Skip to main content

Your guide for pulling a healthy-ish all-nighter

April 11, 2019

Thumbnail/banner image by Andre Sebastiampillai

by Jackie Brown

So, you have two BIG exams tomorrow and another the day after… You're stressed and anxious and NEED to cram!

What do you do? Pull an all-nighter of course!


Pulling an all-nighter is never ideal because a good night sleep is critical for consolidating your memories, AKA actually being able to remember all that study info you've been cramming into your brain (Sleep, Learning and Memory - Harvard University). But sometimes it feels like a necessary evil to get your stuff done and feel confident going into an exam.


Skipping a night's sleep is not great for your health. Sleep deprivation can lead to negative moods, poor cognitive function, and reduced metabolic health. So, any all-nighter you pull can never be truly "healthy" but you can make it healthy-ish if you follow some of these tips.

Set a to-do list at the start

You know what you need to do and review in order to do well on your exam. Write it all down before your study session to help you stay focused on what's important i.e. NOT scrolling through the ‘gram or watching cat videos. I find that checking off the boxes as I go helps keep me motivated!


Avoid energy drinks

Counter-intuitive right? Red bull gives you wiiiiings! BUT after the wings comes an intense crash once the caffeine and sugar combo wears off. Stick to lower caffeine beverages, like tea and even coffee, to keep your energy level stable (and ensure you stay awake). (What Energy Drinks Can Do To Your Body - CNN).


Keep the lights on!

Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin in the brain, the hormone that helps you fall asleep. Having bright lights on, especially ones close to you like a desk lamp, can help you stay awake through the night. (Melatonin and Sleep - National Sleep Foundation).


Drink TONS of water

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Your brain loves water and helps you maintain your concentration. (Your Brain and H2O - UC Davis).


Munch on high-protein snacks 

If you want to study all night, you gotta eat some fuel! Snack on foods that will provide you with long-term energy that is high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Think yogurt & berries, whole grain toast with your favourite toppings, and veggie sticks & hummus. (Eating to Boost Energy - Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) .


Walk around

Take short breaks every hour to get up, stretch and move your body, I find that this helps me to maintain my energy levels. This also provides a much-needed break from the computer screen. Staring at screens without interruption can lead to eye strain and make you feel even sleepier than you already do! (Computers, Digital Devices and Eye Strain - American Academy of  Ophthalmology).


Create an amp-up playlist 

I like to stay motivated by creating a playlist with songs I love that will keep me alert and focused. Dance breaks are highly encouraged!


 The day after an all-nighter, try to avoid driving since your concentration will be diminished. Continue to drink lots of water and go easy on the caffeinated beverages. Sneak in some physical activity to continue staying awake and get ready to crush that exam! Be sure to get some extra sleep the following night :D 


  1. Sleep, Learning and Memory - Harvard University
  2. What Energy Drinks Can Do To Your Body - CNN
  3. Melatonin and Sleep - National Sleep Foundation
  4. Your Brain and H2O - UC Davis
  5. Eating to Boost Energy - Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
  6. Computers, Digital Devices and Eye Strain - American Academy of  Ophthalmology