It is fairly certain that all students have pulled an “all-nighter” at least once during their college careers. If not, one is all but inevitable. Some students pull the elusive all-nighter frequently. How does a student pull off the successful all-nighter and do they really help?
The studying technique generally accepted by most experts in the education field is that the student should review little bits of material over the course of several days and do a broad review the night before a big test, followed by proper rest. Though all students would like to say they do this, it is fairly rare, especially in college. Tests are crammed for hours before, papers completed at the wire. Nevertheless, we are at every party at least fifteen minutes early.
Many studies have shown a very distinct correlation between sleep and academic performance; the more sleep you get the higher your grades are. In fact, the only real use for an “all-nighter” is the ability to spit back memorized information without actually comprehending it. Though you may know the material for the test, chances are likely that you will retain very little of it.
According to one study at www.sleepanddreams.com, college students need two-to-three more hours of sleep than they get on average. Sleep will also affect how you react in class. While a well rested individual is alert and attentive during a lecture and will retain the majority of information, a sleep-deprived individual may dose off, zone out, or simply not attend class due to their lack of sleep.
“The average person needs between seven and eight hours of sleep [a night],” said Dr. Harjinder Gill, a clinical assistant at the Sleep Disorders Centre of Metropolitan Toronto in the UWO Gazette. “Some people need nine to ten hours of sleep every night. The best way to gauge [if you have had enough sleep] is how you feel in the morning.”
So, how do Fairfield students cope with the stresses of Jesuit education? Two roommates at Fairfield, Mike Wood ’07 and Kurt Leon ’07 never pull all-nighters.
“My health and well being are not worth the time and school is not worth me losing sleep over,” said Wood.
“I get six to eight hours of sleep a night,” said Leon. “My grades do quite well with the amount of sleep that I get. I try to keep myself organized and ahead of my assignments so I can keep myself ahead and not have to pull all-nighters.”
While both students are well-organized, there are many students who are unable to achieve such discipline and may need some helpful hints to get through that all-nighter. A study on www.distancelearn.about.com offers these tips:
1. Plan ahead. Gather all the study materials and supplies you will need in advance. Take a nap early in the day before the big night. A one hour rest will make a big difference. Allow time at the end of your all-nighter to compose yourself. You want to be as lucid as you can be so you can focus on the task ahead.
2. Set an alarm. Set your clock or wristwatch to signal you at reasonable intervals to keep you on task.
3. Be careful about magic formulas for staying awake at night. Cat naps, coffee, chocolate, caffeine pills and speed work for some but have devastating results for others. Stimulants may get you through the night, but if you can’t concentrate or you’re so tired the next day that you can’t think straight, what’s the benefit? It might be best for you just to face the challenge and just take the test cold turkey.
4. Avoid getting too comfortable. Study at your desk or anywhere but on a soft bed or comfortable sofa. Study at an all-night diner if you have to.
5. Take five-minute breaks. When you begin to doze off, get up, stretch, take a walk, turn on the radio or TV for a few minutes or take a shower. This will clear your mind so you can focus better when you return to your studies.
6. Exercise. Do something to get your heart rate and energy level up. Don’t overdo it. your priority here is to focus your energy on studying and concentrating, not exercising.
7. Cover all the material, even if you just skim it. If your choice is to know half of the material thoroughly or all of it superficially, pick option number two. Even a fleeting familiarity with some chapters of a textbook may be enough to allow you to wing it through part of an essay exam. Look for summaries and outlines. Then methodically divide the material into blocks and decide how much time you can afford to spend on each unit. Be ruthless.
8. Don’t do all-nighters often. You can manage a late night every once in a while, but a steady diet of all-nighters guarantees that you will be fighting off the drive to doze. Also, studies show that cramming results in little long term memory.