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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Sleep is essential and wonderful. But sometimes you’ve gotta make like Lionel Richie and stay up all night long. Pulling an all-nighter is harder than it sounds. It works against your body’s natural instincts. Here’s how to do it safely.
Your body relies on circadian rhythms to know what’s what. Consider them your internal clock. The rhythms impact how you think, feel, and act based on the time of day. Resetting the clock can take some time.
An all-nighter is a marathon, not a sprint. A full night of no sleep takes practice. You’ll feel extremely tired at first. So, be sure to give yourself a few days for your body to make the shift.
Caffeine’s a stimulant. A single serving can provide a solid energy boost and may even improve your concentration and performance abilities.
A 2001 review of studies showed that caffeine should be enjoyed in moderate doses. Four cups of joe a day — about 600 milligrams — should do the trick.
If you overindulge in higher doses, it can backfire. Too much of a caffeinated thing, and you might be in for a night of the shakes, anxiety, and irritability.
Be sure to spread your caffeine intake into small doses throughout the night. Try caffeinated gum, caffeine pills, or occasional espresso shots to help you avoid an upset tummy and the jitters.
Energy drinks may seem like an easy shortcut to all-night alertness. But the dangers far outweigh the benefits.
Caffeine levels in energy drinks vary, and too much caffeine can be toxic. It’s hard to figure out how much you’re actually getting. One energy drink can contain the caffeine equivalent of 1 to 5 cups of coffee, putting you at risk for a caffeine overdose.
A lot of energy drinks may also contain guarana. In excess doses, guarana can lead to:
- an upset stomach
- heart palpitations
Energy drinks can be even more dangerous when they’re mixed with drugs or alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2011, over 20,000 people went to the ER thanks to energy drinks.
Naps are the bomb. Sure, they’re not as powerful as a full night’s sleep, but short naps can restore your system and keep you fresh.
A review of studies showed that naps helped decrease tiredness and increase the performance of participants who worked night shifts. Try squeezing in 15 to 20 minutes of sweet Zzz’s when you can.
Exercise is a great way to boost your daytime energy. It also keeps your sleep schedule on track. But a late-night sweat sesh can lead to insomnia. That’s why the National Institute on Aging doesn’t recommend working out at night.
So, if you’re looking to kickstart an all-nighter, a workout might help. A 30- to 40-minute aerobic sesh can get your heart pumping and increase your energy.
Not up for hardcore cardio? Get your body moving another way. Take a walk, pace around your living or workspace, or get a few jumping jacks in. As long as you keep the blood flowing, it should help.
When it gets dark, your body starts to release the sleep hormone melatonin, making you feel sleepy. Keeping it bright will trick your body into thinking it’s daytime, which will help reverse your normal sleep patterns.
One 2001 study of night-shift workers found that the participants could reset their circadian rhythms by switching up their lights.
One way you can do this is by using lamps with bright LED bulbs at night. These bulbs can create a daylight effect, which may help you to stay awake.
And if you need to sleep during the day, make sure your room is dark. If you don’t have blackout curtains, shop for a sleep mask online.
Blue light can make it harder to slay sleep. Your fave devices emit it, including your phone, tablet, TV, or computer. Blue light delays your body’s release of melatonin, hindering your sleep.
But if your goal is to stay up, try to get some extra screen time. Play a game on your tablet, watch your latest Netflix binge on your laptop, or scroll through social media.
Pro tip: Keep your device close to your face for maximum effect. The closer the blue light, the more awake you’ll be.
A refreshing cold or lukewarm shower can help you shake off sleepiness and stay alert. You can also splash your face with cold water for a similar effect. Another way to feel revived (and minty fresh!) is to brush your teeth.
Sleep is vital for a healthy body and mind. One late night isn’t something to worry about. But regular all-nighters can negatively impact your overall well-being.
The risks of sleep deprivation include:
- weight gain
- heart disease
- a loss of judgment
- hormonal changes
To lower these risks, be sure to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
Sleep deprivation can affect your focus and ability to learn or retain information. It can also be dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 72,000 car accidents happened in 2013 because of “drowsy driving.”
If you have to drive through the night, be sure to put rest stops to good use. Take a power nap and get refreshed so that you can arrive at your destination safely.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” might seem like a good mantra. But catching up on sleep isn’t as easy as it sounds. The less you snooze, the more you lose.
All-nighters can throw a long-term wrench in your sleep cycle. One study found that it takes 4 days to recover from just 1 hour of lost sleep.
Losing sleep on the reg can lead to “sleep debt.” That’s the difference between the actual amount of sleep you get vs. the amount you should get. And just like the interest on those student loans, sleep debt becomes more difficult to pay off as it builds.
Here are some ways to get your sleep back *NSYNC*:
- Get more sleep for the next 1 to 2 nights.
- Set an earlier bedtime in the days that follow your all-nighter.
- Sneak in an early afternoon power nap. Shoot for 20 minutes or less.
- Don’t sleep in. If you need some extra REM, limit it to an additional 2 hours to help prevent more disruptions to your cycle.
All-nighters should be avoided when possible. But if you do have to crush a late-night, be sure to keep it healthy. Don’t overdo the caffeine and avoid energy drinks. You can also try a power nap. And be sure to give your body a few days to bounce back.