The Stages of an All-Nighter as Told by Someone Who Never Sleeps

If you’re in college, you’re definitely familiar with the idea of all-nighters. And, during finals week, they’re basically inevitable. Sometimes you’re hit with a tidal wave of work and you realize you’ve been left with two options: either take the rest of the night to finish the work you saved until the last minute or take the L, have anxiety-filled dreams, and face the consequences tomorrow. Usually, we choose the cram session, so I’ve decided to break it down, hour-by-hour, to see what we’re really getting ourselves into.

10 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Alright, y’all, this is where the first realizations hit you. That paper isn’t going to finish itself. Neither is that worksheet, the reading, the other reading or that article response. This is usually when you have to make that decision: do you waste any hope of sleep in the attempt to get the best grade or do you head off to bed?

11 p.m. to 12 a.m.

This is when the first round of yawns might set in (particularly for the light-weights). I recommend using this time to stock up on some caffeine, and tons of it, because Lord knows you’re going to need it. While you’re at it, eat something light. It’s hard to focus on anything with an empty stomach, so eat something small now before you really crack down on your work.

12 a.m. to 1 a.m.

If you’re studying in a group, this is typically when most of your friends will call it a night. But not you, no. You’re on a mission.

1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

At this point in time, you begin to recognize your mistake. Your mind fills with thoughts of “How could I let this happen?” and “Oh my god, I kind of hate myself right now” or, my personal favorite, “I’m never going to let this happen again.” Regardless of what your thinking, you know one thing is for certain: you need to focus.

2 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Something magical happens between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m.: You develop laser focus. Nobody knows why this happens, or how. Perhaps it’s the ill-fated thought of maybe being able to get an hour or two of sleep if you finish early. Maybe it’s the third cup of coffee. But somehow, your work begins to fly by.

3 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Remember all that focus you had in the last hour? Well, it’s gone. This is where a well-placed break should take place. You should take 15-30 minutes to walk around, have a mini-Disney dance party, or even just organize your workplace. Make sure the lights are bright, snack on some protein or carbs and drink some water. You’re going to need it. But whatever you do—don’t fall asleep.

4 a.m. to 5 a.m.

This is arguably the most difficult hour. The hallucinations have set in. Your senses are muddled and your breath is probably gnarly. Use this time to grab a piece of gum and keep working. You’re so close to the end, you can practically see it. However, make sure you’re only working on one thing at a time. Because of how tired you probably are at this point, you’re most likely not thinking straight. So, play it safe. You don’t want to make a mistake and have this entire night be meaningless.

5 a.m. to 6 a.m.

This is the hour you realize you’re no longer the only one awake on campus. You might see student-athletes walk by for their morning practices. The nice ladies who clean the dorms are starting their rounds. You might even hear cars drive by on the road from a distance. Use this to your advantage and be proud of the work you’ve accomplished thus far. You’re much stronger than all of those losers who slept through the night.

6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Here comes the sun and along with it, the realization that you’re not going to get that hour of sleep you were hoping for. Use this time to start proofreading because, with the steadily increasing hustle and bustle of the campus around you, you’ve certainly been hit with a new wave of motivation. Hopefully, you’ll catch some of the mistakes that your sleep-deprived self made throughout the night.

8 a.m.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the night! Take a shower, brush your teeth and drink some water because your day is just about to start. Go easy on the caffeine throughout the day, eat some fruit and try to do something active. I know how tempting it is to drown yourself in Red Bull or take a 20-hour nap, but trust me, you’re going to regret it. Besides, you’ll sleep just fine tonight.

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