It seems as though the one skill at which every student excels is procrastination. It’s our best friend on a Saturday night when we have the choice between hanging out with friends or going to ECL, and our worst enemy the day before an exam. While some of us choose to call it a night and hit the sack after a long day of studying, others stock up at Sheetz to prepare for hours of cramming in the 24-hour lab. For the typical student, the dreaded ‘all-nighter’ consists of numerous coffees, Red Bulls, and anything fatty to keep us energized. Although many have proven this to be a reliable method, there may be a better alternative to conquer the fatigue and avoid the crash.
Research in the field of biological rhythms shows that our sleep and wake cycles are influenced by the circadian rotations of the earth. Disrupting these cycles can be risky, but if you find you are left with no other option than to make your own biological rhythms for the night, having a better understanding of what’s going on with your mind and body and how to fuel them as they struggle to adapt may be helpful in pulling a successful all-nighter that minimizes risks.
While I won’t go into a complete hour-by-hour analysis of what’s happening to your body’s natural rhythms throughout the night, (although it can be found here: http://oldgoldandblack.com/?p=13760), here are a few suggestions regarding how to fuel your body during an all-nighter:
– Before you begin your all-night journey, avoid a fast food meal and have a well-balanced dinner.
– As you get hungry throughout the night, snack on light, crunchy foods. Research shows that the chewing motion can help your brain stay alert. Some good snacks include pretzels, nuts, granola, carrots, and rice cakes.
– Sugary foods may give you an energy rush for a little while, but they can eventually make you feel drowsy. Try not to binge on them throughout the night.
– One of the main reasons a “crash” can occur is because of dehydration. Drink lots of water.
– Coffee is not the enemy, but try not to overdo it. Too much of something is never a good thing. Try replacing some of your coffee cravings with hot teas or juices.
– Apples have been shown to help regulate blood sugar and keep it stable. Try munching on an apple or having a glass of apple juice to help stabilize your blood sugar and stay awake longer.
– Still feeling thirsty? Try some chocolate milk! It provides both sugar and caffeine (but not too much).
– Between 2 and 3 a.m., before your ‘second wind’ has kicked in, you may start to feel hungry again. Just because it’s morning hours, doesn’t mean it’s time for breakfast so don’t indulge in an E-hall, buffet-style meal. Have some yogurt, cheese, fruits, or vegetables instead.
– Around sunrise, grab a light breakfast consisting of carbs, protein, or both. Try to avoid the doughnuts and McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches; all that fat takes a while to digest and can leave you feeling sluggish.
– Before your exam, have a low-fat, high protein meal. An omelet is an excellent choice.
– Once your test is over, feel free to indulge in those carbs you’ve been thinking of all night as you prepare yourself for some much needed sleep.
Next time you find yourself left with half of a textbook to read and only a night to do it, try replacing some bad all-nighter habits with the suggestions above. While they may not work for everyone, they just might work for you!