How to Pull an All Nighter for Finals Week

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We’ve finally reached the week before hell freezes over. AKA finals week. You check your schedule to find out your exams follow one after the other in a matter of three days time. Did you study? Of course not. It’s time to pull that all-nighter to cram that you’ve been dreading all semester. What should I bring so I don’t fall asleep or rip my textbook apart, you may ask. Thankfully, I got you covered.

Need to learn how to pull an all nighter? Master these 10 steps so your GPA doesn’t plummet.

1. When in doubt, punk it out.

Studying while listening to Spotify punk playlist

Tiffany Lopez

“I bring loud music, preferably punk. I have a short attention span and music helps me focus in and not get distracted,” University of Florida freshman Charlie Daffron said. Hopefully, the loud noise will drown out your constant tempting thoughts that include, “Just close your eyes for a sec, it’ll feel amazing,” and, “Who needs college? What I need is a fat nap and an even fatter burger.”

2. Bring a healthy distraction (or as healthy as it gets).

“I bring two Coca-colas, some snacks, study materials and one of my hand-held video game systems that way I can alternate between studying,” UF senior Marina Taveras said. You won’t find a better way to motivate yourself to study than to reward yourself with a little bit of Mario here and there. Warning: Time your breaks or else the only thing you’ll know for your exam will consist of how to beat your high score rather than your test score.

3. Drink coffee with a side of coffee.

Studying while drinking coffee

Tiffany Lopez

“I spend quite a lot of time studying and pulling all nighters very often, so whenever I go to the study room I take my Starbucks cup (coffee is essential), some healthy and unhealthy snacks, and a blanket because those rooms are super cold,” UF sophomore Zarella Berr said. Getting cozy in your blanket with a hot cup of joe will indisputably keep you sane while you attempt to memorize every note you have written for your class ever.

4. Stock up with a bit of Heaven on Earth.

Study room snacks

Rachel Walker

“I bring a case of 5-Hour Energy, study materials and food—lots and lots of food,” UF freshman Matt Burnette said. One of the main perks of hell week: This is one of the only times you can validate eating an exorbitant amount of unhealthy food. Need a dollop of whipped cream to wake you up? Totally cool. Want to put Reese’s on top of a granola bar for dinner? Genius.

5. Dress for Success.

Sporting sweatpants in the study room

Rachel Walker

Have you ever noticed the downward spiral of fashion the closer the semester comes to an end? Cram time truly shows everyone’s level of preparedness for their upcoming exams with their choice of clothing. Don’t try and fake it. Instead, revel in your panicked state with a nice, loose pair of sweatpants. You’re practically wearing a blanket as pants. Walking into a week of stress has never felt so good.

6. Hydrate yourself. Constantly.

A royal water bottle

Rachel Walker

“I drink a lot of water while I study or do anything really because I like to stay hydrated. For me, it’s also like chewing gum in the sense that sipping while I study kinda keeps me awake and keeps my mind going,” UF graduate student Ricardo Martinez said. Also, you’ll need to hydrate after you finish your third cry of the night.

7. Only use tissues with lotion.

Tissue box

Rachel Walker

Speaking of crying, tissues are your best bet to make sure you end your pity party as quickly as possible and get back to work. Nothing feels worse than running to the bathroom to dry your eyes and blow your nose with one ply toilet paper from the library bathroom. No need to add a nosebleed to the sob fest.

8. Annoy yourself awake.

Alarm going off while student sleeps

Tiffany Lopez

Blaring your loudest alarm every 15 minutes once you’ve hit the wall of exhaustion will aid in staying awake even though your body begs for some shuteye. You may annoy the study room next door, but you’re probably helping them stay awake, too.

9. Smell fresh while feeling like death.

Body spray

Rachel Walker

When in line at Starbucks for your nth cup of coffee, you definitely want to fool those around you that you’ve showered in the past couple days to save yourself the embarrassment. A travel-size body spray that makes you smell like daisies will hide the fact that you haven’t stopped internally screaming since last week.

10. …Your notes.

Study materials in a study room

Rachel Walker

Now that you have your duffel bag of items in your study room (study materials included), take a deep breath. Just one more week and a three and a half month long nap-time awaits us. As much as we dread these last weeks of torture, these can make some of the best memories in college while you attempt to learn an entire course in one day with friends that are slowly becoming slightly delusional as the night wears on. Enjoy these moments of temporary dread because life can only get more boring from here. Happy studying.

