UMass students talk about the classic college all-nighter

By Veronica Stracqualursi

College students are all too familiar with the concept of an “all-nighter.”

UrbanDictionary.com defines an “all-nighter” as “ditching sleep to spend several more hours cramming for tests, only to notice that you’ve drooled on your desk in front of the class the next day.”

Whether it’s cramming for tomorrow’s test or busting out that final paper that’s been assigned for weeks, it may be tempting to witness the sunrise through tired eyes, fatigued hands reaching for another caffeinated beverage— all in the name of last-minute preparation.

At the University of Massachusetts, there are those who sleep, and then there are those who sleep after the deadlines are over.

UMass resource economics major Tyler Besse said he pulls all-nighters often just for good measure. Besse and his friend David Joy, whom Besse calls the “king of all-nighters,” have a tradition they call “Morrill Monster Mayhem.” Besse and Joy stock up on Monster energy drinks, head to the Morrill Science Center and study there all night.

“If I’m going to stay up all night, I’m going to make the most of it,” Besse said.

Jeff Mitchell, a UMass marketing and English double major, doesn’t often use this strategy.

“While it can be helpful, I find myself more productive going to bed early and waking up early,” Mitchell said.

Although it is only three weeks into the semester, some have already started the all-night study sessions.

“Last night I did one. I stayed up doing economic homework,” said junior economics major Lan Jiang.

Some use all-nighters to get a head start on their work. Nick Pietila, a senior at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, recently stayed up to do his math homework that isn’t due until October.

For some students, however, pulling an all-nighter has never been in the agenda,
In all four years of college, senior journalism major Samantha Gillis has never pulled an all-nighter.

“I’ve never done one before because I like to sleep. I don’t usually put myself in a position where I would have to,” said Gillis.

When Janelle Bourgeois was an undergraduate, it was always writing papers that kept her up late. Now that Bourgeois is a graduate student at UMass, she’s changed her habits.

“You can try doing [all-nighters], but you won’t get as far as you need to,” she said.

UMass psychology professor Rebecca Spencer studies cognitive neuroscience, specifically,how sleep affects memory and cognition. She argues that all-nighters are not the best option.

What Spencer said she sees is a lot of students over-sleeping and missing their exams because they are so sleep-deprived.

“That time that you’re cramming in information, your brain is already at capacity, so you’re cramming it in very inefficiently,” Spencer said. “Sleep is actually helping you, especially if you want to learn the information, particularly for the long-run.”

Spencer recommends a minimum of three to five hours of sleep if you are crunched for time, so you can cycle through all of the different sleep stages.

Spencer said that pulling all-nighters has several consequences for your health and mental state. Problems include trouble focusing, trouble paying attention and fatigue. Those who are sleep-deprived are more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu. When this happens, your body has difficulty adjusting your body temperature, which would explain the shivers you may experience during the day. Also, you start craving fatty foods, making you more likely to reach for a bag of Doritos rather than an apple.

“The all-nighter might have some benefits in the short run when you get to class the next day and you’re going to know the answers in that short time,” said Spencer.

But, Spencer stressed, if you have that cumulative final, you are going to truly benefit from getting your sleep.

Veronica Stracqualurs can be reached at [email protected]