How to Pull an All-Nighter (If You Really Need To)

By Bangor University Modified on October 24, 2019

5 tips to make your night-long slog a little more pleasant and productive.

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A student works late into the night, pulling an all-nighter both pleasant and productive.

Have you ever had to pull an all-nighter? When deadlines pile up, there's no end to your homework, or a crucial exam is suddenly tomorrow, staying up all night seems like — well, if not a good idea, an idea — and it just might give you the edge you need to succeed.

Of course, going without sleep to work or study is a challenge, and, generally, bad advice. But if you're stuck, you may find yourself pulling an all-nighter. Here's some tips to make it as painless as possible.

Sleep Well the Night Before

Don't go into your all-nighter exhausted because you only slept three hours the night before. If you're going to stay up, give yourself every advantage. Get a solid, uninterrupted sleep the night prior to your cram session. This will require a bit of planning, so if you're surprised by a deadline, you might be out of luck.

Set the Mood

Prepare your study space with bright light and warmth. Darkness and cooler temperatures come naturally with night time, and tend to make us drowsy, so combat them to keep yourself awake. You can go a little crazy, with overhead lights, a lamp beside you, and the heat cranked. Be careful with screen brightness, though. Look away from the screen often, and don't forget to blink.

Take a Lot of Breaks

This may sound counterintuitive — you're trying to get work done, after all. But you're already taxing yourself by staying awake through the night, so cut yourself some slack. Leave your desk at least once an hour. Take a short walk, stretch, do a few dance moves. Anything that gets the blood flowing will help you remain alert.

Find a Friend

A good partner in crime can keep you motivated and on-task, though a bad one can be a distraction, especially during those wee morning hours when everyone gets a bit giddy. If you've got a friend you can rely on to help you through your ordeal — and better still, is in the same boat themselves — invite them in. At the very least, you won't feel quite so lonely while the world sleeps.

Consider Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural ally to the all-nighter, but if you use it, be smart about it. Caffeine helps perk you up in the short term, but there's always a crash to come. You might end up feeling even more tired than you were before. Another option is a "caffeine nap." Enjoy a serving of black tea or coffee, then immediately take a nap. Make the room dark and cool while you rest, but set an alarm for 20 minutes or so — not more than 30. It takes about that long for caffeine to absorb, so you'll awaken from your power nap with all the pep you need. You can still crash later, though, so be careful with this technique.

Beyond this advice, you'll also find it helpful to have a plan of action for your all-nighter: what exactly do you intend to accomplish? Start your session wisely. Set yourself up with healthy snacks like nuts, fruits and veggies, block out distractions, and set some time aside later to rest. Recognize when you're out of gas, too. Sometimes it's better to sleep and get up early than power through. And don't forget to get to bed early the next day!

Find more — and healthier! — advice at the Bangor University Study Skills Centre, and good luck on your all-nighter.

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