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Pulling an All-Nighter? How to Prepare.

Mar 3, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Pulling an All-Nighter? How to Prepare

Staying up all night is practically a rite of passage for procrastinating college students. Go ahead: put off that twenty-page research paper till the night before. We’ve got the tips that will keep you awake and going strong long after your study buddies have wussed out. Here are a few words of wisdom for staying awake and getting things done.

Drink a lot of Red Bull. Or coffee. Or soda.

Look for those caffeine-packed drinks and stock up—you’ll be needing them later. True, you’ll probably be shaking like a leaf by the time morning rolls around. But your paper will be done—and you won’t have fallen asleep. And those are the important parts.


Keep the television on

Better yet, keep the television on and turn on some annoyingly loud thrash metal—or country, or Swedish yodeling—whatever music ensures you won’t get to sleep anytime soon. Soundtracks to avoid: Sleepy Hollow, The Lord of the Rings and anything with Kenny G.

Don’t do it alone


Trick and Tips for Pulling an All-Nighter.
We've got the tips that will keep you awake and going strong long after your bedtime.

It’s tough running an all-night study marathon without a partner. So get your roommate, boyfriend, or best buds to stay up with you. They can turn up the music louder when your ears are bleeding, give you a friendly nudge when you start to nod off, and keep that coffee mug refilled all night. Preferably, your study buddy will have some all-night studying to do too—so he or she will be just as motivated to stay awake.

Take cold shower breaks

Nothing wakes you up like standing under freezing cold water for a few minutes. When you really feel like you’re about to fall asleep, jump up and run to the showers. A few minutes under a cold stream of water and you’ll be wide awake again.

Stay away from comfortable chairs and beds

Really, comfort is your enemy when it comes to all-nighters. Got a super comfortable beanbag chair in your room? Get rid of it. Feel the need to stretch out on your bed? Don’t. The best places to study all night are rigid, uncomfortable folding metal chairs, wooden chairs, and hard floors. Do your studying on a couch or bed, and chances are you won’t make it through the night.

Take exercise breaks

Don’t have the constitution for a cold shower? Then get up and run around your dorm building a few times whenever you feel the need to nod off. Exercise gets the blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing—and it will keep you from getting too sleepy. The more exercise you do during the process, the better you’ll be able to stay awake.

Get a research assistant

Think you can do all that research for your twenty-page paper yourself in a night? Not likely. Your professor will probably expect a lot of sources. What you need are helpful little elves who can run to the library for you, photocopy pertinent pages, highlight passages—you get the idea. The more tasks you can delegate, the better able you’ll be to get things done. Of course, where you’ll get elves this time of night, we’re not sure. Maybe if you’d thought about it earlier than the night before…

Don’t fall asleep

Think like you’re in a Freddy Krueger movie. If you fall asleep, you’re done. Don’t take five-minute naps; don’t think you can come back after a “power nap”—especially at four in the morning. Those little naps will turn into deep sleep, and then your project will be sunk. So stay awake, no matter what occurs—even if you start hallucinating. The quick nap can be a dangerous thing when you’re pulling an all-nighter.

Proofread in the morning

Better yet, get a trusted friend to proofread. Because somewhere between four in the morning and the pink giraffes dancing on the ceiling, you’re probably going to start not making sense in your paper. Get a lucid friend (preferably one who got a full night’s sleep the night before) to read everything over and make sure your paper doesn’t wander into babbling-idiot territory.

Pulling an all-nighter can be arduous—and you never know whether you’ll have a masterpiece when you’re done or twenty pages of unprintable junk. But after you’ve done it once, hopefully you’ll have learned your lesson—and you’ll get started on your paper early on the next time. It’s just one more rite of passage on your way to earning your degree.

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