Do you ever find yourself staying up until dawn, cramming for an exam or trying to finish an essay? For many people, all-nighters seem like an inevitable part of life. Although sometimes you may need the extra time to get stuff done, all-nighters are worse for your health than you may think.
The health impacts of all-nighters
All-nighters can cause a serious amount of long and short-term health problems, including:
- Weight gain
- Digestive problems
- Reduced ability to remember information
- Worse concentration
- Worse decision making
- Mood swings
How to avoid all-nighters
All-nighters are well worth avoiding if you can. Here are some top tips for staying on top of your time management and making all-nighters unnecessary:
Plan as far in advance as possible
As soon as you know when an assignment or essay is due, or when any other deadline is taking place, put it into your calendar. Planning ahead means you can know far in advance how much time you’ll need to put into different tasks, and will be able to spread out the work over a period of time.
Check your calendar every week
Once you make the calendar described above, check it regularly to make sure nothing falls under the radar.
Break down big tasks into smaller ones
Some tasks can be big and intimidating. This can make you postpone them until it’s too late and you’re forced to spend the whole night cramming. But calm down – if you identify smaller, easier actions that you can take to contribute towards the larger task, it will seem much more manageable and achievable.
Allocate enough time each week to tasks
If you know you have a big exam coming up, make sure you’re spending enough time each week studying for the exam. This will mean you won’t need to stay up late the night before cramming.
Ask for time off
If you're swamped with work and don't have enough time to do it, ask your lecturer, teacher or employer for a few hours off to get stuff done.
If you really can’t avoid an all-nighter
Sometimes an all-nighter might seem impossible to avoid. If there’s something that just has to be done for tomorrow and there’s no other time it can happen, here are some steps to take to make the all-nighter as healthy as possible:
Avoid a bad habit
Avoid making this a habit. The more frequently you pull an all-nighter, the more serious the long term health risks can be.
It may help you stay alert for a short time but will be worse in the long run. Eat natural energy filled food, such as peanuts, apples and vitamin C. Make sure you drink loads of water.
Take plenty of breaks. Walk around and get away from your computer regularly.
Try to get some sleep
Try to get some sleep at the end. Even if it’s only an hour or two, it’s better than none.
Know that some activities are dangerous when you're tired
If you're sleep deprived, it makes it more dangerous to do simple things like cooking. Avoid turning on the oven, and do not drive.
Try to get back into a routine as soon as possible
You will have built up a sleep debt – take back the sleep your missed as soon as possible and get into a good routine.