Pulling All-Nighters (Part 2)
This is the second part of the post that I have been avoiding making. The reason for this is that 1.) it’s controversial to talk about in the studyblr community 2.) not a lot of studyblrs address it and 3.) I disagree with a lot of the advice from studyblrs that do address it. So in this post, I will outline the rules that I personally follow for pulling all nighters.
I will also only be focusing on all-nighters that you will have to pull alone when doing assignments or studying for exams. If it’s a group project or a case competition, where you are working on a project with a group of people, the experience of pulling an all-nighter becomes incredibly fun and there is really not much for me to say apart from that. Therefore, I’m not going to discuss it in this post.
NOTE: I’m assuming that you are young, healthy, and do not have any mental and/or physical health issues. If this is not the case, be cautious when following this advice and consult with your doctor.
1.) Stress is Good
In the case of getting stuff done quickly and with a high degree of accuracy, you want to be under a certain amount of stress. You want to feel a certain amount of pressure (your body is pretty darn resilient and you can handle it). In this context, stressing out about getting the assignment/studying done as quickly as possible through out the night will help you to actually get that assignment/studying done and get a good grade on it. Stress will help you focus on that assignment that you need to complete or on the studying that you need to get done instead of having your mind wonder around and not getting it done. It will help you work faster and more efficiently. You probably will be surprised by how quickly and effectively you are capable of getting things done under those types of conditions. It will also help you stay awake, since it’s practically impossible to fall a sleep when you are stressed out. For this reasons, it is important to not try to get rid of this type of stress, since getting rid of it under the all-nighter scenario will cause you to perform worse on the assignment/exam, which will defeat the whole purpose of you pulling the all-nighter in the first place.
Now, if you are way too stressed out to the point that you are panicking and can’t do anything, obviously take a deep breath, go for a walk, etc… to reduce that type of stress and get it under more manageable levels. However, if you are just normally stressed out and working quickly to get stuff done thanks to that fact, getting rid of normal levels of stress will be counter productive. There is no need to take a break or really do anything to manage stress if you are being productive.
2.) Don’t take a nap before you begin
A lot of studyblrs suggest to take a nap before one starts pulling an all-nighter. I disagree with this idea because 1.) you are spending time taking that nap and time is a scarce resource if you are in this situation in the first place 2.) you are not that tired yet to begin with and so you are better off taking a nap after you are done studying closer to the morning when you will be extremely tired 3.) it reduces the “productive” type of stress and 4.) you are “teasing” yourself with it and it’s extremely tempting to turn a 20 minute nap into 1 hour nap, then into 2 hour nap, and then to just say “screw this. I’m not pulling the all nighter”. For this reasons, especially if you aren’t experienced with all-nighters, I don’t recommend that you take a nap before you begin. Just start studying as soon as possible.
3.) Start with what’s most important
You are probably going to do this part naturally due to stress. However, if this doesn’t naturally happen, take about 5 minutes and jot down what you have to get done and rank it in terms of most to least important. Start with getting the most important stuff done first. Work methodically with the list. Eliminate all distractions, since you don’t have time to full around and have to get things done as quickly as possible. If you are writing an essay, write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t worry about being perfect.
4.) Taking Breaks
You should only take breaks either when a.) you are stressed out to the point of not being productive or b.) you have trouble concentrating on doing the work. Don’t come up with rules such as “I’m going to study for 1 hour and then take a 15 minute break”. You don’t have time for them and you will be reducing the “productive” type of stress by doing that. When you do need to take a break, I would recommend about 15 to 30 minutes.
Some good things to do during breaks are:
- Walk around the room/library. If it’s safe and the weather is good, go outside. Movement usually helps people concentrate better.
- Listen to music.
- If you have any friends who are awake, chat and/or call them. Feeling like you are not alone when pulling an all nighter will make the experience less awful and almost fun.
- Exercise if it logistically makes sense for you to do so. By “exercise”, I don’t mean going to the gym (that would take too much time and energy). What I mean is do some jumping jacks, yoga stretches, or something else that’s relatively easy to do at home.
- Meditate (if you are taking a break due to the too much stress issue).
- If you own a pet, play with your pet (again, for the too much stress issue only).
5.) Snacks and water are your best friends
All-nighters are not the time to start going on a diet. Eating food and drinking a lot of water will help you concentrate and stay awake. The type of food to eat completely depends on you. For me, personally, eating high quantities of sugar helps me concentrate. (My favorite snacks for all-nighters: Oreos and chocolate. My favorite drink: Coke with two additional small packs of sugar dissolved in it. That one usually allows for me to stay awake till the morning). If you crave a certain food, go a head and eat it. Don’t try to resist your food cravings during all nighters. You are already exerting a lot of will power and discipline to study and stay awake. Thinking about food and fighting food cravings in this situation will distract you from studying not to mention that if you are craving food at that point in time, your body probably needs it to help you stay awake for longer.
6.) Don’t study laying down on your bad
This is obvious but needs to be said: don’t study while laying down on your bad. Sit at a desk. Laying on your bad will make you feel relaxed, which can make you fall a sleep.
7.) Don’t take cold showers (or wash your face with cold water)
When you are being sleep deprived, your body starts having trouble regulating it’s body temperature, which will result in your body temperature slightly dropping. Consequently, you will feel cold. Taking a cold shower in this situation is down right a bad idea. Will the cold shower wake you up? Yes. However, the problem is that you will then feel way too cold to concentrate on anything and will then have to waist a lot of time to make yourself feel warm again. Since your body temperature is now lower, believe me when I say that making yourself feel warm again will be an uphill battle. It’s extremely difficult to study when you are shivering because you are cold. Your attention will be focused on dealing with that issue rather then with a project that’s due in the morning.
8.) If you have no experience with taking a substance, don’t take it
Different people take different legal (and in some cases illegal) substances to make themselves stay awake and be more productive for longer. This includes coffee, energy drinks, certain pharmaceuticals such as Aderall, supplements, etc… If you have no experience with a certain substance, trying it at this point is a very bad idea. Why? because different people react differently to different substances. For example, coffee usually makes me fall a sleep (which is the opposite of it’s intended effect). If the first time I had tried coffee was when I was pulling an all-nighter, I would have ended up falling a sleep and not getting anything done. If you have no idea how your body will react to a certain substance, don’t consume it. And, again, that idea has to come only from personal experience.
Also, don’t do illegal drugs for the sake of pulling an all-nighter. They are dangerous and might cause serious harm. When it comes to something like Aderall (which is technically not illegal if you have a prescription), if you choose to take it, only do it under medical supervision and only use it before all nighters if you already have experience with it. The night before an important exam is not the right time to start taking Aderall. I know of a lot of people who have the opposite of the intended effect on this drug. You also don’t need to take drugs in order to pull all nighters. To be honest, I find the whole trend to be kind of disturbing.
9.) Bright lights
When pulling an all-nighter, make sure you have bright lights in the room where you are studying. Bright lights will help you stay awake for longer and make you concentrate better.
10.) Don’t do your “night rituals” until you are done
If you usually take a shower before you go to sleep, don’t take a shower. Don’t brush your teeth. Don’t put on your pajamas. Basically, avoid “getting yourself ready for sleep” until you are done with studying and decided to take a nap for a couple of hours before going to class or until you have to get ready to go to class (if you don’t have time to sleep). The reason for this rule is because once you get yourself ready for sleep, it becomes much more tempting to go to sleep, since you are already ready for it.