Whether you have a school paper due in the morning because you spent the whole week partying, or an early work deadline thanks to your overbearing boss, sometimes you have to burn the midnight oil and crank through to the morning. As a film editor myself, I sometimes had to be up for multiple days at a time to get a film finished on time. Because of the sporadic schedules of my job, I have learned a few tricks to keeping my eyes open all night.
If you know you have to be up one particular night, then do your best to get as much sleep as you can the day before. Eat healthy meals that won’t make you feel drowsy. Avoid simple carbs that affect your blood sugar levels and make you crash. Stick to proteins and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and drink a good amount of water to keep your body in tip-top condition.
2. Have Company
There is comfort in connection. Having someone stay up will help motivate you to stay awake. Plus you will have someone to talk to if you get bored.
3. Stay Away from Sugar
Sugars may give you a quick energy boost, but you will want to pass out shortly after you digest that candy bar or soda. Avoid greasy fast food and takeouts such as sodium-laden pizza at all costs. Stick to sugar-free drinks and foods that have no sugars or syrups.
If you can stay awake without caffeine, it’s much healthier to avoid it. Realistically, caffeine is my best friend when pulling an all-nighter. Tea is the best bet, or black coffee. I’ll be the first to admit that I go for the tall can of Monster or Red Bull when I have to be up all night. But be careful not to skimp on sleep too often if you have any heart issues, as the combination of sleep deprivation and caffeine can do permanent damage to your ticker.
5. Keep Your Mind Busy
Our bodies are tricky machines. You can fall asleep doing pretty much anything (just ask my girlfriend). Stay stimulated by doing different activities. Turn the lights on to simulate daytime, and have the TV or radio turned up to keep your mind busy and active. Boredom is your worst enemy, and doing any repetitive or dull actions may soon lead to a snooze.
6. Get Up
Every so often, try to get up and walk around the house or take a quick jog outside around the block. Stimulate your physical senses to keep you awake. I like taking a shower if I start to get tired, as the water stimulates your body which in turn kickstarts your mind.
7. Set Frequent Alarms
Despite your efforts, sometimes you will nod off for a few minutes. To avoid crashing out and missing your college final, or accidentally skipping work, set a few different alarms throughout the night. If you can, program your cell phone to go off every hour. I like to set my radio alarm, cell alarm, and laptop alarm so if I press the snooze button on one, I will always have a back up.
At the end of the day, remember that your health is more important than any deadline. If you feel you are affecting your health by staying up for one or more nights a week, then give in to temptation and let yourself go to sleep. A short nap can clear your mind of the dreaded ‘brain fog’ and will make you more productive than if you stayed awake all night.