Have you ever had to ‘pull an all-nighter’?
Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men will sometimes go wrong and this can then leave us massively behind on our work..
In other cases, it’s not even our fault. Sometimes we have no choice but to stay up, such as when we want to catch a flight, or when we’re tending to a newly born baby. Or how about the times when we actually choose to stay up? Either because we’re doing a crazy all-night party, or because we’re waiting up to watch our favorite show.
Maybe it’s mandated by work.
Or maybe you just love those hours of the day when everyone else is asleep and you can work or relax uninterrupted.
Whatever the case, sometimes we stay up late. And it’s hard.
So, here’s how to stay up all night without constantly nodding off or looking like an absolute zombie in the morning…
Tip number one is to prepare for your all-nighter in advance. This won’t always be possible if you don’t know that you have the all-nighter coming, but when you do, you can make things a little easier on yourself by napping during the day. Better yet, just make sure that you get the best night’s sleep possible in order to help yourself push through.
Although it’s not quite as simple as all that. If you want to get technical and really help your body to get the advantage, then you should consider altering your body clock as well. Our body works in rhythms and cycles which are dictated by our hormones, that in turn controlled by various external and internal factors. Everything from what and when you eat, to how much time you spend outdoors will help to set your body clock and determine when you’re most likely to be tired.
So, while it pays to get more sleep the night before to help yourself stay awake longer the next day, it will also pay to try and go to bed later and sleep in longer. This way, your body clock will be slightly ‘shifted’ to a later time, meaning that you should find going to bed later comes just a little more naturally.
Another trigger that helps our body to regulate its circadian rhythms (the technical term for sleep cycles), is food. When we eat our last meal of the day, this triggers the release of serotonin which later converts to melatonin – the sleep hormone. For this reason, football teams that are travelling overseas for games will actually alter the timings of their meals, starting several days before, in order to fix their sleep/wake cycles. For your part, try eating later and eating less in order to fight those sleep signals.
When you’re trying to hack any system, you start by thinking about the inputs. The human brain has multiple inputs, starting with light. The brain considers light a signal that it’s day time. And in particular, the brain responds to blue light, which is more similar to sunlight in terms of the wavelength. This triggers the release of cortisol and removes melatonin.
And the best part, is that you can get lamps from companies such as Lumie which are specifically designed to emulate light from the sun.
Likewise, if you do have the luxury of having a lie in the day before, try keeping the room as dark as possible until you have to wake up!
If you’re a shift worker or if you travel with work often, then you may find yourself regularly having to adapt to unusual sleep cycles. In this case, you may wish to consider consulting with our doctor about pharmaceutical assistance.
For instance, the medication ‘modafinil’ is a prescription-only drug that is used by narcoleptic patients as well as night shift workers and others that have to work unusual hours. Modafinil has no noted long-term side-effects but it also lacks any long-term studies. Discuss with your doctor if you are interested but do consider natural options first.
Of course, for those that don’t want to go as far as modafinil but are still looking for something that can how to stay up all night, then the classic option is caffeine. Try to drink caffeine consistently spaced out throughout the night and you should find it helps to keep your mind fresh. Caffeine works by blocking the action of adenosine which can otherwise build up and make you feel groggy and sleepy. This is why we struggle to concentrate as it gets later and we get tireder – and caffeine can help to prevent that from being an issue.
Note that there are certain points during the night which are likely to be harder. 4am is the trickiest time for most of us as this is when the body is usually at its most asleep. This would be a good time to prepare your next brew!
Likewise, think about the things that you should be avoiding. In particular, that means alcohol which is a depressant and will make you feel much tireder and groggier while putting your brain to sleep.
Another trick for those that will be skipping sleep regularly is to try the Uberman schedule. This is essentially an entirely different sleep routine that involves sleeping in six short blocks of 20 minutes, spaced out throughout the day. This is a form of ‘polyphasic sleep’ and reportedly can provide enough restoration to help you feel fully rested, despite the significantly shorter amount of time that you will actually be sleeping.
It’s not easy but it’s worth giving a shot!
Finally, try not to focus too much on your tiredness or think too much about the sleep you are missing. Tiredness from lack of sleep is a real phenomenon but it is made worse by stress and by focussing on it. Keep positive and don’t pay attention to the symptoms and they won’t bother you as much!