Introduction: College Hacks - How to Pull an All-Nighter (The RIGHT Way!)

Picture of College Hacks - How to Pull an All-Nighter (The RIGHT Way!)

It is back to school time once more, and you know what that means!  After you've procrastinated studying for that exam or working on that final project, you have to pull yet another all nighter.  They are fun at first, but after a few years they start to wear on you.  Some people even get a hung-over type feeling once they finally get some sleep after an intense all-nighter.

I thrive on all nighter runs.  As long as you can properly nourish your body to help counter the stress from lack of sleep, having an all nighter every now and then can make a HUGE difference in your GPA.  

If you want to learn how to hack your life and pull successful all-night study sessions or project rampages, then this is just the instructable for you.

Step 1: Have a Plan & Come Prepared

Picture of Have a Plan & Come Prepared
Know what you need to study and how you are going to study for it.  Set a goal for yourself, a few good studying goals include:
  • Copying all important points from notes into a study guide / cram guide.
  • Re-reading one or several chapters of your textbook and taking notes as needed.
  • Creating a complete set of flash cards and going through the set a certain number of times.
If you have a project due, gather everything you need and don't stop until it is done.

Make sure you have all of the study material and snackage that you need to keep you going all night long.

Drinks and snacks?  Check.
Textbooks?  Notes?  Check, Check.
Index Cards, Highlighters, Sharpies, and Pens?  Checkity Check!

Step 2: Take a Nap

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No, not in the middle of your all nighter.  

But if it looks like you may have to pull an all-nighter, it will be beneficial if you can get 1-2 hours of sleep sometime during the day before.  You will want to make sure to wake up before 9 p.m., or risk your body trying to put you to sleep for the rest of the night!

When you get out of bed, it is sometimes helpful to pile other things on the bed to prevent you from laying down *just for a second* the rest of the night.  

Step 3: Set an Alarm

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Many people think that because they plan on staying up all night studying or working on a project that they do not need to set an alarm for the next day.  This is a really BAD idea.

Not everyone can make it through every all nighter, and inevitably you will fall asleep during at least one of your midnight study attempts.  There is no shame in this.  

However, there is shame in accidently sleeping through your final exam, or your big presentation.  Set an alarm for about 30 minutes before you actually need to wake up.  This gives you a little extra time to get your sleepy head going in the morning if you DO fall asleep, and allows you to get to a stopping point before you start your day if you have managed to make it through the night and are still going.

Step 4: Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

Picture of Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!
If you stay properly hydrated it will be MUCH easier to stay awake.  Not to mention it will be much easier on your body the next day.

Aim to drink two 8oz glasses of water (or one standard 16oz bottle) every hour or two.  It will keep you awake and alert, and help your body deal with lack of sleep stress.

Of course, caffeine is helpful too.  However, watch your caffeine and make sure of two things
  • Drink twice as much water as you do soda.  If you have a glass of soda every hour, have a couple glasses of water with it.  This will help keep you from crashing and keep the caffeine from dehydrating you.
  • Make sure you have enough caffeine to get you through the night!  No one likes the Out-of-Mtn-Dew crash coming at 4 a.m.

Step 5: Snack Smart

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Make sure your snacks aren't pure sugar or all junk- Here are some excellent snacks for all nighters
  • Pizza - It has carbs in the crust and protein in the cheese, great for giving you energy all night long.  Order a large when you're starving and snack on it the rest of the night!
  • Cheese & Crackers - Also has those carbs and protein.  If you want more food, add cut up lunchmeats!
  • Apples, Peaches, Bananas, and Pears - Fresh fruit is packed full of complex carbs and natural sugars!  Dried fruit is tasty too.
  • Sandwiches - Packed full of things to keep you awake and thinking, sandwiches are always a great choice for study sessions.  Take a good 10 minute break and make yourself a sandwich.
SNACK WHILE YOU WORK!  Eat small portions and eat while you're working.  If you stop working at 3 a.m., a big meal isn't going to make you feel like getting back to the grindstone.

Step 6: Lighting Is Key!

Picture of Lighting Is Key!

Our bodies take a lot of timing cues from the environment around us, especially the lights.  Lighting plays a key role in telling us when to wake up or go to sleep! 

Keep your study room brightly lit to avoid any dim-lighting drowsiness.  A good desk lamp or two can make a world of difference in your attention span!

If you find your eyelids getting heavy, stare at a dim spot in your room and slowly move your eyes toward the lights.  This lighting motion will help simulate a sunrise and wake you up!

Step 7: Don't Allow Distractions

Picture of Don't Allow Distractions
No matter how much your cat glares at you, do not give in and play!

Easier said than done, of course, but in order to pull a successful all-nighter you must not allow in any distractions.  This includes, but is not limited to the following.

     Facebook       StumbleUpon       Reddit       Twitter       E-Mail       Blogs      Webcomics
        News       Reading your Roommate's T-shirt       Making Pancakes      
      Sweeping/Vacuuming/Mopping the Floor       Obsessively Wiping down Counter-tops

Turn OFF your phone (and no, that doesn't mean vibrate or silent.) and unless about absolutely need it, turn off your Internet connection.

