The seven stages of pulling an all-nighter

October 12, 2015
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That major assignment worth 70 per cent is due tomorrow and you haven't started. So, you've decided to pull an all-nighter. It's a risky move, but a courageous one. Here are some of the twists and turns you can expect.


After double-checking the course outline, it's been confirmed. Non-redeemable, hurdle-requirement, no extensions. Tomorrow morning is the deadline, and there’s no way out.  

Knowing there’s so much work to do that you literally can't sleep can be pretty daunting, but you're up for the challenge. In fact, you're still thinking one long night might actually be better than a few hours each day for a week leading up to the due date. (You’re wrong, though.)


Hey, this isn't so bad - kind of peaceful, actually. You’re so productive and so dedicated to your study that you're willing to stay up all night. In fact, you might almost have too much time!

Since the night is still so young, a quick status update Facebook couldn't hurt. Once that's done, it's nothing but work from here on in. After all, your books are already nicely laid out, so it’d be a waste not to. Plus, someone else in your class might see it, take pity on you and send you their notes.


“Maybe just a quick nap?” you think to yourself. No! You struggle to get up in the morning, let alone in the middle of the night to do work.

Depending on the assignment and how bad the punishment is for late submission, sometimes it might actually be better to take a late penalty so you can spend more time on your work. The reality is, though, that you probably won't do any better, and it's better to just accept your fate and get writing.

After a quick agreement with yourself to be more organised from now on, you settle in knowing you've got all night. Feeling good, you've created a new document and written a title. It’s really cracking along!


Just a quick check of that Facebook post you made earlier, followed by a sneaky stalk of everyone who liked it. After that, you promise there will be no more distractions.

At this time of night, unfortunately, you’re discovering how fascinating every other thing in the world besides your assignment is. Maybe you should fail this and pursue your real dream of being a circus juggler – it’s probably your true calling anyway.


“Oh, God. What the hell have we been learning about? I think I'm going to quit. At least if I quit now I can go to bed.”

The urgency of the situation has hit home. Instead of working, though, you're just scrolling through Facebook slightly faster than usual hoping to find some amazing insight into the assignment.

As a last resort to stave off sleep, you hit the shower, soaking and hoping for inspiration.


The night is quiet. The next couple of hours are when you'll actually get the work done. As you approach the last few hundred words, birds start chirping. This disgusts you and makes you feel proud at the same time.

Caffeine levels are at an all-time high.


It's not great, but it's pretty good for a last-minute effort. You feel so good that you're thinking you might just stay up and have a productive day.

Staying up all night is actually exhausting, though. Some people say, “Just power through the next day – it's better not to sleep.” Those people haven’t pulled all-nighters. Any sleep before your next commitment is glorious.

So, will you leave your work until the last minute again? 

Sam Talbot

Sam Talbot is a law and media student at the University of Adelaide. He highly values all-day breakfasts. Twitter with him @SamTalbot5.

Image: Leo Hidalgo, Flickr Creative Commons license