be treated as a last resort. I know, I know–sometimes cramming or staying up to smash out an essay that you should have done weeks ago feels like the only option. But try to avoid it as much as possible and fight the urge to spontaneously nap in the lead up to exams so that you’re not trying to learn an entire years worth of content into one night.

by Kaitlyn Hudson-O'Farrell