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How to Pull an All-Nighter: Finals Week Edition

As someone who has pulled their fair shares of all-nighters, I would like to think I’m fairly qualified to speak on this. Obviously, it goes without saying that you should avoid pulling all-nighters at all costs. But if you’re an unrelenting procrastinator like me, you probably have no other choice. So here’s how to do it right. 

Make a Game Plan

When you’re pulling an all-nighter, you’re on a time crunch. To make sure that you don’t waste any time, make a game plan of what you need to accomplish. This can help ease your anxiety by giving you some structure amid all the chaos. If you want to take it a step further, you can plan out your night hour to hour, including any breaks. This might seem a bit extreme, but if you’re someone who’s easily distracted, this can help you stay on task. 

Eliminate Any Distractions

Before you sit down to start your work, you need to eliminate any and all potential distractions. The biggest culprit here is your phone. Putting your phone on ‘do not disturb’ might be sufficient if you’re trying to have a productive study session, but it is not enough for finals week. My advice is to turn it off and put it in another room. If you have no self-control, consider giving your phone to your roommate and tell them not to give it back to you until your work is done.

Distractions can come in many forms. For me, I know that if I see an email notification, I have to open it. To combat this, I turn off email alerts on my laptop when I know I need to hunker down. The key to this is identifying what your potential distractions are and address them beforehand.  

Caffeine Naps

We all know about power naps, but have you ever heard of caffeine naps? This is when you consume caffeine right before taking a short 10-to-20-minute nap. A study published by the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology shows that caffeine naps improved performance in computer tasks than just a regular nap, a nap followed by exposure to bright light, and a nap followed by face washing. So what’s the science behind this?

Adenosine is a compound that gradually builds up in the body the longer we stay awake. When we go to sleep, the adenosine molecules break down. Caffeine is a stimulant, and once it enters the brain, it competes with adenosine to bind to your brain receptors. Essentially, it prevents adenosine from making you sleepy.

Your body naturally breaks down adenosine when you nap. If you take a power nap right after consuming caffeine, you are clearing your brain of adenosine and reducing the competition for caffeine to bind to your brain cell receptors. The key is to keep your nap around 20 minutes because that’s how long it should take for the caffeine to kick in. If you decide to give this a try, make sure to set a timer. 

Prepare Healthy Snacks
Hummus
Christin Urso / Spoon

This goes hand in hand with tip number one. If you know you have to pull an all-nighter tonight, plan some healthy snacks in advance. Go for protein and fiber-rich snacks like nuts, cheese, baby carrots and whole-grain crackers. Avoid sugary snacks and drinks to prevent a sugar crash. 

Hydrate or Diedrate

Caffeine is a given when we’re talking about all-nighters. But remember to balance out your caffeine consumption with good old water. Dehydration can be one of the main causes of fatigue so remember to sip on water as you work through the night. 

Remember, it is just a grade. It doesn’t determine your worth or your intelligence. Do your best but remember to be kind to yourself. Best of luck! 

Kathy Nguyen is a Junior at VCU. She is double majoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies and Political Science with concentration in International Relations. Her passion includes advocating for women's reproductive rights and gun reforms. In addition to her political activism, she is a coffee snob and a Harry Potter fanatic.
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