How do I recover from an all-nighter?
November 18, 2004 3:33 AM   Subscribe

You've nearly pulled an all-nighter. It's nearly 4am, and you can see yourself leaving the office about 4:30/5. What's the best way to get yourself into and through the next day?

Do you go to bed right away, try to catch as much sleep as possible? Do you take a brisk walk, catnap for an our or two, followed by a cold shower and another walk and get back to work? Fresh fruit or caffeine? Carbs or protein?
posted by namespan to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It depends how alert you have to be for the next day. As a person who does quite a few night shifts, but whose body doesn't respond to napping well, I can say that if you go right away to sleep, get in a few hours, and then wake up and go to work, your mind will be less prone to making mistakes but your body will feel much worse (my body tends to interpret "going to sleep" as "going for a full night's sleep", and waking up a few hours later as "being interrupted", instead of "having a nap"). You will feel worse but do better work. If you power through, your body will feel better, but your work quality will slip.
posted by Bugbread at 4:04 AM on November 18, 2004

Ironic, you've described my situation this morning exactly.

I don't sleep if I can't get at least three hours. Generally I just try not to think about the fatigue. Lots of water. All the time. If I have something important that I have to be very alert for I'll take a lot of caffeine to get me through, but after it wears off my brain just sort of avalanches and that's it.

If I can manage it, I try not to eat, though that's not always the best idea. Something light if I do eat. Fruit, some sort of juice. Yogurt.

Good luck.
posted by mmcg at 4:19 AM on November 18, 2004

I'm in the same situation as well. What I do when this happens is that I try to have a bit of a siesta after lunch for about 40 mins or so. I don't get the bad effects from waking up from a nap, though.

I prefer tea to coffee, because it doesn't send your body so out of synch with your brain the way coffee does.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:33 AM on November 18, 2004

For me, the brisk walk, catnap, and fresh fruit breakfast works best (with lots and lots of water).
posted by LairBob at 4:54 AM on November 18, 2004

First off, do not drive home. You'll be too tired to be safe. Secondly, do not go to work the next day. You'll be too tired to be effective, and if it was truly necessary for you to work till 4am no decent employer would expect you to come again in the morning. If you're not an employee, then there's even less reason to go back into the office in the morning.
posted by Nick Jordan at 5:11 AM on November 18, 2004

If I'm tired, I have to eat, but try to keep it lighter, I'd say more proteins. And, for the love of all that is sacred and holy, coffee. Lots of water was suggested here before, because it'll have you getting up and walking to use the bathroom.
posted by adampsyche at 5:25 AM on November 18, 2004

and if it was truly necessary for you to work till 4am no decent employer would expect you to come again in the morning.

you must not be very familiar with [insert name of a hundred kinds of businesses here, starting with investment banks]
posted by matteo at 5:49 AM on November 18, 2004

i worked as a roadie for a mildly successful band while i was in high school (which was always fun getting me into the clubs) but anyway would routinely do all nighters,so i learned somethings:
-if i couldnt get 4 hrs or more of sleep, just stay up. i felt better.
-make those couple of hrs between gig and class, very relaxed. i usually went and got a good breakfast at a local diner. coffee, pancakes, and people watching.
-power through the day as normally as you can.
-and the most important, dont go to bed early, it will just screw up yr internal clock

hope that helps
posted by ShawnString at 6:01 AM on November 18, 2004

As Nick Jordan said, be sure not to drive - it's incredibly dangerous. I know you know that already, but it still bears repeating.

I used to work night shifts and had to do a back-to-back every two weeks. I would finish my first (night) shift around six am, and act like work was over for the day - relax, eat, take in some caffeine. Actually Coca-Cola is good, though icky in the morning, because the sugar gives you a boost too and the caffeine keeps you going after that.

Then, I had to be at work at nine for my day shift - I'd shower and change, and try to forget that I had been up all night. It's possible to brainwash yourself into thinking that it's a whole new day, and that should carry you through until after lunch. (After about 3pm it's a different story, but the worst is over by then.)

Mind you, I was once so tired on the way home that I walked down the wrong street (the one before mine) and didn't even realise until I got to the number of my house and thought, "Hmmm, this isn't where I live." So like I said, no driving.
posted by different at 6:06 AM on November 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

Try to work in some vigorous exercise around 3 p.m. That will get you through to quittin time.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:59 AM on November 18, 2004

It sounds like a good day for mindless tasks such as organizing your office.
posted by caddis at 7:09 AM on November 18, 2004

First off, do not drive home. You'll be too tired to be safe.

That's great advice, listen to it! I once pulled an all-nighter, slept 2 hours, and then went back to work the next day. I was an unproductive zombie all day. I decided to leave the office at about 4PM, and was promptly run over by a car in the street in front of my office. I just wasn't capable of paying attention.
posted by fuzz at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2004

different pretty much nails it. Just due to your circadian rhythms, you'll mostly feel like crap around 3 or 4, either am or pm. At least that's what it was like for me when I used to pull regular all-nighters. The rest of the day wasn't tons of fun, but I wasn't a zombie either.
posted by LionIndex at 8:17 AM on November 18, 2004

As has been said before - if you can't get at least 4 hours of sleep or so - don't even try. You won't be able to wake up, and even if you do manage it, you will be miserable and in pain.