Music is fine in the background - some people study better to it - as long as it doesn't distract you.  If you spend more time trying to find a song or station that you like than working on your project / paper / assignment, then it is NOT helping you study better.

Step 8: No Procrastination, Just Get Started!

Picture of No Procrastination, Just Get Started!
One of the hardest things is kicking off your all nighter.  Truth-be-told, you just have to jump in and begin.  You have your plan, your snacks, and you know what you must do.  In the words of Yoda.
 Do, or do not.  There is no try.
Once you get going, it will be much easier.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and the essay of a thousand words begins with a single keystroke.  

Step 9: Once You Are Finished

Picture of Once You Are Finished

Your alarm is set.  Your work is done.  You are as ready for the next day as you possibly could be.

The question remains - stay awake, or go to bed?

Unless it is within 1/2 hour of your alarm going off, GO TO BED.  Even a half hour of still restfulness (you may be too anxious or caffeinated to sleep by this point.) will benefit both your body and mind.  Sleep if you can, if not, just lay still and try to get comfortable and relax until the alarm goes off.


DrS7 (author)2017-06-26

yo some say that caffeine is bad for your heart ( imma kid ) and water makes me go to the bathroom continuously(time'eh wasting)...what should'eh do yo?

The Dohnut Hero (author)DrS72017-08-06

The reason that you pee alot may be because your not hydrated at that point in time. While drinking water may sooth a dry mouth, it doesn't necessarily hydrate you. Consider drinking 1 to 2 gallons of water in a time span of 2 days before your study night.

Shattered Eternity (author)2016-04-07

Nice basics for an allnighter here.

Shattered Eternity (author)2016-04-07

Nice basics for an allnighter here.

amygdala18 (author)2016-04-05

Or don't.

KyraM5 (author)2016-03-08

I've got finals tomorrow for History and English and I'm pulling an all nighter for cramming in History! Wish me luck on my first all nighterrr!

ebissell1 (author)2016-02-01

Anyone have tips if you didn't intend to pull an all-nighter? Not knowing I was going to be up all night, I didn't take a nap ahead of time.

caos95 (author)2015-11-30

i think eating pizza isn't a great idea to pull an all nighter, it's high amount of fat will get you the Itis, and you don't want to get sleepy trying to pull this off.

also, you should watch the amount of coffee in comparison to water to stay hydrated, caffeine is a diuretic, which will make you pee more frecuently, and thus, dehydrating you, so i recomend up the ammount of water when consuming caffeine

other than that, this is a great guide, very explanatory and consice

Autumn_in_jeans (author)caos952016-01-20

"Caffeine really had absolutely no influence on hydration status" University of Connecticut

And bonus: caffeine helps improve memory. :)


NadiaM10 (author)2015-10-21

another good tip to add is to get in some lightweight exercise before you start your all nighter. I go for a quick jog around my block. And do a few jumping jacks in between working... it helps keep you energized and get the brain juices flowing

Good luck! Stay hydrated!!!

Jackal S (author)2015-11-23

Thank you sooo much, I am going to stick to this, hopefully. I need to write a paper for my English Teacher, by Wednesday (1.5 days away) and I still have a fair bit of paper, and no time. Again, thanks...

kellyb40 (author)2015-10-07

I've pulled many all nighters in college and now I work a job that requires me to stay up all night! (My shift is 7pm-7am). Caffeine was always the go-to.

Actually, I recently discovered this supplement called 1 Hour Sleep. It's all natural and gives me about 10 hours of crazy good energy without any jittery/uncomfortable side effects. If this was around when I was in college there's no doubt I would've pulled all nighters before almost every major exam ..Or at least had a few long night just having a good time until the sun came up.

Anyway, they run some pretty awesome sales on their website --

kellyb40 (author)2015-10-07

I've pulled many all nighters in college and now I work a job that requires me to stay up all night! (My shift is 7pm-7am). Caffeine was always the go-to.

Actually, I recently discovered this supplement called 1 Hour Sleep. It's all natural and gives me about 10 hours of crazy good energy without any jittery/uncomfortable side effects. If this was around when I was in college there's no doubt I would've pulled all nighters before almost every major exam ..Or at least had a few long night just having a good time until the sun came up.

Anyway, they run some pretty awesome sales on their website --

kellyb40 (author)2015-10-07

I've been pulling all nighters for years through college and now I have a job where I work night shift! (7pm-7am). It sounds ungodly but I like it. It makes plenty of time for me to do things during the day before going to work.

I recently discovered this supplement called 1 Hour Sleep. If this was out when I was in college I probably would have spent many more sleepless nights studying- (or just getting into some fun trouble)! It's all natural and gives you about 10 hours of crazy good energy without feeling jittery or uncomfortable.

