How to prevent some of the effects of sleep deprivation?
May 16, 2005 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Recently, I've had to pull several all-nighters to finish papers, etc. Not only do I feel awful the next day, but it generally puts me partially out of commission for the day after too. Is there anything I can do during the time I'm working to help prevent/counter some of the effects of sleep deprivation?
posted by almostbarefoot to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I, for one, was never the all-nighter sort. Instead, I would work until 11 or 12, then go to bed for 6-7 hours, then get up extra early and start working again, usually at the library so I could print out my paper. This only works if you don't have to turn the paper in at 8 a.m.; I usually had 11 a.m. classes
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:34 AM on May 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

This may not be what you have in mind, but some of my friends swear by Modafinil, which keeps you awake although supposedly without all the jitteriness and crashing comedown of some other stimulants.

Now, I've never taken it, so please take everything I say with a boulder of salt, but a few friends have insisted that while taking it you feel completely normal and continue to feel normal afterward, you just don't need to sleep.

For me, the things that have helped with this:
1) Drinking enough water
2) Eating properly
3) Avoiding caffeine (I know, weird, huh, but it's part of what makes you feel crappy later)
4) Getting up to walk around every once in a while (I get so stiff sitting at the computer, and it wakes me up to take a walk)
5) Showering to help revive me the next morning
6) No matter what, don't nap the next day, b/c it only fucks your sleep cycle for days to come. An hour or two of sleep around six or seven am doesn't hurt, but sleeping for four hours at 1 pm is bad news. Just stay up as late as you can (say 7 pm or so) and crash out til the next morning
posted by mai at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2005

I've heard it said that Einstein used to work 3 hours and sleep one, round the clock. Don't know if there's any truth to it or not, but I'm sure someone will edify us.
posted by wsg at 10:40 AM on May 16, 2005

Drink plenty of water. Snack healthily (bananas work for me) but infrequently. Take breaks at regular intervals, just 5 minutes to stand outside and focus on something further away than the screen/paper you're using. Take B vitamins as a minimum, but a good multivitamin works wonders (Airborne is da bomb).

Failing that, take a nap around 2am. 90 minutes for an adult should work wonders, but you need to make sure that you don't wake yourself up partway through a REM sleep stage, hence the hour and a half since that's generally how long an adult sleep cycle is.

Oh, and (this is completely unhelpful) start work on your papers sooner.

On preview, what mal said about showering can help wake you up in the dark of night -- splash cold water on your face and the back of your neck. I think it's called the "divers reflex", but it works at least as well as coffee.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:43 AM on May 16, 2005

I hear that coffee works, personally I don't drink it, ever.

I've never once had to pull an all nighter, usually I stay up till 3am and if I don't feel like I can get the project done, then I just hand in what I have. That doesn't happen often, usually I am done about 2am (I tend to start working on my projects late at night at about 12 when I am free of distractions).

I seem to do fine on 2 hours of sleep in a night. So my suggestion is to try to catch as much sleep as you can, even if you only get an hour, you will feel much better than getting no sleep at all. During the day you can also sneak in sleep, the important thing is to make sure you catch up on all the sleep you missed, and maybe even get ahead by sleeping extra long whenever you can. (ie, when you wake up at 10am on saturday and feel awake, force yourself to sleep an extra 2 hours).

Then there are those pills you can take that keep you awake, I hear that they are effective, but personally I wouldn't mess with my body's sleep schedule like that.

Reading ThePinkSuperHero's post, I should also add that waking up early may not work. I CANT work in the morning. I actually seem to average 10% poorer on my morning classes. But if you're a morning person, this may be a solution. Keep in mind that by sleeping your are losing valuable "work time". Where as if you don't sleep, you can work on your paper till you are sure it is complete, and then sleep.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 10:50 AM on May 16, 2005

Taking a nap the afternoon before a known late night works wonders for me.
posted by mischief at 10:51 AM on May 16, 2005

1 liter water. Sugar. Mix until saturated (no more sugar will dissolve.) You can do something similar with any flavored "juice" and it will be more palatable, but less sugar, so I need like a gallon, and the sugar is actually corn syrup. You can also mix Kool-Aid mixes to saturation. The first one is still the cheapest.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2005

Prepare by getting extra B and C vitamins (both supplements and through food) and drinking plenty of water...for a few days ahead of time, if possible. The day after the all-nighter, just treat the haze like a hangover, basically. Get your favorite breakfast grease into your system, take a couple of painkillers, and nap.

