All-Nighters: Are They Really Worth It?

If you are or have ever been a student, you have probably pulled an all-nighter or at least thought about pulling one. I know I have pulled more than a few all-nighters in my time as a student. But are all-nighters actually beneficial?

When it comes to a black and white situation like: pull the all-nighter and hand in an assignment or get a zero, I can see where the value lies. But when you are deciding whether to stay up to study for a few extra hours for a quiz, midterm, or final, how do you know if it’ll pay off?

I’ve taken the liberty of analyzing my productivity throughout the night in hopes that it will help you decide if you want to pull one. Like the nerd that I am, I have added a graph for visualization.

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I’d like to add a disclaimer stating that this graph (specifically) is in no way supposed to predict everyone’s behaviour. I just used it as a visual tool to see if I actually get any benefit from pulling all-nighters.

Now, if you are anything like I am, you like your sleep. A lot. I become a whole different person when I am short on sleep. I am always lost, I laugh at the most random things, and I never say anything that makes sense. Also, I don’t ingest copious amounts of coffee or energy drinks when pulling all-nighters because: I don’t like coffee, and I am convinced that energy drinks will kill me (I’m not saying that they will). These factors played a large roll in my productivity graph.

Taking 100 percent productivity as 1, you can see that my productivity drops to 50 percent at around midnight. On a normal day, I would have stopped studying around 8 or 9pm when I’m nearly at 100 percent productivity.

At 50 percent productivity, everything takes me twice as long – a very inefficient method of studying. This only worsens the later I stay up until I’m just wasting time. I feel like I’m studying but I’m really just reading words that no longer make sense or solving problems that I won’t remember. At this point, the all-nighter serves no purpose but to reassure you that you at least tried to study more.

The effectiveness of all-nighters is different for each person. A respectable adult would probably tell you to study ahead of time to avoid ever needing to pull an all-nighter but as I am a student who is all too familiar with procrastination, I’ll just tell you to make your own productivity graph. You just have to know yourself well enough to know when things are taking you too long and you are just wasting your time. For me, anything below 50 percent productivity (around midnight) is a waste of time.

So, is pulling an all nighter worth it? Sometimes. If you are the type of person that when they have to, they can function close to normally with very little sleep (like my roommates), then I’d say go ahead and do the extra studying. If you are like me on the other hand, and need a decent amount of sleep to function normally, don’t bother. What you think you’re learning during your all-nighter will  probably just disappear when it counts and you would have lost all that sleep for nothing. Improve your chances of remembering what you have already studied by getting some sleep instead. Alternatively, you could determine your minimum acceptable productivity (mine is 50 percent) and study until then.

Happy studying!

-Michelle

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