The beginning of December means that Fall Semester is quickly coming to a close. With so many final projects and tests crammed into a short amount of time, how do you fit it all in? For most students, they’ll have to pull an “all-nighter” at some point, or will deprive their body of sleep to get in all the studying they need.
Sleep is the time when your body and brain refresh from the thoughts and activities of the day, and depriving yourself of sleep can leave your brain sluggish. Staying up all night too often can wreak havoc on your body clock, and sleep deprivation can make you do worse on a test. It’s not smart to do it too often, so you’ll want to make sure that you have a good reason for pushing your body to stay awake beyond it’s natural sleep/wake cycle. Pulling an all-nighter doesn’t come easily to a lot of people, and it takes some knowledge to know how to do it safely and effectively.
Take an afternoon nap: If you’re planning to burn the midnight oil, give yourself some time to take an afternoon nap. Remove all the distractions, set your alarm for 20 minutes, and give your body some time to refresh itself. Resist the urge to hit snooze, and do something active to get your blood pumping again.
Turn on some background noise: Your brain will be more engaged if there is music or tv on in the background. If it’s too distracting, have a quiet room until you start to feel like you’re going to drift off. A scary movie or action-packed show can help the adrenaline spike and initiate feelings of being wide awake. Just be careful to not let yourself get more into the show than the studies. Keep the volume at a level that keeps you awake, but does not disturb your roommates.
Take incremental breaks: It’s difficult to keep razor-sharp focus for hours on end, especially when you’re already pushing yourself to stay awake late. Decide how much time you want to work, and how much time to take breaks. A 5 minute break may be just enough to get you through another 45 minutes of studying.
Eat some brain food: It may be tempting to nosh on junk food while you study, but it can cause a carb/sugar crash if you’re not careful. Aim to eat high protein snacks (like jerky and nuts), whole grains, and antioxidant-rich berries, instead of refined sugars and carbohydrates.
Move your body: Sitting for too long can bring on feelings of drowsiness, so combat the yawns with some walking, stretching, doing push-ups, and other quick physical activities. You’ll also burn some calories that you’ve eaten on study snacks.
Use caffeine in moderation: It can be tempting to guzzle coffees and Cokes to get through a long night, but too much caffeine will cause a crash in energy the next day. Stimulant use can also cause anxiety, which won’t help you in a high-stress testing situation. Drink glasses of ice cold water to invigorate yourself without stimulants, and the more you drink, the more you’ll keep yourself awake with trips to the toilet.
Remove social media and tech distractions: Close your Facebook and Twitter tabs. Turn of your instant messaging apps. Turn your phone on silent. Make the most of your study time by not allowing yourself to get snagged into less important conversations. If you can’t unplug for the whole evening, use your study breaks to check your messages.