Tips and Advice on Pulling an "All-Nighter"

  • Most students will need to stay up all night to meet deadlines
  • Take good notes, watch your eating, and pace yourself
  • Avoid too much caffeine

Most students eventually find themselves in the position of needing to get a lot of work done in a small amount of time.

The solution to may be to "pull an all-nighter."

What Is an All-nighter?

The all-nighter has been a rite of passage for generations of college and university students. As you may already know, an all-nighter contains the following elements:

  • the foregoing of a full night's sleep
  • having to complete a large amount of studying ("cramming"), or an important assignment in a small amount of time
  • usually having to work up until the deadline

If you find yourself in this bind here are some quick tips that may help you get the most out of your efforts.

Start the Night Off Right

Get It Together

Gather all of your materials into one place. There is nothing quite as frustrating as losing your train of thought and getting off schedule (e.g. in a vain attempt to locate something, like a calculator) in the middle of the night.

Know Your Goals

Read your assignments, objectives and/or notes from the instructor prior to doing anything else. You should have a clear understanding of what you need to accomplish.

Make a Plan of Attack

Set a schedule for yourself. Quickly map out exactly what you are going to do and when. Break down your assignment and/or objectives into manageable blocks of time with small but frequent breaks built in. This will allow you to:

  • Begin with the end in sight
  • Track your progress
  • Ensure you do not fall behind

"Do Not Disturb"

Once you have a schedule in place, stick to it. Turn off all electronic distractions. Eliminate distractions wherever possible, including the cell phone, Blackberry, television, instant chat or messenger, etc.

Set the Tone

Pay attention to your atmosphere. Avoid dark, warm, quiet spots that lull you to sleep. Try studying in a well lit room with a cool temperature. You may also add some light, upbeat music in the background.

Keep the volume adjusted so that it is audible and will keep you alert, but not loud enough to distract you into singing along.

Snacking After Midnight

Watch what you eat and drink. Avoid sugary foods which have a tendency to spike your energy level, then give you a drop a short time later. Sugar can intensify the effects of fatigue, so consider eating healthy snacks such as fruits or vegetables.

Avoid caffeine as long as possible. Should you choose to drink coffee, do so at a moderate pace. You want to drink enough to maintain your level of being comfortably alert, while not drinking so much as to become wired.

Tip: If you do not usually consume caffeine, avoid it altogether.

Be sure to eat a meal. Because you are denying your body rest, your body will demand more energy than normal, causing you to become hungry. Going hungry can affect your concentration, so try a light meal at some point in the night. Be sure to avoid heavy foods like pasta or pizza.

Hitting the Books

Take Notes

Take notes as you study. When taking notes, try to use a dedicated notebook and format your writing in a manner that can be easily referenced later. Be sure to list your sources and page numbers with your notes so that you can quickly look up additional information when necessary.

Pace Yourself

There are limitations to pulling an all-nighter. One of these limitations is your ability to retain information effectively. Thorough, coherent notes can offset this undesirable side effect and help you recall the objectives or key points in the assignment.

Rest Occasionally

If you hit a wall and are simply unable to concentrate, try these quick tips to get back into the game.

  • Take a short nap. Make sure you don't sleep too long, as you may wake up more tired than before. A quick 15 to 20 minute power nap should do it.
  • Take a shower. At times, taking a shower and putting on a fresh set of clothes can help you feel rejuvenated. Avoid wearing pajamas, bedclothes or anything you would normally sleep in.
  • Refresh your mind. Different people have different ways of clearing their head. Some people exercise, some play video games, while others may simply find solace in answering some emails. In small amounts, a temporary distraction is a good thing. Don't do anything that would take up more than about 15 to 20 minutes. A temporary distraction can lead to a disaster if time slips away from you.
  • Give yourself a pep talk. Above all else, do not panic. Pulling an all-nighter can be a stressful event which can lead to a series of destructive emotions such as depression, despair, and anxiety.

You Can Do This!

You may want to give up, but remember that you can do this, you need to do this, and thousands upon thousands of


Aldureaux Le'Paumer has been a Federal Law Enforcement supervisor for the last five years working primarily in security and police operations. He earned a Bachelor of Science online from Southwestern College in Winfield, KS and a Master of Business Administration online from Ashford University in Clinton, IA.

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