One thing that you will have to do as a student is the inevitable all-nighter. It’s still early on in the term so there are still a few weeks to go before you’ll have to pull one off but make sure that you prepare yourself because at one point you’ll be clutching at that extra strong coffee like your life depends on it.
The hardest point comes at around 4am, your eyes will get heavy and you’ll yawn every 30 seconds but there are a number of things that you can do to make sure that you don’t peak at 3.39 in the morning.
1 – Planning is good
So it’s 6pm and you know that the night ahead is going to be filled with frantic essay writing, problem solving or designing depending upon the nature of your degree. Rather than diving in all guns blazing, the first thing that you should do is plan the night ahead; keep to your schedule to keep things running smoothly and your night is likely to be more successful. You could start by collating research, then drafting a plan before you begin your actual task whilst remembering to factor in breaks and snack time.
2 – Drink water
Water will keep you nice and refreshed at the start of the night, especially if you put a good amount of ice in. Although coffee seems like the obvious choice for an all-nighter, caffeine has a short term effect so it will be more beneficial later on in the night. Plus if you are drinking a lot of cold water then your bladder is sure to keep you awake, spontaneous toilet breaks are likely but at least you’ll be hydrated.
3 – Caffeine is your friend
As mentioned previously, caffeine is a great stimulant for an all-nighter as long as you use it properly. You can get your caffeine fix in a number of ways from strong coffee and Coca-Cola to Red Bull, Lucozade and Pro Plus. The secret to making caffeine work is to drink it or take it at peak time. That moment when your eyes are heavy and your head is dipping forward like a nodding dog at around half three in the morning is the time that you know you need to start on the caffeine. Just make sure that you don’t over-do it, too much of anything is bad for you.
4 – Early research is effective
If you know early on in the day or the day before that an all-nighter is on the cards then it is a good idea to do your essay or project planning way before the all-nighter commences. This means that your brain will be thinking about the nature of the task for a longer period of time and you never know, you could develop more ideas in this time. Plus, early research and planning means that you can dive straight into your work for the all-nighter so you could finish earlier and get more sleep. You are likely to get more research done if you do it in the day when your brain is more functional as well.
5 – Don’t get too comfortable
It might be tempting to get in your bed with your laptop or to snuggle down on the sofa surrounded by papers and pens but being too comfortable will not help you to stay up all night. Sitting at a table will be far more effective as you won’t be tempted to curl up and sleep – which will be the case in a warm, squishy bed. As much as you may hate sitting at the table, you are more likely to get your work done and are less likely to procrastinate.
6 – It’s okay to sleep
I know the whole point of pulling an all-nighter is to not sleep all night to get your work done but at some point your exhaustion may get the better of you, at this point it is okay to nap. The power nap is something that most students become a master of, the key to napping successfully is in the name; it’s got to be a quick thing. The optimal napping time is around 20 minutes, just enough for your brain to rest and for your body to regain energy. Napping for longer than half an hour puts your body into a deep sleep rather than a nap and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and possibly even more lethargic than you were to begin with. Just 10 minutes of power-napping can make you feel better, the most important thing to do if you do decide to nap is to set an alarm, there is nothing more devastating than planning a quick power nap and ending up sleeping through to the morning.
7 – Have a lie-in
If you know that you are going to have to do an all-nighter try to get as much sleep as you can during the day. That means it’s okay to sleep in until midday if the rest of your day is going to be effective. Alternatively, if you have lectures all day then take a power nap when you get home for a bit of a boost.
8 – Set goals
Setting yourself goals throughout your all-nighter is a good source of motivation. Plan word limits for certain times and you will feel better for keeping to them or beating them. If you set your deadline to complete your work at around 6am then you will have enough time to get a few hours of shut-eye before you have to be up for uni the next day. Set a goal to make sure that you get up in a reasonable time to check over your work. Although many students get some of their best work done during all-night stints, there are more likely to be the occasional spelling and grammar mistakes as your brain will not be as fully focused as it would be during the day.
9 – Be cool
Working in a warm and stuffy room is more likely to make you sleepy so the key to staying focused is to keep cool. That means turning off the heating, cracking a window and removing that warm and snuggly university hoody. Splashing your face with cold water will also have a positive effect on your concentration levels.
10 – Supplements can be better than caffeine
Taking multi-vits, vitamin B12 and omega 3 is a good idea for your all-nighter session (as is taking them for the duration of the exam/deadline period, you need all the power you can get) the vitamins are also beneficial for your complexion when you are pulling all-nighter as they can take their toll on your skin and appearance.
11 – Breaks are allowed
Don’t be under the false illusion that doing an all-night stint means that you aren’t allowed to take a break or use the internet. Sometimes when you focus on a topic for so long, you have to take five minutes off otherwise you’ll lose the will to work and concentrate on the task at hand. An effective way of managing your breaks is to tell yourself that you deserve one after completing a goal. For example, after writing 400 words you could reward yourself with 10 minutes on Facebook, Twitter or on your favourite blog or website.
12 – Carbs are not the enemy
Carbohydrates are great for releasing energy slowly so don’t be afraid to eat fries, rice, pasta or anything carby for the duration of your all-nighter. The standard three meals a day goes out of the window if you have an all-nighter as well, you’ve got to be prepared for a fourth ‘midnight snack’ meal loaded with carbs. Pizza is a great meal for an all-nighter as is the humble beans on toast and both have the right amount of carbs to keep you going. Eating fruit, nuts and crisps to snack along the way is also a good idea to keep your energy levels up whilst you’re studying. The only thing to remember is that carb-loading isn’t a good idea, too much of a good carb can make you sleepy.
13 – You need theme music
There are hundreds of people that will tell you that you should listen to classical music whilst you are working as it boosts productivity. However, whilst listening to something that you wouldn’t do ordinarily may be distracting, listening to some stimulating music could be useful in keeping you awake as well as giving you something else to focus on aside from the task at hand. Your playlist should include upbeat, dancey songs that you can occasionally get up and stretch to (or have a 30 second boogie) whilst avoiding anything too smooth that is likely to make you sleepy – no power ballads allowed.
14 – Be fresh and clean
Halfway through your all-nighter you are guaranteed to get to that point where you feel like you can no longer go on. This is totally normal, you have after all been awake for a long period of time, but there are ways of combatting this and the simplest method is by taking a quick shower. They key is to have the shower at quite a cool temperature – not to the point that you’re freezing but so that it’s cool enough that you feel refreshed whilst not being so hot that you just want to sleep afterwards.
15 – Study buddies are supportive
Some people prefer to sit on their own to get on with their work but when you’re pulling an all-nighter sometimes you need the moral support of having a friend there with you, ideally this will be someone from your course doing the same assignment as you or a housemate who also has to pull the inevitable all-nighter. The great thing about a study buddy is the fact that you don’t have to go at it alone, your sidekick will be there for the duration. Don’t be too disheartened if your friend decides to go to bed before you either, each person knows in their heart when they have done enough, the key is to plough through until you are happy with your work.