I'm a caffeine user myself -- but I prefer coffee to anything like NoDoz, which gives me wicked jitters and lacks the lovely sensory boost of the aroma. I don't like super- caffeineated soda, either...all that sugar is too much of a roller-coaster ride. (On preview, this is directly opposite to TheOnlyCoolTime's advice, so clearly, YMMV.)

Whatever you do, allow yourself at least a couple of hours to proofread your paper. This couple of hours needs to occur after you've gotten a couple hours of sleep. So if you need to turn in your paper at 10, finish at 5ish, sleep until 8ish, then proofread/re-word the wacky stuff, print, and sprint across campus.
posted by desuetude at 11:32 AM on May 16, 2005

I've found that taking 5-HTP helps get me back to normal after an allnighter.
posted by Cosine at 11:34 AM on May 16, 2005

The best advice is stop putting those da** papers off until the last minute so that you do not have to pull an all-nighter. If you must, at least try to get an hour or two of sleep during the night, if you can. At least get some sleep during the next day, if only an hour or two. Stay with a high protein, low carb, low fat diet the day after the all-nighter, and don't eat too much. Those carbs and fats will really drag you down. Carbs in the form of fruits are fine. Coffee will be necessary, but don't drink more than is really needed.
posted by caddis at 12:06 PM on May 16, 2005

If you're taking excess of Red Bull and coffee, make sure you're getting plenty of water and healthy food to offset the damage. A friend of mine actually fainted and had to go to the emergency room the other day because of too much caffeine and not enough water and sleep.

Take 20-30 minute naps to refresh yourself.

But ultimately I think the best thing to do is to give yourself the time to sleep (five hours minimum) so you can be effective the next day. Work done under the effects of sleep deprivation will always take longer than work done while refreshed. This can lead to a vicious cycle where you have to deprive yourself of even more sleep to make up for the extra time your papers take. Not that I've always followed my own advice, but when I did this worked for me.
posted by Anonymous at 2:02 PM on May 16, 2005

I know this is off-topic, but I stopped recently stopped pulling all-nighters. Last fall, the day after one, I slipped down the stairs and sprained my ankle, mainly because I was just "a little out of it." After a few weeks on crutches, putting in the little extra work required to both study AND sleep seemed like no big deal.
posted by MrZero at 2:22 PM on May 16, 2005

You can do your work ahead of time.
posted by raaka at 7:17 PM on May 16, 2005

If you can get a prescription, Modafinil is definitely preferable to caffeine. Much easier on the body, no jitters, etc. Coffee tastes much better, but that's another matter.
posted by alms at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2005

I hate to burst your bubble, but you may well have reached the point where you just can't do all-nighters anymore. I remember with great chagrin the exact moment when I first realized that if I didn't haul my ass off to bed at some point during the night, I would literally fall asleep on the keyboard. Talk about humbling.
posted by Vervain at 12:09 AM on May 17, 2005

A note about caffeine:

While it is a stimulant, it is also causes causes your blood vessels to constrict, especially those to your brain. So while it might stave off fatigue, it definitely hampers your cognitive abilities -- as demonstrated in many studies which I'm too lazy to provide links for right now.

Anyway, I'm firmly in the don't-pull-all-nighters camp. It may be necessary if you're between a rock and a hard place, but if you're there more often than a couple times a year you need to re-evaluate how to manage your life.
posted by randomstriker at 3:07 AM on May 17, 2005

[shrug] I'll be the one to say that I'm in the procrastinator, more creative under pressure, all-nighter camp. I don't need to pull all-nighters anymore, but I have pulled solid weeks of 14-hour days for much the same reasons.

It's true that your body will let you know when you need to modify/reality check on your routine. I'm thirty-one, and can't do to myself what I did in college.

Meanwhile, I stick by my earlier advice and chuckle at the "do your work ahead of time" people. Yeah, like that's an option. The world's divided into two types of people...
posted by desuetude at 6:09 AM on May 17, 2005

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