Student life hacks: How to survive an all-nighter

Surviving an all-nighter can be tricky. Here are Emma Wynne's top tips to help get you through the night.

We’ve all been there. It’s the night before an assignment and you have spent the past few hours on Facebook contemplating starting your monster of an essay – you realise that this is going to be a very loooooong night.

One of the major life lessons I learnt during my student years is how to stay relatively human on very little sleep. I have also learnt since then that all-nighters are surprisingly unnecessary. If you manage your time well and start your work a few weeks in advance then you can pretty much get by without staying up until the birds are tweeting.

However, if you’re like me and you’ve convinced yourself that you work much better last-minute and under pressure and therefore going on unrelated Wiki walks all day is totally acceptable (ahem – it’s not), then here are some of my top tips for staying focused until the crack of dawn.

1. Take a nap

Try to take a power nap in the day or early in the evening to boost your energy and leave you feeling in a better state of mind for your late-night study binge. Staying awake for over 24 hours has been proven to lead to anxiety, confusion and an inability to focus – not great if you have an exam or deadline the next day!

2. Caffeine – yes or no?

I honestly don’t think I would have gotten through my degree without my trusty 2am energy drinks, or without chugging black coffee before a morning lecture. However, it probably isn’t wise to over-do the caffeine drinks. While studies conducted by John Hopkins University show that caffeine not only keeps you awake and helps to improve your thinking and memory skills, it is also known to dehydrate you rapidly. So, if you do hit the Red Bull, make sure you drink plenty of water too. A top tip is to start the night by drinking water and save your caffeinated drink until later. You might not need it.

3. Order some pizza in

I am most certainly not condoning living on a diet of energy drinks and pizza, but to pull a successful all-nighter, foods high in protein, fat and carbs are great! Other foods that cut it are cheese and crackers, fruit, salted popcorn and peanut butter sandwiches. Yum!

4. Avoid procrastination

Try to avoid taking generic ‘sad study face’ selfies and Instagramming your workload and energy drink binges – you may think that you’re showing the world your dedication to studying, but in reality, you’re just showing the world how much of a procrastinator you are.

FYI: Facebook Limiter is a great app which allows you to block your Facebook while you study.

5. Take regular breaks

In order to get through an all-nighter without cabin fever, you need to take regular short breaks.

Get some fresh air. Take a short stroll around your dorms. If you don't, then you will more than likely develop a serious case of cabin fever and end up rocking backwards and forwards to Taylor Swift. Note: this hasn’t actually happened to anyone, especially not the author of this article who obviously has a much better taste in music.

6.  Keep yourself stimulated

Make sure that you are working in a brightly lit room – study lamps will just make you want to doze off – trust me!

Listen to some upbeat music, cue Arctic Monkeys! Avoid classical music – even though many people argue that a bit of Mozart in the background helps to stimulate your mind, at stupid ‘o’ clock in the morning it will just send you into a sleepy stupor.

7. Set some alarms

Although you’re planning to stay up all night, there is still a chance that you might doze off, so it’s a good idea to set a few alarms just in case. You really don’t want to end up missing your deadline or your morning exam!  

8. Do some exercise

Struggling through push-ups is probably the last thing you want to do at the end of an all-night study session, but findings show that a quick workout can help boost your brain’s ability to retain information, as well as making you more alert.

If push-ups aren’t your thing, then have a nice morning jog around your neighbourhood. Fresh air will definitely help wake you up and nothing will make you feel more productive than running around deserted streets while everyone is in bed.


 …you’ve finally made it. Pheeeeww! Give yourself a big pat on the back!

Now, it’s important to go to bed early tonight and get back into a normal sleeping pattern. To reaffirm what I said earlier, all-nighters aren’t necessary or particularly wise, but we’re all human and sometimes this is where we find ourselves. It's important though that they remain rare – you shouldn't do it often! 

I hope some of the tips above will help limit the impact should you find yourself burning the midnight oil.