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The Truth Behind All-Nighters

The Truth Behind All-Nighters
At some point during your college career, you've probably tried to cram in as much work as possible in the middle of the night. It seems like a valid strategy at the time: After all, you can't study while you're sleeping. However, all-nighters are detrimental to your brain in a number of ways that will probably affect your schoolwork.

Your Memory Goes Downhill

Sleep is essential to remembering all those finals facts you'll have to regurgitate in your exams. When you sleep, the very cycles of your sleep help cement your memories in your mind. Pulling an all-nighter deprives your brain of the chance to solidify all the facts you studied. To make sure you're remembering all the facts you'll need for the final, try this trick: At the end of each week during the semester, consolidate your notes and have a short review session. You'll have study materials ready to go during finals week, and you'll already have studied some.

You'll Lose Your Focus

Everyone daydreams now and then, but sleep deprivation takes daydreaming to a different level altogether. When you're sleep-deprived and you zone out, you're actually experiencing impairment in your visual processing, as well as general boredom. On top of that, people who are sleep-deprived have been known to hallucinate. Beyond losing your focus, you might have a physically harder time looking at your exam itself. The way to solve this? Set a bedtime the night before finals, and no matter what happens, go to bed at that time.

Your Cognitive Processes Will Function More Slowly

The later you stay up and the more tired you become, the less information you'll be able to process. Those notes you're reading at 3:00 a.m. are barely doing you any good. Sleeping helps you make connections between information — the kind of connections between events that help you slay the essay portion of your British history final, for example. To ensure that you're learning when your brain is actually receptive and not in the middle of the night, check your calendar often and make yourself a weekly study schedule.

You'll Have Mood Swings

We've all heard of being "hangry," but there should be a version that combines sleep-deprived and angry — or loopy, or bummed, or grumpy. When you're sleep-deprived, you feel emotionally exhausted, which is not conducive to taking exams or writing a brilliant research paper. That emotional exhaustion can make you experience a number of negative moods and in the long term can cause depression. To keep from having to write 10 pages over the course of one night, break down your big assignments into smaller pieces. Tackle one piece at a time — just make sure you start early so the due date doesn't creep up on you.

The key to staying away from all-nighters is to plan. Check your calendar, write down your assignments, and set your schedule so you know when it's time to study. Take care of end-of-the year tasks such as packing, moving, and storing your belongings beforehand, so you can focus on studying when finals week arrives. It may take some effort at first, but after a week or two, you'll enjoy how organized your life feels.

Image via Flickr by UBC Learning Commons