Get your gear to figure out how to pull an all nighter.

stressed blessed coffee obsessed tanktreat yo self blanket

Still freaking out about finals? Figure out how to both get hype and get past that all nighter hanging over your head.

Written by Rebeca Arens.

If you live your life anything like I do, finals just mean you have an excuse to move into the library full time while you steadily spiral into a full blown panic. Do you remember who wrote which reading you had to do? What does that formula work for? And, for the love of god, what does an arraignment mean? Only one solution remains: pulling an all nighter in hopes you can learn it all in time.

When you stare down the barrel of a final within the next 24 hours that you haven’t started studying for, things can get kind of crazy. You might find yourself contemplating what kind of disease you can come down with that will buy you extra time, or what nonfatal injury could get you out of the exam entirely. As the time ticks down, you realize you just don’t have the time to sleep and study—one of them has got to give.

STUDENT VS. ALL NIGHTER: ROUND ONE, FIGHT!

1. KNOW YOUR STORE HOURS

When you’ve committed to staying up the entire night, finding out all the food places near you closed three hours ago can really break your spirit. Before you start, figure out your snack plan– who closes early on weekdays? Who stays open late during finals? And who reaches the hallowed height of a 24-hour convenience store when it’s 3 a.m. and you’ve turned into that guy from the Snickers commercial? Knowing your options can help you save time when you take a quick snack break, or keep you from starving when you realize you forgot to make a food run before everything closed.

2. CLAIM YOUR SPACE

Any finals veteran will tell you that the perfect study space can make or break an all nighter. “If I’m by myself, I like to be in my room or the common room of my hall, so I can stretch out and move around and not have to worry about disturbing other people in the library,” said University of North Carolina senior Bea Roland. Whether you study better in your room or in the library, find somewhere isolated, yet comfortable, and set up camp. You might have to wait until the middle of the night to stake out your chosen table, but if you can outlast all those 2 a.m. washouts, you’ll get your pick of the room.

3. TAKE A NETFLIX BREAK

You can’t study all the time, even during an all nighter. Stop wasting time by daydreaming about what you could be doing instead of cramming for your psych exam– set yourself periodic breaks throughout the night for some Netflix. “I like to watch Friends in the background while I’m studying,” said University of Virginia sophomore Samantha Morely. Personally, I recommend a good old-fashioned horror movie— you won’t want to sleep after, such as Paranormal Activity or The Ring. 

4. PACK A SMALL OVERNIGHT BAG

Brushing your teeth in the library— sounds weird, right? You might think only clean freaks would do something like that, but it might help keep you awake and alert. If you can’t focus when you feel gross, bring something to combat the way your mouth feels like nasty cotton late at night. In addition, a blast of mint works just as well as coffee to jolt you out of your haze. Bring a small bag with toothpaste, a toothbrush and maybe even some makeup wipes along when you settle in for the night. Your mouth, your pores and your soul will thank you.

5. TAKE A SHORT WALK

When your Chem problem sets start to blend together, get out from behind your cramped desk to take a short walk. It sounds counterproductive, but moving will help you clear your mind and get your brain running again. Not only will your mind feel a little more clear, but exercising periodically while you study also helps you retain information better, so all those formulas won’t slip right out of your head the minute you take your eyes off the book.

6. BECOME PAVLOV’S DOG

So you’ve found a spot and settled in with your textbook, but you still can’t get yourself to focus long enough to finish the chapter. How can you motivate yourself to get through it? Bribe yourself with food or break times, and schedule yourself a reward, like snacks or social media breaks, throughout the night at various intervals. Soon you’ll be flying through your study materials– or, well, you’ll at least have opened them.

7. BRING A FRIEND

Whether you share the same class or just the same exam date, drag a friend along to your study session to help keep you awake. Okay, so you might get a bit distracted trying to take unflattering snapchats of each other, but even the most boring of textbooks will be easier to get through with some great company. “Some of my favorite memories from college (so far) have been when all my friends would commandeer a classroom as midterms or finals were approaching and we’d hole up there and motivate each other when we weren’t fighting over whiteboard space,” said Roland.

8. GET HYPE

Whether you tune into Beethoven or Beyonce to get through that study guide, make sure you’ve got your favorite brainpower music on hand. “Sometimes I’ll just be listening to something like wave sounds, sometimes it’ll be piano, sometimes it’s something with beats to keep me awake,” said William and Mary senior Genevieve Hammersley. Listening to your favorite music while you study can actually improve your memory— it gives your brain a boost of energy while being familiar enough that it doesn’t actually distract you from your notes. “I usually listen to lowkey or chill EDM, or I listen to movies or TV scores,” said William and Mary senior Emily Abbey.

