The Art of the All-Nighter

I’ve pulled an all-nighter every week this semester. I’m not proud of it, and I’m not happy about it, but it has happened.

Photo courtesy of Emily Akin / Gavel Media

Emily Akin / Gavel Media

Granted, I’ve not been up writing papers or anything. I’m the poor shmuck who works the overnight shift at the circulation desk in O’Neill library on Thursday mornings. Any time you need someone to talk to on Thursday between 3 a.m.-8 a.m., I’m your girl.

The all-nighter is a difficult thing to define. Does staying up until 4 a.m. count as an all-nighter? 5 a.m.? 6 a.m.? Do you have to go to class directly after the library for it to count? Does the sun have to rise?

Regardless, all of the above are miserable. I stand in solidarity with every procrastinating English major who has been pulling one long night after another this papers-week (it’s like finals week but worse).

My experience this semester has taken me to some low lows, and no ... no high highs. There have been hallucinations and there have been attempts to learn to sleep with my eyes open. It’s been a learning process, but I have finally perfected the art of the all-nighter. Since study days are upon us, here are seven tips that have saved me this semester:

1. Coffee is the Voldemort to your Harry Potter.

It is the devil. No, I’m not kidding. This was a hard thing for me to come to terms with, considering I can put away five to six cups of coffee in a typical day. But if you’re up past 10 p.m., stop drinking that devilish brew unless you want to turn into a manically shaking ball of jitters come 6 a.m. There is nothing worse than getting the cold sweats from caffeine when you’re trying to focus on putting in those damn footnotes.

Photo courtesy of Jayme Frye / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Jayme Frye / Flickr

2. Tea is the answer to your caffeine needs.

Just because you shouldn’t drink coffee doesn’t mean you have to eschew all sources of caffeine. Just try black tea or green tea so you’re taking in less of it. British people drink it, and British people know best.

3. Layers, layers and more layers.

Sometimes O’Neill is a tundra of ice and shivers. (Occasionally, during my 5:30 a.m. hallucinations, a penguin has waddled across the floor of the lobby and into the Reading Room.) Other times it’s like the god of the library, i.e. the heating system, decides to grace us with her powers and goes a little overboard. Dress for anything so you don’t end up falling asleep because you’re too warm, or losing a finger to hypothermia.

4. Electronic Music, but, like, the good kind.

You don’t want a sing-a-long that’s going to distract you from the fascinating world of gender theory or post-consumerism in modern day America. You also don’t want classical music that is going to leave you face down in a cubicle when I come around to do the 3 a.m. head count in O’Neill. Here’s a happy medium:

5. Snacks are good. Pizza is better.

I’m a firm believer in the power of pizza. Order pizza to the library and eat it outside or in the hallway near the old CTRC (#RIP). This place delivers until 5 a.m. but you need to order at least three items off the menu.

6. Go outside at regular intervals.

Cold air is amazing for waking you up. Do a lap around O’Neill plaza if you must. Walk around, play a quick game of hide and seek with friends, anything to keep you moving for 10 minutes.

7. A nap will do you wonders.

I’m not sure if this de-legitimizes the philosophical essence of the all-nighter, but whatever. Before my shift I usually sleep from 1 a.m.-2:30 a.m. in my own bed, NOT a cubicle, which really makes all the difference. I know this is hard if you live off campus, but find somewhere to sleep. The study room in Gasson, which is back now that St. Mary’s is open, is a great nap spot if you’re desperate.

Battle on, friends. We’re almost to the end.

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