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The 11 Stages of an All-Nighter


They are the worst part of the college experience; they are the most dreaded nights of the school year; they are the distress-wracked hours of studying until your brain turns to mush. They are all-nighters. While entirely avoidable for the lucky souls who are superb time-managers, most college students lack the available hours in a university day to steer clear of all-nighters altogether, especially come midterms or finals. So we must suffer through them. Semester after semester, a paper that seems unconquerable before sunrise makes its way into our stress-ridden lives. But we somehow endure the many stages of these trying times (likely due to the buckets of coffee we consume).

1. Preparing for Hell

Settling into your study spot of choice with the sad knowledge that you are about to endure an all-nighter is one of the worst parts. You look in the glass of your sleeping computer screen and take in your reflection. Your hair is decently put together, your face is matte, your eyes are lacking dark circles. But you know that this is all going to disappear. You say goodbye to your peace of mind and your admirable reflection as you boot up your computer and dreadfully get to work.

2. ​Making Friends With the Clock

As you pick up momentum and keep working, you can't help but notice how the minutes are ticking by. You've only been working a mere couple hours, but your deadline is inching closer by the minute. The thought of reaching sunrise with an unsatisfying product, or worse, an unfinished one, lingers in your mind as you vigorously attempt to make progress. You notice that you've been glancing at the time in the corner of your laptop screen nearly as much as you've been looking at your work.

3. Social Media Binge #1

You've been at it for hours, and you just need a dose of reality! Or the reality of social media addiction. You say you'll just check Twitter and Instagram for a five-minute break, but that small break turns into a half hour. And before you know it, you're on the verge of typing netflix.com into your browser. Another little break couldn't hurt, right? No! It very well could hurt. Resist the urge to "Continue Watching"!

4. Caffeine Refill

Your first cup of coffee is long gone, and you need a reboot. It may be nearly midnight, but when it comes to all-nighters, all proper hours for drinking caffeinated beverages fly out the window (much like motivation). You're going to royally mess up your sleep schedule anyways, so really, what's another few ounces of coffee?

5. Sudden Rush of Early-Morning Motivation

For a rare and beautiful moment, pointless posts on social media and your dreamlike haze of thinking about your crush have finally left your mind, and your full attention is somehow redirected to your schoolwork. Maybe the caffeine kicked in in just the right way, but suddenly it's two in the morning and you've actually accomplished a solid chunk of work. You feel pride kick in for a glimmering moment, just before it disappears forever, only to be replaced by stage six:

6. Utter Despair

It sinks in that you're only about halfway done with the vast amount of work you have to accomplish before your deadline. This is without a doubt a glass-half-empty situation. And as you realize that you have five hours left, it suddenly seems like you have five minutes left. You let out a small fear tear before resting your head on the table. 

7. Accidental Nap

"I'll just rest my eyes for a moment," you think. "I just need a break for 10 minutes." Your heavy eyelids take a break, as does your achy head, and you allow your pitiful self to sulk onto the uncomfortable desk in what somehow feels like the most glorious nap you've ever experienced. When your alloted time is up, it has suddenly become impossible to lift yourself back up and get back to work. The thought of continuing on with this hellish ordeal of an all-nighter is almost reducing you to tears again. You keep your eyes closed, and when they open again, you realize you've wasted a precious 30 minutes. Cue utter despair again.

8. Brain Pudding

This particular stage is when the brain transforms to mush for a one- to three-hour period. Side effects include staring off into space, rereading single sentences 24 times until the meaning is somewhat absorbed and forgetting everything you ever learned. 

9. A Sunrise Life Contemplation

At this point you've been awake for so long that your assignment is moved to the back burner of your mind, and you begin to contemplate everything: the college education system, every detail of how your last relationship ended, the lyrics to "Eye of the Tiger." If you have a study buddy, at this point the two of you have had deeper conversations than one should have with a study buddy. By the morning light, the two of you nod in agreement to statements such as, "Whatever job I get, I just don't want to be controlled by the system, ya know?" and, "I wonder if I'll ever truly love again." This is the bonding, hipster-izing power of the all-nighter.

10. Final Surge

The hours have become minutes, and what was before a barren library inhabited only by late-night janitors and fellow night-owl students is starting to populate with the well-rested folk again. Your deadline is fastly approaching, and as you wrap up your final paragraphs, spell-checking and yawning, you feel a sense of relief floating over you. Sleep is finally near. You do one last sweep over the final product of the horrid hours you just endured, and you hit "submit."

11. Sleep

There is arguably no greater feeling than closing out of tabs and shutting down a computer after a long night of work. As the computer goes to sleep, as you soon will, you get another glance at your reflection. Frazzled hair, oily skin, dark circles, and a look of utter defeat stare back at you. You slam your laptop shut on the poster child of college stress and trudge back to the heaven of the comforter/mattress pad/pillow combination awaiting your return.

This is your reminder to stay on top of your syllabi. For if you fail, these stages of despair await.

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