To nap or not to nap, that is the question
April 13, 2004 12:38 AM   Subscribe

So I'm pulling an all-nighter for work. Should I take a short nap?
posted by lbergstr to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Closes thread.
posted by The God Complex at 12:41 AM on April 13, 2004

Erm. Should I not take it because it won't increase my alertness that much, and I run the risk of not actually getting up? Or is there some other reason it's a bad idea?

(I'm sorry, I don't have the energy to be anything other than literal tonight.)
posted by lbergstr at 12:44 AM on April 13, 2004

Personally, I find a short nap when I'm very tired does nothing but make me groggy and incapable of concentrating. I'm a night person, however, and could easily stay up the rest of tonight until 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning before even starting to feel the effects.

I suggest doing as much work as you can right now, then hoping you can get it done earlier than expected so you can catch at least a couple hours (which, again, doesn't always help, but you don't always have a choice).
posted by The God Complex at 12:47 AM on April 13, 2004

posted by lbergstr at 12:54 AM on April 13, 2004

Take a 20 minute nap, anything longer will make you groggy.
posted by Meridian at 1:39 AM on April 13, 2004

For me a nap does wonders in increasing alertness when missing a night's sleep, but as you can tell, ymmv.

Interesting anecdote: Salvador Dali napped in a chair, with a spoon in his hand over a silver plate on the floor. According to him, he got enough sleep for a nap in the time between letting go of the spoon and it hitting the plate and waking him.

Ofcourse it's much more likely the relaxation up to the point where he actually dropped the spoon was what did the trick. Ofcourse it's also quite possible he just made up the story because it sounded good. He was an odd guy.
posted by fvw at 2:33 AM on April 13, 2004

Maaan... don't do it.

Chances are that you need more sleep than a short nap anyway. What will happen is that you'll take a two hour nap which is insufficient. Then you'll wake up REALLY cranky and groggy as others have pointed out. You'll be in this zone where you're neither awake nor have got enough sleep to be alert again.

Gulp down the Jolt cola, stay awake and finish your work. Then nap away.
posted by madman at 2:56 AM on April 13, 2004

I pull overnighters from time to time. I've found that if I can get a nap in I feel a bit better and the part of my brain that does calculations turns back on. Even more important is to make sure that you eat and drink. I've done intense all nighters where I've forgotten and I feel a whole lot worse. I think caffeine is a horrible idea personally. I know that when I abuse my body with sleep deprivation I get jittery and 'shocky' anyway and that my heart starts beating faster.
posted by substrate at 5:17 AM on April 13, 2004

No nap........loads of whatever you need to get through....

If you were covered with dried in dirt and could not have a bath, splashing a cup of water on yourself would only make you smell worse!
posted by kenaman at 5:22 AM on April 13, 2004

Nap at the point that you can't keep your eyes open, but do it somewhere uncomfortable, like in your office chair, so that you will only nap for a short period of time, like a half hour. Leave yourself a big sign that you'll see when you open your eyes telling self to wake up and finish working. Or use an alarm clock, if you have one. Do not nap on a bed or a couch -- if you're really tired you won't want to get up, won't hear the alarm, won't remember shutting it off, etc. Leave the lights on.

If you're really desperate, you can also pay a website $3.00 to call you and wake you up by phone at whatever time you need on short notice.

A little nap can probably tide you over once you get to the point where your productivity is getting killed by your exhaustion. But don't give in to total nappy goodness, or you'll never finish your work! Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:57 AM on April 13, 2004

I can't nap. It just pisses me off. I really can't nap if I go to sleep when it's light out and wake up after it's dark.

However, if I must nap, taking a shower right after I wake up kind of tricks my body into thinking it's awake time again, at least for awhile. So that's my advice. If you must nap, shower afterwards, then maybe have a snack. Make it like a mini-morning.

I also can't stomach lots of caffeine, either, a la substrate. I rarely pull all-nighters, and when I do, it takes me days to feel normal again. So I'm sorry that your job requires this of you.
posted by jennyb at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2004

Even more important is to make sure that you eat and drink.

