Let’s be honest – sometimes the most efficient way of getting your shit done on time is to just plough through until the early hours of the morning, emerging bleary-eyed and sore with the finished essay in hand.  Sometimes we can overestimate just how long essay writing will take, and find ourselves hours away from the deadline with little more than a pile of unread books checked out of the library.  No one wants to stay up until 5am reading such mind-numbing fodder as early church history, but sometimes that’s just the only option.  So here are some handy hints and tips on how to make it through the night!

  1. Depending on what your time constraints are, you might want to consider taking a nap earlier in the day to give you the energy needed to last through the night. I’ve found this to be very useful – just make sure you set an alarm, or you might end up sleeping through your self-allocated study time.
  2. Stick to a light evening meal (such as salad), and eat little and often through the evening.  A big heavy meal in the evening will make you sleepy fairly early, and you’ll find it hard to last beyond 11pm. Try snacking on high-energy foods such as bananas, dried fruit, and nuts.
  3. Sit up straight. Good posture will make you feel less sluggish.
  4. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.  Also, the regular toilet trips resulting from your water consumption will be a good way of keeping you awake!
  5. Hit the caffeine.  Caffeine works best when combined with sugar, so try sweetened coffee or sugary energy drinks.  Remember that energy drinks containing ingredients such as taurine lose their effect on the body the more they are ingested, so try not to use them too often (drinking a few over one night is fine, but try not to drink them on a daily basis).
  6. Exercise is a great way of giving yourself an energy boost in the middle of the night.  Try jogging on the spot, doing star jumps, stretching, and running up a flight of stairs.
  7. Fresh air is another helpful stimulator when your eyes start to droop. Open a window and let some of the cool night air in to perk you up.
  8. Generally speaking, music with words is distracting, whereas instrumental music such as classical can be conducive to productivity.  There is evidence to suggest that white noise also stimulates the mind, so try www.rainymood.com, which plays a lovely high-quality sound loop of falling rain.
  9. The internet is the enemy of creativity and productivity.  Going on “just to check my email” can lead to a 2-hour excursion on Facebook mindlessly flicking through the ex-boyfriend’s photos. This takes away valuable studying time, so avoid at all costs!  The highly committed might want to consider switching off the wi-fi for the night (just remember to turn it back on in the morning).
  10. If you’re desperate to stay up and you have the means, jump into a cold shower. Brrrrr! That’s horrible. But you’re awake now.
  11. At around 3am, you’ll start seriously slowing down, as your body protests against its mistreatment.  Wooziness, slight nausea, hunger pangs… now’s a good time to splash your face with cold water, have a little snack (e.g. raisins), and have a stretch.
  12. Some people recommend taking regular 15-minute naps (roughly one every two hours).  I personally find this makes me long for my bed even more, and would rather push through without them.  Feel free to experiment.  Any longer than 15 minutes, and you’ll enter your deep sleep mode, so always set an alarm.
  13. Three hours of sleep are better than none, so try to finish your work as soon as you can and recharge your batteries.  If the essay isn’t due in until the next afternoon, consider having a few hours’ kip and getting up early in the morning to finish off your work.

The dawn will come and when your usual waking time comes along, your body will naturally wake up… although you’ll be a bit edgy for the rest of the day.  All-nighters are not good for you, so try not to do them too often, and remember to take good care of yourself afterwards by catching up on your sleep and eating well!

This article can also be found in the latest issue of Artemis – check it out online at www.issuu.com/artemiszine!

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