Staying up super late or pulling an all-nighter can be serious business. From studying for a big exam to catching middle-of-the-night flights, whether it's late-night parties and events or working the graveyard shift, there are plenty of reasons why someone may have to forgo their typical bedtime and tough it out into the wee hours.
The internal clocks of our bodies are programmed to respond to light with wakefulness and to darkness with drowsiness. Keeping the lights up high and exposing your body to a bright environment can temporarily fool your system into thinking it's not ready for bed just yet.
While you may be tempted to gulp down four shots of espresso, that is not the smartest way to consume caffeine when you're in it for the long haul. Instead, drink smaller cups of coffee and space them out evenly throughout the night. That way, you will maintain alertness over a longer stretch of time, rather than crashing midway through the night or being unable to sleep when you finally get to lay your head down and rest. This is especially important for overnight shift work, last minute study sessions, and any all-nighters that require you to exhibit a consistent level of energy and endurance over the course of an evening.
Being dehydrated tends to make people sleepier, so do your best to keep the waters coming. Drinking ice cold water also refreshes your system from exposure to the chilly temperature, as opposed to consuming warmer drinks that make you want to settle down and get cozy. If you'll be drinking anything with caffeine (including soda), follow up that dose with a glass of water every time.
Lean meats and proteins are best to eat when you're staying up late, since those stimulate the neurotransmitter, orexin, that increases wakefulness. Fruits contain a lot of water, so they'll keep you hydrated and help prevent drowsiness. As an added benefit, chewing is associated with wakefulness, and causes your body to release insulin which in turn keeps you awake. Remember to keep your snacks light and not stuff yourself, as a full stomach will only make you more tired.
An oldie but a goodie, feel free to jolt your body awake by splashing cold water on your face if you can. Doing a quick physical activity like jumping jacks, push-ups, or pacing around the room is a great way to keep yourself from nodding off and your body from getting too comfortable. Try to keep yourself busy and your mind engaged. Really focus on whatever it is you're doing, whether it's writing an essay under pressure or doing an ambitious puzzle to kill time. If you're at a late-night event, move around often, mingle with different people, and try to really listen to what it is a new person is saying to keep your mind active.
Avoid sitting in cozy chairs or couches; and whatever you do, stay away from your bed! Your body will take your comfortable environment as a signal that it's time to snooze, and make it all the more difficult to stop yourself from dozing off. Even if you'd normally study on your bed, pick a new place just for that night - preferably one with a hard chair that has a straight backing.
It takes energy for your body to digest, which is why big meals and heavy carbs make you sleepy. Eating candy and other junk foods with a lot of sugar will give you an initial sugar rush, but will leave you with a crash after the sugar works its way through your system.
While you may be tempted to read a book or listen to your favorite music, unless it's uptempo and you're able to listen to it quite loud, avoid doing anything that might signal to your brain that you're relaxing. Don't take calming baths, don't light aromatherapy candles, and don't do a crossword puzzle if you'd normally do those things right before bed.
If you're able to anticipate an all-nighter, first of all, lucky you. You're in a perfect position to bank some sleep! Having a nap before the evening hits, or at some point in the afternoon is a great way to extend how long you'll be able to stay up into the night without really feeling tired. Just try to restrict any napping beforehand to under two hours.
This one is not for the weak-willed, but taking a short nap (between 20 to 30 minutes) every few hours can be an effective way to slowly maintain your energy throughout the night. To prevent yourself from waking up and feeling super sluggish, try drinking a single cup of coffee before you go to nap, so the caffeine hits your system just as you're waking up.