Did you forget about the essay due tomorrow at 9am sharp? Underestimated how much content you need to cram for an exam tomorrow? Or are you picking up the slack of group members in a tough project requiring you to skimp on sleep? Unfortunately, there is no easy way to smash through your work and get a good nights sleep. You’re going to have to skip some shut-eye and commit to an all-nighter.
While pulling all-nighters isn't ideal for your health, it’s bound to happen at least once (or more than once if you're like me and leave absolutely everything to the last minute). So, if you absolutely must power through the night and haven't committed to the long haul before, here are five tips that can help you survive your first all-nighter.
1. Make sure there's plenty of light
According to Natalie Dautovich, a PhD student at the National Sleep Foundation, we need darkness to have the onset of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us sleepy.
So, if we’re trying to stay awake, bright lights can be super effective in kicking our brains into high alert and keeping us stimulated.
If you’re preparing to getting through the night, it’s essential to turn on some bloody lights so you can avoid getting drowsy and crashing completely. A little lamp in the corner of your room isn't going to cut it.
2. Change locations often
Acting like you're chained to your desk is counter-intuitive when completing an all-nighter. The same scenery can make you uninterested, tired and ready to give it all up for sleep. After a while, it also becomes super easy to convince yourself that resting your head on the desk is the ideal nap spot.
To fight this, switch things up and find a new location. Ideally, you want to be in a space away from your house, like a library (uni libraries often stay open till late during exam period so suss out what's close to you and how to access it). Otherwise, move around your house. The dining room is a good place to start and you can shift around to the kitchen bench, loungeroom or your desk when you start getting sleepy.
The one thing you should avoid is setting up in your bed. It's all too easy to think that you'll be able to get things done while you're propped up with pillows and all your notes are spread on your doona but it's a trap–you'll never last the night.
3. Schedule in frequent breaks
Despite the popular belief that you need to stay working through every hour of the night, don’t do it. Take short breaks every 45 minutes or so and walk around. Do a couple of star jumps, jog on the spot or just do a lap around your house. Sitting and staying glued to your screen or your textbook is not going to get you through this.
Get up, move around and for the love of god, go to the bathroom.
4. Music is necessary
For most of us, one of the most important parts of studying is the music we listen to. And all-nighters are no exception because music is absolutely necessary to keep you awake.
You’re going to need to craft a playlist full of upbeat bangers. My advice is chucking in All Star by Smash Mouth because if the Shrek soundtrack doesn’t motivate you to pull yourself out of a torturous situation, I don’t think anything will.
5. Caffeine (but not too much)
Want to know the truth? Caffeine is your biggest friend on the tumultuous journey that is an all-nighter.
Other study guides will tell you that reliance on coffee is a terrible way to study and they're right–but desperate times call for desperate measures and in this case, your espresso and can of Redbull are going to be necessary.
The real trick is not to go overboard. Too much caffeine and you'll get jittery and lose focus. Plus, the more tired you become, the less your regular cappuccino is going to be able to carry you through and it won't matter how many shots of coffee you drink.
Hopefully all-nighters aren’t a frequent occurrence in your life. But, if the occasion calls for it, make sure you get through the hard slog as best you can so that come morning, all you'll be doing is putting the finishing touches on the hot mess that is your assignment or essay.
You know what they say, practice makes perfect. But not in terms of all-nighters. Like for real, they’re not good for ya. Just practice being on top of it next time.