9. GRAPEFRUIT WITH YOUR COFFEE

Regret reading this list yet? It sounds gross, but eating a little bit of grapefruit while you drink your coffee can actually keep that caffeine buzz running a little longer. Grapefruit, or grapefruit seed extract, contains a compound called naringin that slows the caffeine in your system down, keeping it in your system for just a little bit longer. (You can also find it in rosemary or blonde oranges, but that might be a little harder to get ahold of.) In addition, adding some butter or coconut oil to your coffee can make that caffeine rush hit you just a little bit harder. You’ll definitely stay awake now.

10. BROWN BAG IT

It can be tempting to live on nothing but coffee and vending machine poptarts as you frantically study away, but that’s one quick route to a stale, joyless night that makes your work even harder. Before you leave your house, grab something that could theoretically pass as a real meal tucked in your bag for when you find you need it most. “I generally try to plan to eat a meal sometime during the night, so I’ll hoard food during the day,” said William and Mary junior William Thomas. You’ll thank past you when you get to bite into that delicious gyro you saved from the last time you got out of the library before midnight.

ROUND TWO: RECOVERY

1. KNOW YOUR LIMITS

True fact: Once you hit 72 hours without sleep, you start to hallucinate. With the looming monstrosity that calls itself your finals schedule hanging over your head, you may feel tempted to just forgo sleep entirely and subsist on nothing but caffeine and desperation. But pulling a bunch of all nighters in a row won’t help you ace that Econ exam. In fact, it might actually screw you over even worse. Try to limit yourself to only one or two all nighters in a row before you slink back to your dorm room for a nice, long, well-deserved nap.

2. CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE

What comes after matters just as much as what gets you through the night. After staying up the night, at some point you’ll just start to crash. Your body stops functioning the way you need it to, and you’ll need to nap periodically to get it to work again. “It’s like charging a battery. You need to recharge,” said William & Mary freshman Maria Herrle. When you plan your all nighter, make sure you don’t have anything important the next day— you’ll need all the time you can get to rest. “I let myself take short naps at some point throughout the day to recharge, and to fully recover afterward I honestly just have to let myself sleep for a long time,” said University of Virginia sophomore Aline Dolinh.

3. SOAK UP THE SUN

All nighters have a bad reputation because you don’t just stay up all night– you have to make it through the next day too. Once you make it through the night, it becomes just as important to recover from it. “Sun exposure is important to reset your body clock. If you pulled an all nighter, you’ve probably thrown off your circadian rhythms. Your body recovers with something the opposite of what you were doing, so it becomes all the more important to do something that is not academic and use your brain for another function,” said Eric Garrison, Assistant Director of Health Promotion at William & Mary. Once you’re out of class, soak up as much sun as you can– you’ll feel way better.

4. VITAMIN UP

Lack of sleep, stress, lack of exercise, terrible food— any college student knows that you just can’t avoid these things during all nighters. Unfortunately, they all have something else in common: they all damage your immune system. After pulling an all nighter, your body becomes more susceptible to illness, so make sure you eat foods rich in B vitamins to make it up to your poor, depleted white blood cells, like eggs and milk. Another good vitamin to stock up on? “Foods high in Vitamin C and supplements [are helpful],” said ER nurse Jen Hunter. And if you like to cover all your bases, try to get a little ginseng into your diet— it dials down your stress levels, so not only will you function better after eating some, but you’ll also feel less miserable.

5. GO TOWARDS THE (BLUE) LIGHT

Your eyes may ache so badly after a full night without sleep that just the idea of looking at your phone will make you want to cry. But in this case, spending way too much time scrolling through your Insta might actually help. Blue light, AKA the light screens have, can help keep you awake through the slog of your 9 a.m. when the rest of you just wants to go home and sleep forever. The goal of recovering from an all nighter is to get back to your normal sleep cycle, so let your phone help keep you alert and functional long enough to make it through the day.

Updated on October 17, 2017 by Rebeca Arens to include “Student vs. All Nighter” and “Round Two: Recovery.”

Rachel is a sophomore at the University of Florida. She is currently majoring in English with a passion for film. Her favorite pastime is laughing at her own jokes.

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