How to Pull an All-Nighter

I’d like to hit off three big points before getting into this list. First, I’m not a doctor; second, a lot of my information is anecdotal or otherwise drawn from sources so long ago that I do not remember the correct links; third, I strongly recommend you avoid all-nighters whenever and however possible. Your brain needs long periods of regular sleep and staying up until the sunrise can seriously mess you up for several days.

Step One: Stay hydrated. This might seem a bit odd, but trust me, water helps. Your brain is going to need something to focus on if you’re not doing work and staying well hydrated through the period of strain can keep you more alert and able to stay awake. You might be tempted to drink coffee, caffeinated teas, or soda. Don’t. Save those for the early morning hours when you really need them because 5am will be the longest, bleakest hour of your night. Staying up will put a strain on your heart as well as your mind.

Step Two: Acquire snacks. We’ve probably all experienced some late night hunger before; you’re up late watching a movie or studying and you get this urge to eat. That’s your body trying to replace the energy its not used to you expending. However, along with the fatigue of staying up all night, your body will not be able to process what you eat as well. You’ll be missing nutrition. So, my solution is to find something you can munch on in controlled intervals that is both filling and high in nutritional value. Things like cheese sticks or energy bars are a good idea; maybe even a homemade trail mix. The point is, be prepared to eat.

Step Three: Have something to do. This is the easiest task as, more often than not, it is the something that needs doing which keeps us up at night. Insomnia is also a factor, but it tends to affect fewer people. Staying up past your normal sleeping habits will impair your thinking, even if you ignored step one and drank a stupid amount of coffee, temporarily feeling more awake does not improve the working of your mind at three in the morning. If you’re staying up to study for a test, just don’t do it. You won’t remember anything tomorrow morning and your recall will be worse. The brain codes information while you sleep, having about three good nights of sleep before a test day will be more helpful than powering through seven cups of coffee the night before.

Step Four: Strategic napping is your best friend. Assuming you’ve made it to the following dawn, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, if you aren’t feeling the aches and pains now you will in about an hour; two, you’ve just been awake for about 24 hours and your body is understandably ready to quit on you; and three, you probably have something you don’t want to be late for. Plan your dismount in advance and know that whatever alarm you have might not be powerful enough to wake you. It would suck a fat one if you spent all that effort for nothing.