All-nighters are an inevitable part of almost everyone’s academic, creative, and professional careers. OK, some people have the magical power to never procrastinate, and therefore never have to force themselves to keep their eyes open for hours and hours on end to cram, but we’re willing to wager that everyone (including you) has been awake waaaaay past midnight writing, studying, or just straight up CHEATING DEATH. Because we’ve all been there, or will be at some point, here is some of our easily replicated, totally sound (sound…not asleep, ha ha ha ha ha ha!) advice for getting all the way through a hard night’s night:
First, congratulate yourself on embarking on the same brave and noble journey as One Direction before you, although I’m not sure they were referring to writing an intelligent essay with unfuckwithable MLA sources ALL through it. I think they meant frenching, which, while excellent, WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR RIGHT NOW, HARRY—THIS IS DUE IN THE MORNING!!
Setting up for your own Midnight Memories (OK, I need to stop trying to shoehorn 1D into everything) is the most important part! When I’m writing all night, which is my preferred time to work, I need an entire pot of coffee or MAD diet Red Bullzzz. Also: so much water, and enough food so that I don’t get distracted or wacked out from hunger as I RACE THROUGH A THING, because once I hit my pace and approach my main point, I can’t let up. Staying up all night is not a super-kind thing to do to your body, so I try to remember to be conscious of my posture. Posting up somewhere clean and soothing makes all the difference—writing all night with clutter everywhere makes me feel a little haywire.
If your concentration falters, do something mindless and physical (folding clothes, organizing) with your notebook close at hand for when things start to come to you. You’ll be surprised the rapacity with which they will, girl almighty! (Man, I almost kept my 1D promise, but nah. Sorry!!)
I once read somewhere that for every hour you work, you should take a 10-minute break. So to keep myself awake and mentally ALIIIIVEEE, I rotate work with short intermissions. Sometimes I’ll do some jumping jacks. Other times, I’ll chase a cookie with four espresso shots—it just depends on my mood and the hour (by 2 AM, I’m more likely to take those precious few moments to cat nap).
To make writing more s*t*i*m*u*l*a*t*i*n*g, I use highlighters in every color of the neon rainbow, scented gel pens, regular pens in green and red—anything with a little pizazz. Stepping up your school/office supply game really does make a difference—you can dazzle yourself into staying (at least a little more) alert! And because I do most of my writing on my bed, which is where I sleep, I make sure it’s made and that there is all-around cleanliness and order in my room. Lots and lots of lamplight, plus candlelight for extra-good vibes, also helps keep me the heck awake.
Coffee and disco playlists! When used in tandem, they produce extra-invigorating results. Best for emergencies (like when it’s 3 AM and you’ve dawdled on Tumblr for too long).
SKITTLES + CHERRY COKE! Why, you ask? It’s all that sugar! Whenever I’m a designated driver, I wash down Skittles with Cherry Coke so I can stay alert while everyone else parties. The intense sugar combo will help keep you awake (and super chatty) whenever you have to burn the midnight oil!
I used to think the only things that could keep me zesty and energized for all-nighters were coffee and/or energy drinks. If it’s an absolute EMERG, I feel like it’s OK to resort to a preferred energy drink (mine is Rockstar). However, it is SO important to be aware of the exhausting and potentially dangerous effects these bevs can have on your bod when you drink them to excess. In my case, if I indulge for more than one night without a break, I end up feeling really sick. Luckily, my tendency for procrastination has helped me for once, because I’ve been able to experiment with some secret (OK, not so secret) healthy alternatives that I’ll let you in on…
While embarking on all-nighters, I’ve recently switched from downing energy drinks to sipping on chai and green tea, as well as coconut water. Both teas have the right amount of caffeine in them to keep me awake without turning me into a jittery Chihuahua. As for coconut water—I have no idea how it energizes me, but it’s just so yummy and it feels so good.
MOVIN’ your beautiful body when you feel like resting your head on your notebook/laptop/pillow will help get your blood flowing and make your body release endorphins. If you don’t feel like jumping around, try a couple easy yoga poses, like downward-facing dog or camel.
My extended family is Scandinavian, and it’s common to find them swimming in freezing water without a single complaint. Over the summer, my cousins and I hopped into a FREEZING lake in Colorado, and it woke us up 1,000 times more than any caffeinated beverage could have. The icy water made us super alert and only slightly numb. (Try this at home by rubbing an ice cube on your face or blasting yourself with your shower’s coldest setting for a few seconds, or as long as you can stand it.)
If you’re too sleepy to go on, play some Salt-N-Pepa or whatever tunes make you want to get up and jammmm. Then sit your bad self back down and kick that project or paper’s ass. If you’re too anxious to stay up, I suggest taking a moment to chill while listening to Native American flute music. (I emphasize a MOMENT, you guys—not 10 minutes. This music’s beauty will lull you to sleep.)
I believe in chocolate, coffee, support from friends, and the occasional breaks to take late-night walks. Also, DUH, Slurpees. I do not recommend taking ADHD pills or other drugs to stay up all night! It’s not worth it (and it’s risky). I tried it one time in high school, and I was up all night studying, but then I slept through my entire final the next day.
If I’m up all night working on something on my computer, I put the brightness on high and wear sunglasses—just to keep it silly. I also like to work while listening to music on cassette. I keep my tape player on the other side of the room so I have to get up and walk to flip the tape to the other side or change to a new tape. It forces me to take a pause to choose new tunes, and to get up and stretch my legs.
Drink water, lots of water! Staying hydrated helps keep me awake, and alleviates my lack-of-sleep headaches later on.
If I make it through the whole night, I treat myself to a very big, nutritious (ideally hot) breakfast. In terms of functioning the next day, it’s seriously worth it to stick it out for 20 more minutes to thank your body before you crash.
Put on a really bright light about a foot away from your desk or chair and read/work adjacent to it for 15 to 20 minutes! “Thought that was sun, huh? Tricked you, MIND.” —You ♦