They run these sales and promos all of the time on their site too-

Check out

BenjaminS30 (author)2015-10-03

Popping candy!!! If I'm feeling a bit sleepy I take a tiny bit of that and it wakes me up. But yes, avoid all nighters if possiblel

nootropics (author)2015-09-20

I just made it through all your steps, how could you forget about (or not include) caffeine!? Its easily the world's most popular 'drug'

YanM1 (author)2015-05-25

I just wanted to let you know that I liked this college hack so much that I actually linked to it within my latest blog post. :)

TheProcrastibaker (author)YanM12015-05-25

Glad you liked it! Great article, it really covers the pros, cons, ins, and outs of cramming for exams!

TrilliumA (author)2015-05-09

Thanks. I have this paper I'm trying to finish for tomorrow (yes I have a professor who assigns things to be due on Mothers Day/Sunday). But my all nighters have been less and less productive lately.
I didn't know that about the hydration or the details about caffeine. Thanks, I'll incorporate it into my routine.

kaushal.parmar.73 (author)2015-04-25

Thanks a lot buddy, it helped a lot. Its 3:27 here i think i can pull this night haha. Thanks again ?

Good luck! Stay hydrated!

You recommend that to everyone hah
I will thanks

kaushal.parmar.73 made it! (author)2015-04-25

The test is going to be awesome ahah

soccerchickn (author)2015-03-13

it has been hours finishing an English project due in three and a half hours i don't suggest this unless you have to i hads to because i got the assignment late due to testing interfering with my schedule but sleep is amazing and beautiful and enjoy it do just pull one for fun im not saying NEVER its just my opinion and advice to any and all who want to listyen

MaeDehM (author)2015-01-26

Wise steps ! I'm gonna try it for tonight :D

Wish me luck ^^

Good luck! Stay hydrated! :D

Ryanoxpqz (author)2014-06-25

Studies have actually shown that those who get a good nights sleep and don't study at all get generally higher test scores than those who study all night.

AdibK (author)Ryanoxpqz2015-01-06

That makes no sense. How can someone who has not studied at all score higher than one who has studied? Unless the former has actually finished all his studying earlier and the all-nighter is just a revision round or something. Just because you sleep, you don't end up with magical powers. I do not agree with it at all, please provide sources for your claims. I have always studied during the night and it is what works best for me.

Interesting. Would you mind providing a source for these studies?

Also, while that is generally true overall, everyone learns differently. I've found that when I feel that I am not comfortable enough with the content the night before an exam, pulling an all-nighter to review can certainly help me feel more prepared, which lowers my anxiety during the exam and allows me to focus better. To each their own, I guess.

ayan.mukherjee000 (author)2014-11-13

Nice One..... helped a lot.... :D

andressm (author)2014-10-29

ya thanks this will hopefully help me through a night of studying and homework

Good luck. Stay hydrated!

Camille JoyceM (author)2014-10-02

Thanks! I learned a lot. I will be having an all-nighter tonight.. So, I'll be doing these stuffs.... So... thanks again!

~BTW, the pictures of the cat is so cute! Made this article more interesting and fun :)

EricHi (author)2013-05-25

Very interesting subject - Thanks for the Instructable!
I used to be an expert at all nighters as an undergrad back in the 60's but, I never got organized for one. Routinely used them to study for an exam the following day then crashing after the last class of the day. Always pulled them when a course paper was due since I thought I was one of the world's greatest procrastinators. I learned through time that I could do my best work under this kind of stress. The kicker was when I was in grad school and did a paper for an educational course (required) and they wanted to distribute the paper throughout the Kansas secondary educational system. This was a big LOL.
It was always understood that one has a high learning extinction rate when cramming studies like this, but I totally disagree. I learned that I retained knowledge much longer than if I learned it under less stressful situations. I had heard that if a person stayed up extended periods of time they would experienice hallucinations. Having never experienced such things I tried it. After reaching almost three days I experienced NO hallucinations but did get a sever headache. I got to the point where I had a very difficult time starting sleep. This really freaked me out. Went back to school in my 40's and and learned that I could still do it. I was proud of myself - lol.

katerlyn (author)2013-01-28

I love all nighters but now that I'm almost 55 even 6 hours cleaning a room shows no progress. Sigh.....I am really slowing down!! Thanks for a cute instructable. One thing to help is taking airborne or emergenC vitamins in a drink because if I do 3 days in a row staying up and getting only 4 hours of sleep, no doubt I will get my annual knock me down 5-7 days on the couch with no energy illness like a bad cold or the flu. Dec. 25th I got hi and 5 days later I was okay, thanks to 3 airbornes every day till I felt better. Costco had them on sale and luckily I had stocked up on them!! When I'm sick...I cannot move and if I'm lucky I'll drag myself to the canned fruit. I just get sicker and sicker cuz I refuse to get up to eat.

Babyshoes (author)2012-09-04

Wow, this is actually a well thought out piece of advice, as opposed to the caffeine & sugar-fest I expected to find. Well done!

Of course, if you you are this organised about pulling an all-nighter, chances are you are organised enough to have done the work well in advance and will seldom need to pull one!

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