8 Ways to Survive an All-Nighter and Emerge at Dawn with an Awesome Paper

It has happened to all of us.

In fact, it’s probably 2:30 a.m. right now and you just Googled “How to survive an all-nighter” and you got this article. You’ve made a good decision. Let us help.

You’re slammed with assignments, your part-time job and life, and all of a sudden that term paper is due. Tomorrow morning. And it’s 8 p.m. It wouldn’t be the university experience without the odd all-night paper writing session. In fact, about 60% of us are guilty of pulling an all-nighter at least once according to St. Lawrence University. But it’s best to keep them limited, as there are some harsh realities of all-nighters.

Here’s how to survive pulling an all-nighter:

Change Location

Home is a place filled with distractionsunwashed laundry, a fridge full of food, and more than likely a chatty roommate or two. Oh, and Netflix, that devious vixen. It can be difficult to be productive in a space that we associate with sleeping, relaxing and socializing. Head to the library or a 24hr coffee shop so that you can leave the distractions (and your bed) at home. Go now! And make sure it’s brightly-lit. None of this mood lighting business.

Ditch the Coffee and Chocolate

While it may seem like second nature to pick up a coffee at 10 p.m. as we head into an all-night paper writing frenzy, you will ultimately crash. Caffeine and sugar will give you a great buzz if you’re planning to whip your paper off in an hour, but if you’re in for the long haul, best to keep it in moderation or skip it all together. Half way through your final edit you’ll probably get an overwhelming sense of “screw it, it’s good enough—I’m handing it in.”

Pack the Orange Slices

There’s a reason your mom always brought orange slices to soccer practice—these babies are a miracle worker in the energy department. Even just the smell of citrus can make us feel more alert and will get us back in gear as we force our bodies to focus into the wee hours of the night. When you start feeling sluggish, whip out your orange slices for an insta-pick-me-up.

Five Minutes of Fresh Air

Give yourself quick breaks every now and then; you’re not a robot. Remember the 25-5-30 rule. Stepping outside into the chilly winter night air will give you that much-needed refresher. Your brain uses 20% of your body’s oxygen, so filling your lungs with fresh air will keep your mind sharp. Fresh air even has the ability to improve your concentration, help you think more clearly, and improve your mood.

Hell, Have Some Fun

You’re pulling an all-nighter. Enjoy it. Have a mini-dance party. Or have an office chair race. Always a good idea.

Make a Killer Playlist

Good tunes have a way of making the time pass and putting us in the zone. Keep it upbeat; this isn’t the time for Bon Iver. Make your playlist before you get started or use an online streaming site like Songza—fiddling with your music can eat up a surprising amount of time.

Divide Tasks

It is important to make the most of the precious hours at the beginning of the evening where we are still capable of being creative and problem solving. As the night goes on, we become less capable of computing information. Save the tasks you’ve done 100 times (like formatting and citations or, even better, just use RefMe) for 4 am, when you’re nothing more than a sleep-deprived zombie.

Nap, then Edit

If your paper isn’t due first thing in the morning, take advantage of the window you’re earned yourself by staying up all night. Do your first edit the night before, then take a short nap. When you wake up, edit your paper one more time before handing it in. The end of a long night awake is the worst time to go through things with a fine-tooth comb and look for mistakes. Your brain isn’t fully functioning. Doing a final edit in the morning after a quick snooze will help catch the half-sentence that sleep-deprived you thought was awesome.

You Made it

There, you made it. Now go treat yourself to a McDonald’s breakfast. You’ve earned it. Oh, and don’t fall asleep now and forget to hand in your awesome paper.

That would be just sad.

Hilary Hoogsteen

Hilary Hoogsteen

Hilary Hoogsteen is a third year environmental studies student at Simon Fraser University. She takes full advantage of BC's natural playground, spending those dreaded winter months on her snowboard and the summer on the beach.