Finals Prep: How to Stay Awake When All You Want to Do is Sleep

Written by Celia Monroe

It’s the end of the semester. My teachers are doling out worksheets left and right; I have about five projects to finish, four papers that I haven’t even read the instructions for yet and several online quizzes have been assigned to be completed outside of class so that our “precious time spent in lecture” isn’t “wasted”; and, finals are next week so that makes, what, six different subjects I need to review? Add in the fact that I caught one of my professors attaching an extra assignment to the syllabus with a twisted, wicked smile on her face and I’m right on track to fail everything.

As finals draw near, it looks like all-nighters will be what I need to finish without failing. Here’s the step-by-step plan to stay awake and avoid socializing, Netflix and other fun things.

Which brings me to tip #1: Don’t Procrastinate
Putting everything off until the last minute sounds great in theory … but not so much in practice.

But, of course, it’s too late for me and as temptingly easy as flunking sounds, I’m supposed to avoid that, which means I need to actually try and complete all of the work instead of giving up, dropping out, and living in my parents basement for the rest of my life.

Which brings me to tip #2: Don’t Panic
It seems like a lot of work, sure, and that’s because it is. But it can be done as long as you don’t waste time spazzing out and dissolving into a puddle of tears.

I plan on saving time by skipping that part of the day when I’m usually laying curled up in a ball on my mattress, sleeping peacefully, and am instead replacing it with an eight hour study session.

Bringing me to tip #3: The All-Nighter
If you simply can’t find the time then make it yourself.

All-nighters are absolutely great and fantastic and I would totally recommend them, except for the fact that they’re horrible and awful and completely unhealthy.

On the other hand, desperate times call for desperate measures. Staying up all night does accomplish the one thing that I need it to, which is giving me the extra hours required to finalize my homework. However, there’s a reason that humans sleep as much as they do, and foregoing that isn’t easy. Special measures must be taken in order to survive.

So, tip #4: Acquire Caffeine
Depriving oneself of sleep for twenty-four hours or more cannot be accomplished without this gift from the heavens.

Obtaining caffeine is something that requires at least a little forethought. My dorm has a vending machine in the basement that provides me with all the Mountain Dew and chocolate I could possibly pay for. I’m going to go load up on supplies and come back to my room to prepare for a long night.

Tip #5: Make a Plan
Before starting the night, make sure that you have a plan to follow while you’re still coherent enough to construct one.

While I’m planning out my night, I list my assignments in order of importance and difficulty. My best work will get done at the beginning of the night and so the assignments that will be graded more thoroughly or are worth a higher percentage of my grade will be completed first.

Time for tip #6: Set Alarms
All college students know how to set an alarm that will wake them up for class. This is like that but more frequent and, if possible, more annoying.

At times like these I use the clock app on my iPhone to set an hourly alarm to go off just in case I do happen to fall asleep. I also make sure to never set it to my favorite song since whatever tune I do select will soon be the target of uncontrollable anger and frustration. One of my alarms will, undoubtedly, prove useful and wake me up from an unplanned slumber.

And when this happens, it’s okay because…

Tip #7: Take a Nap
Dozing off for a measly 10 minutes can actually do wonders for your mind and body. It’s healthier to have these short periods of rest and can help you to focus and get back on track.

I typically allow myself to nod off a couple of times during the night so that I can rejuvenate and start fresh with an extra little boost. I’m careful to add an extra alarm if and when this happens as opposed to staying awake and finding that I’m accomplishing little to nothing in the way of progress.

Welcome to tip #8: Stand and Stretch
Though short naps are a good idea, too many can defeat the purpose. If you just had a nap and you’re already pillowing your head on your arms and drooling all over your notebook, then get up and move.

I often find that standing up, walking in a circle, and sitting back down can make a bigger difference than I ever thought could be possible. Sometimes, if I’ve become too comfortable in a certain place, I also like to pack up and move locations. If my chair is uncomfortable it makes it that much harder to fall asleep.

Tip #9: Finish
If you go through the process of putting your mind and your body through hell do yourself a favor and finish your homework. No regrets.

I find that this ultimate challenge takes a certain level of determination, but there is extreme satisfaction in feeling as though I have done the impossible. Actually finishing all of the work instills not only pride in myself for the amount of effort I’ve given but also an enormous sense of relief. This is the only good thing that comes from all of this trouble though, so if the work doesn’t get done, the weight of disappoint and despair is physically painful.

Finally, tip #10: Sleep the Next Day
No matter what happens, it is essential that you get some sleep the next day. All-nighters are helpful when facing deadlines but they don’t make you invincible. You will crash eventually, so make sure it’s in your own bed and not somewhere…inconvenient.

Whenever I pull an all-nighter I save time the next day to nap. Whether I have to skip a club meeting or a lunch date, sleep is essential to my well-being and it’s not something that I can simply put-off.

While all-nighters are always a reliable way to solve the problem of a crushing workload, it’s important to remember that they are a last resort and not something that should happen often. Sleep does recharge the brain and improve the likelihood of doing well on assignments and exams. So, morale of the story, don’t be a fool but if you simply can’t help it or you have no other choice in the matter, then you might as well do it right.


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