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How To Stay Focused When Studying All Night

Let’s face it: having to study all night isn’t a fun idea. Especially if you’ve just had a long day at school or your part-time job. To pull an all-nighter, no matter how convinced you are that you’re used to it, will almost always involve a battle of willpower. Should I stay awake and review my notes? Or should I give in to the invitation of my bed sheets?

I also used to struggle with staying focused during exam reviews. I’m relieved that I no longer have to put up with endless lecture notes and an impossible study schedule. But if you’re trying to ace your test by studying all night, I’ve picked up a few hacks to share with you.

Girl resting her elbow on a stack of books and pointing to a clock.

Tips On Staying Focused When You Study All Night

Try these hacks when you want to study all night but don’t like being distracted by sleepiness or other diversions.

1. Stay Hydrated 🧴

Dehydration can sometimes cause mental fatigue and sleepiness. In fact, research has revealed that mild to moderate levels of dehydration affects short-term memory and concentration. That’s on top of impairing your mathematical ability and even alertness and perception 1, which are necessary for acing your exams.

Drinking water and other beverages can lubricate the rusty gears in your brain to make it work more efficiently. Hence, downing a glass of water regularly between study breaks is necessary.

2. Move Your Limbs 🚶

Movement is one of the oldest tricks that energize you for a series of evening study sessions. You don’t necessarily need to pull off a set of jumping jacks or push-ups. All you need is to shake up your body a bit to keep it awake and alert.

If you can’t take a 30-minute break to have a short walk, doing some stretching exercises will do. Pull out of your desk for a few minutes to stir up your legs and arms.

3. Practice Proper Study Posture 👩‍💻

No matter how tempting it is to lie on your stomach and study in your bed, don’t fall for it. It’s a trap that will ruin your chances of staying focused all night. Even lying down on your back isn’t advisable because the tendency to fall asleep is high.

Sit upright. According to science, those who study at their desks by sitting upright don’t feel sleepy 2. This will significantly increase your alertness, and you’ll stay more focused when reviewing.

4. Clear Your Study Area of Clutter 📚

I don’t know about you, but a tidy study table is a huge turn-on for me when reviewing my notes for exams. It gives me a clear-mind vibe that helps me digest every piece of information I need to memorize.

On the contrary, a messy study area is a recipe for disaster. There are items nearby that will distract you from focusing on your notes. You’re also likely to have the urge to clean them up, which might significantly reduce your study time.

5. Use A Study Lamp 💡

I also prefer to study with a desk lamp at night. Poor lighting can cause eye strain, which might lead you to postpone your readings to rest your eyes. 

If your room is already well-lit, ensure that your shadow doesn’t block the lighting, or it may give you headaches from eye fatigue.

6. Listen to Background Music 🎵

It might sound counterintuitive to your goal of staying focused, but for some people—myself included—background music helps align their concentration. Maybe it’s the beats or the melody, but they do wonders to my focus than when hearing static noise out of the silence in the room.

Interestingly, there’s a science to back up the benefits of listening to music while studying. It helps retain episodic memory or specific pieces of info at various times 3. Hence, it might increase your passing rate on that exam you’ve been preparing for!

7. Apply The Pomodoro Technique ⏲️

I like using my bullet journal in sync with my study habits. And to maximize my study time, I rely on the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management-slash-goal-buster wherein you divide your tasks into smaller chunks of 25 minutes each and take a five-minute break when the timer stops.

This method trains your mind to focus on a specific review topic and reward yourself with a short rest. I would write down in my bullet journal the chapters I needed to cover for my review and assign a 25-minute intensive focus on each topic.

To track your Pomodoros, you can use a desk timer or your reliable clock app. But be wary of using your mobile devices because you may get distracted. 

Overall, it feels nice to see my bullet journal spread with crossed-out items from my review list. It only means I’ve efficiently covered the topics I needed to study.

8. Join A Study Group 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

Do you often catch yourself nodding off during your study hours? Why not join a study group for a change?

This has become increasingly popular these days, and it’s all thanks to Zoom and similar real-time video calling apps. You can start a study group by sharing and asking for insights and explanations with your peers. This way, everyone gets stimulated to learn without the pressure of staying awake.

9. Avoid Sugary Snacks and Junk Foods 🍬🚫

When snacking, you should avoid sugary snacks and junk foods at all costs. These kinds of food only increase your blood sugar, which can make you feel sluggish 4.

Of course, you should still snack in between study sessions. You just need to eat wholesome grubs such as low-sugar fruit slices, avocado on wheat bread, nuts, and beans.

10. Use Apps For Staying Focused 📱

When I had to stay contactable for emergencies, I would leave my phone on airplane mode or “do not disturb”. This is because I didn’t want to get sucked into the rabbit hole of mobile distractions such as online games and social media.

But when I do need my phone, it’s whenever I use apps that help me stay focused on my study session. One good example is Forest, which is a gamified version of the Pomodoro bullet journal technique. Here, you plant a seed, and the tree will keep growing unless you exit the app.

The point of this app is to keep you from using your phone other than to help finish your study time concentration. Other apps that you can also try include Freedom and Minimalist.

Conclusion

While studying may not really be stimulating at all times, you can still ace this dreaded activity by following the hacks I listed to stay focused and help you study all night. In this article, you have learned tips for studying more efficiently at night and how to keep your concentration at its peak through digital-analog tools.

Share your own study tips in the comments!

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Sources

  1. Rev, N. 2010. Water, Hydration, and Health[]
  2. Muehlhan, M. et al. 2014. The effect of body posture on cognitive performance: a question of sleep quality[]
  3. Cournoyer Lemaire, E. 2019. The effect of background music on episodic memory.[]
  4. Blaisedell, A. 2014. Food quality and motivation: a refined low-fat diet induces obesity and impairs performance on a progressive ratio schedule of instrumental lever pressing in rats[]