Students scramble to prepare for exams as finals week inches closer. On the night before an exam, many students try and cram all the information they can absorb, hoping for top marks.
How much does an all-nighter affect a student’s performance? Some might earn high marks on their exams where others perform poorly.
According to Oxford Academic, some people are better suited to pull all-nighters than others. The study tested the mental performance of 32 individuals while they were well-rested against their performance after not sleeping for 39 hours.
The study showed that all participants performed worse while sleep deprived. However, cognitive performance varied between every participant. Scientists determined through blood tests that some people are genetically predisposed to handle long nights better than others.
The blood tests revealed participants’ microRNAs, which help regulate gene expression, altered as a result of the experiment. The study could not conclude whether the alteration resulted from sleep deprivation alone or a combination of sleep deprivation and stress.
“I think some students have an easier time pulling all-nighters because they do it more often,” said Melissa Austin, a freshman studying elementary education. “My sister does it every other night. She somehow finds the motivation to get it done, I guess.”
Kyle De Vera, a junior studying biology, said he reserves all-nighters for heavier classes.
He pulls all-nighters only to refresh his memory.
“I do well on tests, but I doubt it’s because I tried to learn everything the night before,” De Vera said.
Dora Ramos, a senior studying public health, said it’s best to know some of the material before deciding to pull an all-nighter.
“If you don’t know at least some of what you’re studying, you’re better off just sleeping that night,” Ramos said.
It’s possible that students have harder times with tests based on the subject material.
“It might depend on the type of material you’re asked to learn,” said Kyle Dickson, a wellness coach in the Wellness Center and a junior studying exercise physiology. “Apart from that, someone’s overall health and physical state could factor into that as well.”
Dickson said students who maintain a balanced diet and get adequate sleep most nights are better prepared for all-nighters.
“As a wellness coach I’d recommend not pulling an all-nighter,” Dickson said. “But if you absolutely have to, you’re probably looking at some form of caffeine to help stay awake. When picking your beverage, try to find something that’s sugar-free, so you don’t crash later.”
Dickson recommends studying in 30-minute chunks and having snacks on-hand to help stay focused.
“Chunking helps you to form memories a little bit better, and taking time to get up and walk around will keep you awake longer than sitting for hours on end,” Dickson said.
Regardless of how students feel going into a test the next day, performance can also be improved through other means.
“Make sure you’re hydrated and fed before taking a test,” Dickson said. “Eliminating distractions, like hunger, can make a big difference in your performance.”
The Wellness Center and Counseling Center both recommend avoiding late nights, if possible. Try to get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, and plan accordingly for finals.