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The Academic and Health Harms of All Nighters in College

Updated on June 28, 2012
HLKeeley profile image

HL Keeley has received a Bachelors degree in middle grade education. She is currently teaching high school.

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Being in college is stressful enough during waking hours, but what about when the homework load is so extensive that goes into the wee hours of the morning! Do you have a huge test the next day and do not know the material? Well, the more you study the more you know, right?

This article will explore different college situations and how all nighters affect your mental and physical health, as well as your grades.

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All Nighters to Write a Paper

At one point in your college life, you will be presented with this dilemma. A paper is assigned to you months in advance. The assignment looks easy enough that you can write it in three days. Well the months go by and you start to forget the assignment, the teacher does not remind you because it is your responsible to stay up to date with your assignments. After all, you are an adult now. Would your boss repeatedly warn you that your deadline was coming up for an a work assignment? Most likely not because that is your job, that assignment.

Well, it is the night before the paper is due and your friend messages you on Facebook about whether you need a cover page and works cited for your paper. You vaguely remember the assignment, but you know you have the rubric somewhere. Going through your folder you find the rubric and notice the due date, 13 hours! Luckily the paper is not too extensive and easy to finish in 13 hours.

At 10:00 pm, you start to write the paper looking for sources as you write to support your claims. Around 3 am, the paper is half way written and started to take positive shape, but you are starting to feel the effects of not sleeping at your normal hours.

You are feeling light headed and your eyes are heavy. You are constantly snacking and drinking caffeine to stay awake and alert. Your eyes keep drifting to the clock hoping that it will assure you that you are almost done with the assignment and get a couple hours sleep before class.

Around 6 am, your paper is done without editing and citations. Citations takes another hour to do along with the creation of the works cited. By now it is 7 am, the paper is due in four hours. Unfortunately, you have a class at 9 am. You get ready for the day with a shower to wake you up. You head to the cafeteria for some breakfast hoping the food will give you some energy.

It is successful and you make it through your first class without passing out. You have some time between classes, so you run to the nearest convenience store for a snack and more caffeine hoping it keeps you alert. By now you are running on a 9 hour sleep that you had over twenty four hours ago.

You get to your 11 am class and hand your paper in. You doze in and out of class taking little notes. When class is finish, you are first out of the classroom heading straight to your bed for a nap before your next class, which you by accident sleep through, even the three alarms set.

Pros:

  • You handed in your assignment without it counting as late.
  • You attended class which means you saved an absence, except that afternoon class.

Cons:

  • Your paper was not as well written as it would have been if you had spent more time and research on it.
  • You did not get enough time to edit your paper leaving opportunity for typos and grammar mistakes, with a possibility of incorrect citations.
  • You could not compare and contrast your paper with the rubric requirements to see if this is the type of paper your teacher expects.
  • Your lack of focus did not get good notes from the class sessions you went to.
  • Your lack of focus did not even pay attention to what the teacher said.
  • The lack of sleep made your nap turn into a deep sleep making you miss your class and messed up your sleep cycle. Most likely later in the night you will feel more awake because of the long nap.

The cons outweigh the pro. Unfortunately the pro about turning in the paper in on time has a lot of weight compared to note taking.

What is the best solution to this situation? If this situation really did happen, an all nighter would benefit toward the grade in the class. Health wise, it was only one time. You could get back on schedule and get healthy again. As long as this does not happen a lot, this one all nighter would not harm you too much.

Next time: Be more organized. Have a planner and write down all your assignments. Write reminders if the assignment is assigned early in the semester in later months and a week before the paper is due. Take more time with the paper. Do research first and write notes. This makes writing the paper easier later.

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All Nighters to Study for an Exam

This type of study style is most commonly seen before final exams when the library is overflowing with students cramming last minute facts into their minds.

You have your last exam tomorrow. You have spent most of the time studying for your other exams before this one since they were first. You have a good ten hours to study before your last exam and then you have winter break before your next semester! You get out blank flashcards to make thinking it will only take like a half-hour to make. It ends that you have a lot more than you realized to study. It takes you three hours just to make flashcards. You are now down to seven precious hours that could be used to sleep. Instead you use it to now start memorizing your flashcards and study guide. Five hours later not only do you know the answers to every question, you memorized the question as well. You can answer most of the questions on the study guide. You think you got this. You have two hours left. You take a shower and go to breakfast to wake up, studying while you eat and up to the point where the professor walks into your classroom with your exams. You feel pumped. You know the flashcards and the study guide. You get the exam. Print your name: Heather Keeley. CHECK! This is going to be so easy. First question: List the name all the bones in your right leg. Wait what? That was not on the flashcards OR study guide. It's okay. It's just one question. The rest of the test goes like this seeing some of the flash card and study guide questions. Not only that half way through the exam, you run out of caffeine and you are getting tired. The words are dancing in front of you. You rub your eyes and try to finish the test before you completely pass out. You hand the exam in less confident than you walked in.

Pros:

  • You were present for the exam. Make-up exams are not common in college, especially for over sleeping.
  • You knew some questions instead of none.

Cons:

  • You did not pay attention as much during the second part of the exam, predominantly thinking about leaving.
  • You did not have a lot of time to learn the material. Instead you memorized the answers. If you learned the answers, maybe you would have been able to make educated guesses on some of the questions.
  • This was last exam. You are so tired that you will need to take a nap before leaving delaying your time to get home for break.

What is the best solution to this situation? It is always better to choose sleep before an exam. The sleep would have made your mind alert, and you might have remembered some of the questions from during class time and previous tests. You always need to have focus during a test.

Next time: Prioritize your exams. List the exams that you know less about at the top of list ending with the classes you are more confident in. Start studying weeks in advance. If you are going to use flashcards, make flashcards during the school year of important key terms. When you get the study guide for the exam make the flashcards that day and the next day, depending on how much time. Some class will not even give you a study guide. If this is the case, make flash cards with the study guides you and then spend more time on the class that has no study guide.

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Health Problems from Consistent All Nighters

A sleep cycle is very important for a human to have a healthy lifestyle. Just like oversleeping is not good for a person, not enough sleep effects a person as well. The later you wake up for the day, the later you will go to sleep. This cycle becomes consistent because no one likes to wake up early just to make their sleep cycle better, especially when they do not have to wake up.

According to WebMD, sleep deprivation can cause "memory loss, depression, weakening of the immune system (increasing your chances of getting sick), and increase in perception of pain."

You know all that food you ate to give you energy? You just consumed more calories than you would if sleeping. If this is a consistent situation, you can gain weight increasing your chances to diabetes.

Tips to Consistent All Nighters

  • Recognize that you have a problem sleeping. Seek out medical help.
  • If you are too tired to walk, you are too tired to drive! Do not drive while tired!
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Eating right and exercising. Exercising will burn a lot of calories needed for energy that will cause you to fall asleep easier at night. Walks a few hours before bed are good, not before because exercise gives you adrenaline that keeps you awake.

How often do you pull all nighters to get last minute things done?

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    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      6 years ago from Midwest

      I remember these days :) Good hub, and very true about all the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Later on I had it too, but due to a child that would not sleep through the night for ages. When I returned to college the second time, I was much better at planning and budgeting my time and it does help. My grades were vastly improved when I took time to be organized and to rest/eat properly. Good hub voted up and useful.

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