Tips for Surviving All-Nighters

If you haven’t experienced an all-nighter in high school, you may be in for a surprise in college. Of course, with the right scheduling and planning, it’s possible to get your assignments and studying done without pulling all-nighters. But the reality is, all-nighters are a trademark of college life for most. It’s not uncommon to get carried away with friends playing games, chit-chatting, and hanging out, when the time should really be used more wisely.

With all the newfound freedom that comes with college, it’s easy for students to feel indestructible and totally in charge of their new life. Many young people also find that staying up late is not a big deal. However, according to SleepFoundation, studies have shown that young adults function best with roughly 8-10 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep, over time, can have detrimental effects on not just your overall health, but also your ability to think and behave properly, as well as your emotional balance. It can also increase irritability, anxiety, moodiness, fatigue during the day, and decreased creativity. Needless to say, these don’t make for a good recipe for getting good grades or establishing healthy friendships!

The best way to avoid needing to survive an all-nighter is to avoid it altogether by staying on top of your workload. But when it’s not possible, what should you do? Here are some of our favorite tips for pulling a successful all-nighter:

Fuel Your Body with Protein

Boost your brainpower by eating protein, which encourages not only fullness, but also alertness and energy that carb-rich meals don’t. Some good sources of protein include almonds or other nuts of your choice, lean meat, legumes, tofu, and fish. Limit the carbs and sugary foods, as those can lead to fatigue which is the opposite of what you need to power through an all-nighter!

Take a Nap

Remember that some sleep is better than nothing at all. Plus, if you are feeling super tired, your body is trying to tell you to get some rest. It won’t function optimally or be efficient without rest, so don’t feel bad about taking naps when needed! Even a 90-minute nap can help improve memory and learning new information. A quick snooze may be just what you need to perform well on a creativity test, think more flexibly, and absorb new knowledge from the books.

Tackle the Harder Assignments First

As the night progresses, it’s natural to lose focus and your capacity to concentrate and perform well. This is why we recommend starting with the more challenging assignments first and reserving the less important tasks for later in the night.

Avoid Stimulants

A bit of caffeine can go a long way in boosting productivity. Researchers have also found that consuming caffeine after learning something can help people recall it up to 24 hours later. Caffeine plays a role in memory consolidation, so drinking coffee can be beneficial after studying. However, we recommend avoiding stimulants like Vivarin which can cause shakiness and sometimes, an inability to concentrate. In the long run, it’s best to fuel the body with high energy foods and drink lots of water. But in a pinch, a cup of coffee will help a lot!

Pick a Well-Lit Location

Dark and dull places are not conducive to productivity, and you may start getting tired sooner if it’s already late at night. Therefore, finding a place that is bright and distraction-free is key. If you enjoy studying in your dorm room, invest in a high-quality floor lamp that provides plenty of light and is easy on the eyes. Otherwise, the campus library is always a good choice for an ideal study location, as it’s quiet and well-lit.

Focus & Reward

If you are the type to keep your eyes on the prize, it may be fun to spice up your studying by giving yourself a reward for focusing and finishing tasks. You can set up a system that works best for you. For example, you may tell yourself that if you stay focused for 30 full minutes on cranking out an essay, you’ll reward yourself with 10 minutes of social media time, talking to friends, or playing a computer game. This may help you get through the night without feeling too burnt out, and even make time pass by faster!


It’s not ideal to have an all-nighter every night, but you shouldn’t punish yourself for needing them once in a while. Just remember that sleep debt can accrue quicker than you think, and can have negative effects on your academic performance. At the end of the day, remember to listen to your body, and get rest as soon as you can after an all-nighter.