I find the best thing to do is get the strongest caffeinated beverage I can get my hands on (i.e. a quad shot espresso drink from some evil coffee chain or other), down it as quickly as possible, and promptly try to fall asleep. The coffee will kick in and you'll end up waking up in a half hour or so, having had a catnap, and be ready for the day at least somewhat more. After that, lots of water, and snack steadily throughout the day. Ricecakes are good, because they're light, but large in size, meaning there's a lot of chewing to do to keep you awake.

P.S. Don't drive. Really. Though i should really take my own advice on that front...
posted by TTIKTDA at 9:44 AM on November 18, 2004

First thing: don't skip the shower. It'll wake you up a bit and make you feel better. I agree with another poster here that water is of supreme importance. I think high-protein snacking helps a lot (think beef jerky). And, of course, the hair of the dog that bit you: more caffine. Other than that, it'll be a good day to work on private projects (read: no human interaction) do "research" on some project, organize things, etc. Keep it as low key as possible.

If I only have two hours to sleep, I prefer to close my eyes and relax but I don't like to fall entirely, deeply asleep, as I generally feel worse for it.
posted by wheat at 12:00 PM on November 18, 2004

I'm going to contradict others in this thread - whenever I am sleep deprived I feel better after a short nap, say 40 minutes. Longer naps make one groggy unless you can sleep for more than four hours. One the other hand my boyfriend swears by the technique of sleeping for EXACTLY two hours, something about his REM cycle lining up. I think showering is excellent, as are taking a brisk walk outside and listening to Belle and Sebastian music. If you like that sort of thing. Drinking a lot of water or juice helps but for me, caffeine is not enough to really work and just makes me crash a few hours later.
posted by mai at 12:35 PM on November 18, 2004

People that can fall asleep quickly will probably benefit from a nap. If you just sit in bed with your eyes open, however, you'll likely be very groggy when your alarm goes off. A good shower & shave works wonders. So does a short walk around the block.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:58 PM on November 18, 2004

Many a time, you can be tired and yet not be sleepy. Then you'll just lie in bed without going to sleep. Eventually, you may manage to get an hour or two in.

And when you wake up after those two hours, you will feel like absolute crap. Trust me.
posted by madman at 3:37 PM on November 18, 2004

I find showering before falling asleep and waking up with a shower beneficial.

Caffeine just makes my body hate me if I haven't consumed it for a while. (That's what happened to me last night - too much of a "good" thing!)

Usually I have a 24 hour frame before my body completely gives away, so I scheduled a good long sleep for tomorrow.

My professor once said that meditation for two hours makes up for four hours of sleep. It isn't easy though! (I used my google-fu to find that website, but I'm sure there's many more meditation-related websites out there.)
posted by christin at 7:21 PM on November 18, 2004

I used to work offshore, and we'd pull a lot of long hours. I found eating meals helped me stay awake. Staying awake burns a lot of calories, so food helps you hang in there. I was not a coffee drinker then, but I've read since that it is the only thing guaranteed to produce some alertness.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:18 PM on November 18, 2004

As a student I can tell you that when you pull an all nighter and don't sleep before the next day at some point in the day you start feeling OK but it is similar to being drunk and thinking you're fine. Productivity is shot to hell. Stimulants help, especially if you don't have a high tolerance built up, but the best thing really is to grab as many hours of sleep as you can. You'll feel like shit when you drag yourself out of bed because your body really wants more sleep. Your mind will feel grey but it will function better than if you hadn't slept. The next step is to get your energy level up. If you are able to exercise do so (as a heavy smoker this ceased being an option for me some time ago) hot followed by cold showers are good. You'll want food with high nutritional content but nothing heavy or your body will slip back into sleep mode. Protein and glucose are your friend. Pain killers, coffee, frequent breaks to stretch and keep the blood flowing and your mind clear, all of these things will help. The key is to get that catnap. I'm in the middle of my second consecutive all nighter. It sucks. I'm a big fan of chemical aids but they come at a cost.

To recap: catnap, breaks, high energy foods, and mild to moderate stimulation will help you get through the next 16 hours. Remember though that each hour without sleep is costing you functional IQ points and you won't get that back until you've rested properly. Oh, and don't drive, operate heavy machinary, or attempt to seduce anyone.

Good luck.
posted by Grod at 10:09 PM on November 18, 2004

Oh, one more thing. Water. Drink it until you piss it. It'll help flush both fatigue toxins and the by products of whatever chemical help you've chosen.
posted by Grod at 10:11 PM on November 18, 2004

three words: up your gas.
posted by kathryn at 11:50 PM on November 19, 2004

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