How to Stop Sleeping and Slay an All-Nighter

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The computer screen’s glare digs at your aching eyes. The sound of fingers laboring on keys fills the room as you struggle to dredge out your thoughts and spit them onto the page. 420 words to go. You’re nearly halfway there, but the end seems nowhere in sight. Lifelessly palming your third Monster, you chug what’s left of it in hopes of rejuvenation. You’ve just pulled an all-nighter, made limited progress on your paper and still have the rest of the day ahead of you. Joy.

All-nighters are a basic part of college living, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are physically and mentally taxing. Fight the power of your heavy eye lids and get to work. We both know you have a long way to go. 

Chug Your Tazo Tea

This probably doesn’t even need to be said, seeing how the general populace is already downing about three cups of coffee a day. You probably have a cup of coffee in your hand right now. Before running to Starbucks, you might also consider tea. Not just for old ladies and garden parties, tea contains a fair amount of caffeine. It generally has less than coffee, but is more stable. While coffee gives you energy faster, you will go down hard later. To get the most out of these wonderful drinks, start the night with a coffee and then steadily drink tea the rest of the time. This will give you that original pick me up you need, but will help prevent a crash at the end.

Fuel Like a Winner to Feel Like a Winner

Put those chips down. I don’t want to see any Lays or Fritos. All-nighters are a marathon, and you need to eat like you are running one. Eat light, healthy snacks that contain protein and avoid foods with a high sugar content. While sugary candy may give you a temporary boost,  they lead to an inevitable crash. And I’m not just talking about Starbursts or Skittles—this also includes fruit *pause for gasps of disbelief and outrage.* While natural and unprocessed, fruits tend to contain a lot of sugar, which will only work against you in the long run. If you want a healthier snack, try vegetables. They generally contain less sugar than fruit and give you the health fix you need. Throw back to preschool with a couple celery sticks covered in peanut butter for a quality midnight snack.

Succumb to The Power of Naps

“Excuse me, I thought this article was supposed to teach me how to stay awake.” Hold the sass, it is, don’t worry. Sometimes to stay awake you’ve got to get a little sleep. If you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open and you’re not doing your work well, take a short nap, recharge and wake ready to seize the night. The best naps span for an hour and a half where you will go through a full cycle of sleep and bring you out in REM or Stage 2 Sleep, allowing you to avoid sleep inertia (the grogginess you experience when waking up from a deep slumber).

Find Your Inner Child

There comes a time during an all-nighter when you need to discard all sense of shame and do what needs to be done. So if that means bouncing up and down in your seat like a five-year-old boy who needs to go pee, then bounce away. I’m talking jumping jacks, singing opera and blowing bubbles. Whatever it takes to keep your mind alert. Small spurts of exercise get the blood pumping and flowing to the brain, waking you up and helping you cognitively. While it might seem weird to suddenly drop down and do twenty push-ups in the study lounge, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Hit the Harder Stuff First

The longer you stay up, your processing and decision-making skills become worse. “Tackle the difficult stuff first while you have brain power, and [do] the easier stuff later,” student Jen Moll said. If you have more than one assignment you need to work on, switch back and forth between the two when you start to feel yourself plateau. This is even better when the assignments require different kinds of thinking. For example, switch between taking a break from work that requires creative thinking like an art project and working on an assignment that requires more analytical thinking like statistics.

Break Out The Stop Watch

Set a timer somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes. Once the timer goes off take a small break, and then after a couple minutes start again. This divides the long marathon into small sprints. Working hard for 10 or more minutes is easier than an indefinite period of time. The timer also allows you to gage how long it takes to complete a task. Once you hit your break, see how much you accomplished. If writing a paper, maybe you completed a paragraph. From there, you can use that time to set up goals and check marks to keep yourself on pace.

Stick to a Schedule

When working all night, staying on task and focusing seems impossible. Writing a tentative plan helps. If you set your clock, you know how long it takes you to complete an assignment. Write out a plan that includes what you want to complete by what time. A schedule breaks down your work into small points, even a task like, “fill up water bottle at 6:00 a.m.” While this may not be essential to completing your assignment, it fills you with a sense of accomplishment at completing your task, which may be what you need to keep going.

Take Your Vitamins and Pound the Protein

Right now, your body is a wreck. Your immune system is in shambles, and you’re stepping onto a college campus with the flu lurking around every corner. Time to pack in the vitamin C and down tons of water. According to Nutrition Specialist Dr. Josh Axe, “Avoid jumping on the carbo-crash cycle and opt for meals that include protein, fiber and healthy fat for energy that lasts.” A great post all-nighter breakfast would be a fried egg or oatmeal. That fried egg would be even healthier if you fry it with coconut oil, which contains healthy fats that benefit brain function.

Is it Too Late to Say Sorry?

After putting your body through an all-nighter, you owe your body and mind an apology. Sleep deprivation is serious, and messes with you mentally and physically. So say you’re sorry and no more all-nighters. And a week later, when you have ignored this last tip and preparing to work through the night, come back and read how to conquer the night again so you can continue to successfully survive all-nighters.

Hi, my name is Bailey Strick and I am a junior at Indiana Wesleyan University majoring in Illustration with a minor in Writing. I have a strong love for cats and Japanese culture. At some point in my life I would like to write and illustrate my own graphic novel.

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