All Nighter
Ah, yes – the infamously dreaded all-nighter, an all too common phenomenon of college life. Just about every student of the higher arts or sciences has had or will have to pull an all-nighter at some point during their collegiate career. The reasons for doing so are numerous: whether it’s procrastination, a busy schedule, or a poorly timed rager the weekend before finals, sometimes it’s just necessary if maintaining a higher GPA is a priority. Here are some helpful tips for making an all nighter more productive and less painful.

1. Preparation

Preparation is the number one most important thing to consider if you want to have a productive all-nighter. First and foremost, make sure you choose a workspace that is well-lit and is not so comfortable that you might fall asleep. Make sure it isn’t too warm, and that it isn’t close to a bed or a couch, as these may become quite alluring during the latter half of the night.

Secondly, make sure to gather all your necessary materials beforehand and organize them neatly on your desk or workspace. Trust me, as a chronic procrastinator with years of experience pulling all-nighters, I can truly say that there is nothing worse than getting into the later hours of the night and not being able to find an important document amidst the haphazard piles of papers strewn across the desk. As sleep deprivation starts to wear on your brain, you will find that your organized mess quickly deteriorates into an unintelligible academic disaster zone that offers no hope of divulging its treasured information.

Do not, under any circumstances, forget to set your alarm clock. You can have the most productive all-nighter since the dawn of time, but it won’t matter if you sleep past your deadline. Make sure to do this before you get started.

2. Food

It goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t deprive yourself of food while pulling an all-nighter. Keeping yourself energized is important to maintaining your focus and being productive. With that being said, avoid junk food at all costs. This means cookies, candy, chocolate; essentially, anything that is high in sugar and fat.

Instead, try to stock up on high-protein snacks. Meat, sandwiches, cheese, and protein bars are all great choices, and will keep your full for longer periods of time without burning you out. Fresh fruit is also great later on in the night, as it will give you a more pronounced burst of energy without causing you to crash, and also supplies your brain with anti-oxidants and other helpful chemicals.

3. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

I can’t stress this enough: keeping yourself hydrated is absolutely crucial to staying focused, awake, and productive. As a matter of fact, the great majority of all fatigue is a result of dehydration. Your body needs water to keep that brain cool, and to have fluid to perform necessary chemical functions in your body. Try to drink two 8 oz. glasses of water every hour. Having to get up and go to the bathroom every 15 minutes is a minor inconvenience when you consider the added benefit of being more fully alert throughout the night.

4. Caffeinated Beverages

Of all the aspects of the all-nighter, this one seems to be the most disagreed upon. Some people assert that you should not have any form of caffeine whatsoever, as the crash will only render you inoperable at a certain point in the night. On the other hand, caffeine advocators and junkies-in-denial state that caffeine is an excellent tool to keep you awake and energized throughout the night.

Personally, I would say that caffeine is indeed a great ally in the struggle against sleep. This, however, is only if it is respected and used properly. Taking a large dose of caffeine at the beginning of the night will only lead to the inevitable crash later on, so I wouldn’t recommend that. Rather, I would advise that you find a low-caffeine beverage and sip on it throughout the night (along with your water, of course).

Tea is typically one of the best beverages for this purpose. Coffee is just too strong, and offers the temptation of getting incredibly wired, which only leads to a crash. My personal favorite caffeinated beverage is Yerba Mate, a tea-like plant from South America. It contains slightly more caffeine than green tea, and also has a whole slew of anti-oxidents and phyto-nutrients that give you a gentle yet invigorating mental stimulation.

5. Taking Breaks

Taking breaks is something that most people usually end up doing, whether they will it or not. If you try to power through the entire night without giving your mind a break, chances are you’ll end up having more difficulty focusing, and may find yourself twiddling your thumbs or laughing at funny pictures on Reddit when you should be working.

When you go to take your break, I would advise getting up and moving around. Getting the blood flowing to your brain will help alleviate fatigue. Do some push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, or go for a short walk. Try not to think about what you’re working on, as sometimes doing this makes it feel as if you never took a break at all. Lastly, be sure to avoid any activity that involves looking at a screen. You’ve already been staring at one for hours, and will likely be staring at one for hours more. No need to put unnecessary strain on your eyes.

About the author: E. William is a student at the University of California, Irvine, and is majoring in English with a double minor in Creative Writing and Philosophy. As a freelance writer, he composes articles about education and college life for such institutions as Trident.edu.