Why You Should Probably Skip the All-Nighters This Exam Period

Every student knows the feeling.  It’s like the desire to succeed in school, though quiet all year, gains herculean strength every November – December or April – June as we anxiously begin to prepare for final exams. Suddenly it seems like the only way to avoid the F of your life, is to spend almost every waking (and non-waking) hour cramming your brain.

STOP – step away from that can of Red Bull. Before you down yet another 5 Hour Energy with a cocktail of caffeine capsules, you really should pause and consider whether studying all-night will truly give you the results you expect.

Remember That Sleep + Memory Connection Thing?

In my post “One Incredibly Simple Way to Boost Your Memory for Exams” I highlighted the great research of Notre Dame Psychologist Jessica Payne who reported that one of the best things you can do to ensure you retain what you read is to get some sleep shortly after studying.

From observing some 207 students the researchers found that students’ memories were far better when they had slept shortly after learning, rather than when they had a full day of being awake after learning.

The main (obvious) point was simply: to improve your recollection of what you study, aim to sleep shortly after studying.

“Since we found that sleeping soon after learning benefited…memory, this means that it would be a good thing to rehearse any information you need to remember just prior to going to bed. In some sense, you may be ‘telling’ the sleeping brain what to consolidate,” Payne stated.

So Do All-Nighters Make Sense?

It depends.

When to Skip: If you study all night and then go all day without sleeping. It may seem to have “worked” for you (meaning, you got by, got the grade and so forth) but you may be selling yourself short. Perhaps, you could do even better another way. According to the research, you remember much less than you expect by going all night, then going all day.

When its Ok: If you study all night – perhaps because it’s quieter – but get some sleep in the morning before starting the day, then maybe you will give your brain the power it needs to retain the data. [What we don’t know from Payne’s research is how much sleep is necessary after study to boost the memory. Can one hour do?]

Whether you study at day or night, if you can, discipline yourself and structure your time to finish studying just before bedtime. Don’t go burning the candle at both ends though (all night and all day). Treat your brain and body right and you will get better results.

Have all-nighters always worked out for you? Do you plan to adjust your strategy?


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