This is good advice. When I have had to pull all-nighters for work, I've found that my tendency is to just act like I'm staying up late. This means that I don't eat an additional meal [or two] and sort of stop drinking water, etc. I found that what worked for me was eating regular meals through the night, staying hydrated, getting up and getting some exercise during breaks, turning on all the lights in the place, and having some interactive activity to keep me alert. If you get a normal 15 minute break, you can use that to be a mini-naptime IF you're someone who can come out of naps refreshed and rested. If you're not, skip it, go run up and down some stairs instead. I've also found that the day after an all-nighter, I feel like I have a pot hangover and everything is just a little muzzy and surreal. If you can plan to have a low-key day the next day and try to stay up until bedtime, even if it's an earlier than usual bedtime, you may be able to not have your all-nighter fry your whole week.
posted by jessamyn at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2004

When I was in architecture school, all-nighters were a matter of course, even to the point of extended week-and-a-half long death marches, staying awake for 20+ hours at a time and a two-full day stint of awakeness at the end. An isolated one-off really shouldn't be too tough to do without a nap. I'd follow the advice above about eating and keeping hydrated; that and a decent amount of caffeine should get you through it. But I wouldn't eat too much--think more like small snacks and fruit like oranges and bananas. Having food in your stomach draws blood away from your brain and will make you feel groggy. If you're like most people I know, you'll feel like you've hit a wall around 4 in the morning, but if you fight through that, things will start perking up again around six when your diurnal cycle starts helping you out.
posted by LionIndex at 10:13 AM on April 13, 2004

i guess maybe it's offtopic, but if i were you i'd look for another job.

otherwise, walking round the block every few hours helps.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2004

I agree. Exercise helps. Food helps. Light helps. Getting through your diurnal cycle helps. But as the old saw goes, you can't get enough of what you don't need, and if you need sleep, all substitutes will fail sooner or later.

If all-nighters are a regular event, see if there's some way to change your situation.
posted by weston at 10:50 AM on April 13, 2004

Echoing what others have said, take a nap only if it's short and you can wake up again. But budget an hour for this. Sleep for 30 minutes, and walk/eat for the other 30.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2004

I'm a procrastinator and thus I pulled a fair to middling number of all-nighters in college. The worst was third year, Fall semester when I had to work for basically 8 days straight with only about 9 hours sleep in that time to finish my term projects in time.

Eating food and remaining hydrated are good but it's important to choose your options carefully. Caffeine is fine in limited quantities but will likely make you unproductive if you drink masses of coffee or coke. The sugar in most sodas is also a problem because it messes up your blood sugar levels. Look for food that contains mostly slower releasing complex carbs that'll sustain you over time rather than hit you with a sugar rush. Water is really your best choice for hydration. If you must have caffeine, think sustained consumption over the course of the night. Don't open a coke, drink it, wait two hours to open another. Rather, try to evenly drink that coke over the two hours.

Napping is a highly personal thing. I find that if I nap for up to 25 minutes, I wake up feeling refreshed. If I sleep for more than 25 minutes, but less than 3 hours, I wake up feeling groggy and disoriented. Think back on afternoon or evening naps you've taken in the past and see if you can determine what your personal limits might be. Instanaps - allowing yourself to fall asleep in your chair just long enough for your head to hit the desk (ie, the silver spoon thing) can also help - assuming it doesn't give you a headache.

If you're going to take a longer nap of an hour or so, in my experience, the best time to schedule that nap is so that it leads up to the time that you would normally get out of bed. If your alarm clock at home usually goes off at 7AM, start your nap at just before 6AM. Then, when you wake up, even though you haven't had a full night's sleep, your body is still waking up at the time it's accustomed to.

Buy a bottle of visine. One of the biggest problems I had was that my eyes would dry out and I would rub them and feel tired. Just adding a few drops of moisture would make me feel much more awake.

If possible, arrange to have more than one chair available to you. It makes me more tired to sit in the same chair for hours and hours. (This is like the change your shoes thing for alleviating sore feet). Even if it's the same type of chair, but with different settings, you may find switching out for a bit changes the strains on your body enough to alleviate some discomfort.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:54 AM on April 13, 2004

Go ahead. 15-30 min no more.
posted by 111 at 12:27 PM on April 13, 2004

When I was in architecture school, all-nighters were a matter of course, even to the point of extended week-and-a-half long death marches, staying awake for 20+ hours at a time and a two-full day stint of awakeness at the end.

I am in the tail end of one of those right now. Two.... more... da zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

In all seriousness, napping kicks my ass. When I start to get tired, I find something funny online (I usually get a kick out of Craig Kilborne's "What Up?" segments).

I don't know, works for me.
posted by Quartermass at 11:29 PM on April 13, 2004

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