Pulling an All-Nighter: Is it Worth It?

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So rumor has it that all-nighters are inevitable in college. They are viewed as a rite of passage, or an "initiation" if you will. I mean, if you didn't pull an all-nighter, did you really go to college? People often huff and groan just loudly enough for surrounding library-mates to hear, "I'll be stuck here all night!" or "I haven't slept since yesterday!" to claim their cavalier college-student status. 

So what's the deal with this all-nighter thing? Is it worth it? Is it necessary? Well, let's check it out. It's Liz here and I've got a story for you. 

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During my junior year of college, I took one of the hardest, most life-changing and time-consuming classes in existence. Although it was a fabulous learning experience that turned me into the writer I am today, it required hours of weekly homework and a huge project at the end of the semester. 

Up until this point, I had pulled out decent grades and maintained something resembling a social life, all while successfully avoiding the infamous "all-nighter." However as the end of this semester approached (and so did my project due date), I chose to see Frozen in theaters 3 times instead of working on my huge project. Needless to say, procrastination happened and I paid the price. It was 4pm on Friday when I started working on my project that was due at 8am the next morning. I worked ceaselessly through the night, moving locations every few hours, and listening to "Touch the Sky" from the Brave soundtrack hundreds of times. Thanks to coffee and Spotify, I finished my project just as the sun was rising (and I got a sweet Instagram).

The next few hours were extremely weird. Existing without sleep is a feeling like none other: heavy and sluggish, like you're swimming through a fog with a slow reaction time and a string pulling you from place to place--not the best feeling in the world, but then again, I'm just one person. 

Here's the thing about all-nighters: they are not necessary to your college experience. However, sometimes circumstances seem to require it, and you have to make a choice. Contrary to popular belief, pulling an all-nighter is determined by you and only you, not your overwhelming amount of school work. So from my limited experience, I've come up with a few snippets of advice to consider when making your decision:

To pull or not to pull an all nighter? 

  • Are you studying for a test? Studies show that sleep improves memory and learning, while sleep deprivation causes lack of focus and efficiency. In this case, it may be better for you to get a few hours of sleep and wake up early to study and prepare your brain and body for success. Your brain will not be functioning at it's highest retention capacity anyway, and sleeping will help your ability to critically think and problem solve through tough questions. 
  • Do you have to finish a project? If you just have to finish a project, turn it in, and then nothing (sleep)--you can consider it.
  • Do you have important things to do the next day? Remember when I said not sleeping feels like swimming through fog attached to a string. Yeah. Remember this. 
  • Are you motivated? If the answer is yes-- there's a good chance you will crank this thing out and finish before sunrise. If the answer is no-- you will procrastinate until 4am and listen to Disney songs like I did. Know yourself. 
  • Are you sick? Do you need to NOT get sick? Has the weather been abnormally tempermental? If you answered yes to any of these questions, an all-nighter is not the answer. 
  • Will you have time to nap the next day? If you don't have time to nap, don't even think about it. 
  • Do you have a playlist on-hand of Hans Zimmer and Howard Shore scores? If the answer is yes, I am impressed. The outcome looks hopeful for you. 
  • Do you need to be a coherent human with the ability to form words? Yes? Well then be prepared. The amount of sleep we need until we dissolve into incoherent, wordless beings can vary from person to person...

Well friends, ultimately the choice is yours. There may be a time and place for an all-nighter at some point, but it's up to you to decide whether it's worth it. All-nighters come with their fair share of side-effects (both positive and negative), so think through our handy list of questions to help you make the best life decisions. 

Best wishes as you live & learn :) 

Elizabeth "coherent human" Moore

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