The Scary Effects of All-Nighters…and How to Avoid Them


Collegiettes: chances are, you have a pretty busy week ahead. You have three exams, a lab report due Wednesday, and a 6-page paper due Friday. To top it off, you have two club meetings, tutoring for Chemistry, and all of your regular classes. So with the overwhelming amount of work, how do you balance your time for studying and attending extracurricular activities? The truth is, you probably don’t and, instead, think of the worst and most common studying solution—pulling an all-nighter. Yikes.

Why do students stay up all night to study?

There are several reasons for why students wait until the last minute to work. Dr. Shelly Cardi, a psychologist for the Learning Assistance Center here at Wake Forest, says that “students are always so busy and have poor time management—so they wait until ‘crunch time.'” She also says that they “overestimate their ability to learn material in a way that will allow good performance.”

Most college students maintain this mindset, thinking that procrastinating until hours before a deadline will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their study time. Others probably have not adjusted to the hectic college lifestyle, still believing in the same discipline from high school—that they can trust their acquired knowledge and slack with preparation, then still make a good grade on their exam. Pulling all-nighters may seem like an appealing option for studying, but are actually bad for your body and brain.

Why are all-nighters “bad” for me?

All-nighters lead to an inefficient amount of sleep, formally called sleep-deprivation. Deprivation of sleep can take a heavy toll on both your body and mind. It interferes with hormones and proper brain regulation, causing your mind to be scattered rather than allow you to focus on schoolwork. Lack of sleep can also lead to improper immune functioning, increasing the chance of sickness. Headaches can make occasional appearances as well. All in all, studying all night with zero sleep can almost break a person’s body down from exhaustion and weakness.

When any of these instances occur, we often try to find simple solutions to “keep us going.” Yes, when we feel tired, we turn to caffeine. After drinking a mocha from Starbucks, it is an easy and quick way to get a small energy boost, which will eventually end up in a crash. Besides this crash, with the more coffee we drink, it is more likely for us to become dependend on caffeine. Also, with the more caffeine we drink, chances are we can feel jittery and anxious. 

So how do I prevent pulling an all-nighter?

Dr. Cardi believes efficient studying methods and time management are the best solutions toward proper sleep and good grades. She says that studying in small increments of time ensures the best grades on assignments and tests.

Okay, so now that you divided what material to study each night, how exactly should you study it?

“It’s simple,” she says, “Study in periods of 30 to 45 minutes. This sustains your concentration the most. Take small breaks, get up, stretch, go to the bathroom - anything to rest your mind. And when you are ready, dive into another topic or review the one you just studied.” By preparing long ahead before an exam or assignment deadline, students can reduce their stress over schoolwork. For tests especially, students can have a higher understanding of the key points of the study material.

How should I study the day before? 

Instead of spending hours studying the day before a test, do the opposite to prepare. Conduct only a 30-minute review of the material. Go over the main points that will be tested, along with a brief study of terms you may have trouble with. If you managed your time efficiently, a small review is all you need. Go to sleep—and make sure you get a proper amount. While you rest, your brain will continue to consolidate the information you studied. The day of the test, you’ll stress much less than you think. And your hard work will show in your scores.

Is there any way I can get some academic coaching?

Of course! Many colleges offer several programs that focus on study help for students. Tutor and mentor programs, counseling, and academic centers are just a few opportunities to help students gain the study skills they need. The Learning Assistance Center is just one resource on campus where Wake Forest students can turn to for help. There, they can find a professional staff who offers time and test anxiety management, strategic study skills, and tutors. It is their goal to assist students and help them become more comfortable and confident in their schoolwork.

With the help and knowledge of proper studying habits, perhaps students will realize that, in the end, all-nighters do not help. At all. Efficient studying equals academic excellence, something we all look for here at #WorkForest.