The College All-Nighter

A go-to guide for your most successful cramming session yet

The More You Know | Ben Yamaguchi | December 1, 2015

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Whether it’s cramming for an exam or a long round of Call of Duty Zombies, all-nighters will inevitably work their way into your college career. I can speak from experience, as I have gone through four over three semesters thus far.

The important thing to recognize before deciding to pull an all-nighter in an attempt to study for an exam is that productivity is everything. If you go into an all-nighter unprepared, you are not only screwing yourself over for the whole night, but for the whole day following it. This mini guide to pulling a successful all-nighter will give you a few points in preparing for your next morning exam.

It’s midnight and your exam is at 9:30 am.

The first thing to do is get comfortable. You are about to spend nine hours in one place, so act like it’s a new day. Shower and throw on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt. The fresher you feel, the more you’ll convince your body that it’s just like a new day starting.

And don’t worry, there won’t be anyone around to judge you.

The next step is choosing a place to study. Wells Library is my personal favorite. The main reason is that all of the study rooms in the west tower are wide open as 1:00 am approaches. The nice thing about choosing the library is that it’s ingrained in everyone’s mind that you go there with the purpose of studying. Although it may not appear to have an apparent difference, the preconceived notion of the “library” could subconsciously help your focus. Convenience is key, as well. Because Wells is in a somewhat centralized area, it’s rather easy to go straight to your exam when morning arrives.

Here’s where science comes into play. According to WebMD, you’ll want to eat small amounts of high-protein foods over the duration of the all-nighter. Eating carb-rich foods will yield a relaxing effect on the body immediately after consumption. Because your body will already be tired and off its sleep schedule, it will make you even more tired and hinder your ability to concentrate. Drinking water frequently and snacking on high-protein foods like nuts every hour or so will help keep you attentive.

red bull

Caffeine is also vital to staying awake, but coffee and soda aren’t necessarily the answers in terms of providing the greatest level of efficiency. As noted by WedMD, early research suggests that the consumption of taurine, an amino acid commonly found in meat and fish, combined with caffeine, glucuronolactone, and B vitamins (all found in Red Bull) can have multiple positive effects. These effects include a reduction in sleepiness, an increased reaction time in those that are sleep deprived, as well as improved attention and reasoning. I would recommend having a cup of coffee during the beginning of the all-nighter, (alongside protein snacks and water) and save the Red Bull for about three hours before the exam. Red Bull’s potential effects will carry into your exam, giving you the wings you need to fly through it and succeed.

The final thing that will help increase your efficiency during an all-nighter is music, but not just any music. The “music” that I’m referring to is a fascinating phenomenon known as binaural beats. According to Examined Existence, binaural beats are the “sensations perceived by your brain when you listen through headphones to two coherent sounds with somewhat similar frequencies. One sound is introduced to one ear while the second sound is simultaneously presented to the other ear. Then, a beating sound will be noticed and heard as if the two sounds combined naturally.” Basically, your brain will create a beat based on two separate frequencies it hears at slightly different tones.

So what’s the big deal? These beats alter your brainwave frequencies and can increase concentration, improve memory, and create a relaxing, focused state of mind–just what you need for studying with little sleep. These beats don’t just apply to all-nighters, however, and can be used for regular studying as well. Here’s a track to get you started:

The frequencies are difficult to listen to on their own, which is why they are in the background behind the rain. The effect is still there, though. Keep in mind you will need to use stereo headphones or else your brain with not be able to produce the beats.

In conclusion, all-nighters can be a complete waste of time if not taken seriously. With finals coming up, there’s a good chance you’ll be staying up extremely late studying, or even through the night. These techniques have helped me effectively study during all-nighters, but the main idea is to have a game plan. Because your body is not accustomed to staying up around the clock, you’ll want to make sure you adapt to accommodate your studying habits in the most efficient way possible.