Help Me Stay Awa-zzzzz
October 22, 2007 6:24 AM   Subscribe

I need to stay awake in a relatively non-stimulating environment, after not having slept in over 30 hours. Anyone know any tips?

OK, so I'm a college student, and I find myself in the fairly stereotypical predicament of having just finished pulling an all-nighter (I've been up since 8:00 yesterday) to finish a paper due in a couple hours. That was the easy part. The hard part will be getting through today without falling asleep. I need to stay awake until 5:00 (in about 9 hours) while sitting through some small classes that I can't sleep in because I am expected to participate/the professor would notice, as well as going to my semi-supervised, fairly monotonous, and detail-oriented work-study job. Caffeine and/or other such stimulants are not an option, seeing as they trigger heart palpitations. Last time I did this, I ended up falling asleep around noon, in class, and I don't want that to happen again. What can I do to stay awake and alert, at least until 5:00?
posted by notswedish to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Drink lots of cold water when you feel yourself nodding off.

When you're in class and you can't stand another minute, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom (you'll probably have to go by then anyway) and start running up and down the halls or stairs at top speed -- anything to get your heart rate up.

There have been at least a few other questions like this, so you may want to look for them.
posted by booksandlibretti at 6:29 AM on October 22, 2007

Get in as much sunlight as possible between classes.

Drink a lot of water.

See if you can get a ten minute nap in at some point. ONLY ten minutes, no longer.

Did I mention sunlight?
posted by konolia at 6:29 AM on October 22, 2007

Yeah, water. Start before you get noddy.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:31 AM on October 22, 2007

Best answer: In general, eat no carbs if you can help it. Be as engaged as you can in the class. It's hard to fall asleep mid-conversation unless you're underneath a thick duvet with head on pillow at the time.

For the workstudy, keep a very cold carbonated beverage nearby and have some super strong mints or mentholated cough drops handy as well.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:32 AM on October 22, 2007

I am usually easily able to stay awake for 36 hours (i.e. one missed night's sleep) as long as I'm in a brightly lit environment. Go for a run before class if it's sunny outside. In class sit in a brightly lit part of the room, preferably at the front, and talk (when appropriate) as much as possible.
posted by roofus at 6:33 AM on October 22, 2007

Sounds like you're pretty screwed. But here are some ideas:
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you feel dangerously drowsy.
  • Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle nearby.
  • Chew gum.
  • Try to keep yourself a little cooler than what's comfortable.
And, of course, please don't drive.
posted by hjo3 at 6:34 AM on October 22, 2007

I've not verified if it works in this situation, but an apple first thing in the morning tends to be a reasonable substitute for my first cup of coffee.

Also, seconding the running of the stairs.
posted by notsnot at 6:36 AM on October 22, 2007

You need to make some time to take a serious 1-2 hour nap. Skip a class or go to to work late. That's the only thing that's really going to make a dent into your sleep debt.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:40 AM on October 22, 2007

I am expected to participate/the professor would notice

Preface your presentation or whatever by saying "Sorry, I have a cold and am not feeling so well."
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:41 AM on October 22, 2007

I have found if I eat a spicy pepper it will mess with y insides enough to keep me up. Seriously.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:47 AM on October 22, 2007

Peppermints! I don't know what it is about peppermints, but before/during a test or event where I need to be attentive a peppermint or two really helps with my focus/concentration. Also nthing water and as much activity you can do between classes - even if its just walking around the library during one of your longer breaks.
posted by Mardigan at 7:15 AM on October 22, 2007

Power naps and Red Bull.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:43 AM on October 22, 2007

Best answer: Nthing mint, water and light activity. Avoid carbs. Try not to hum, sing or whistle whichever tune starts looping relentlessly in your mind by early afternoon (that may just happen to me when tired though).
posted by zemblamatic at 7:44 AM on October 22, 2007

stretching helps too. Maybe inconspicuously doing ankle rolls or shoulder shrugs. Get up and go to the bathroom. Put your knees to your chest, touch your toes and drink a bit more cold water.

I actually used to stay up all night by drinking lots of water. For me it works much better than coffee.
posted by mulkey at 7:52 AM on October 22, 2007

I've stayed awake for more than 48 hours before utilizing the following

Peppermints (a natural stimulant.)
Eat very very spicy food. The capacsin is also a stimulant.
At class, bring a big thing of water. You can't sleep while you're eating or drinking.
An extra shower, preferably, cold.
Do some pushups/light exercise right before hand.
Try to be involved in class.
No carbs or sugars. Red bull is awful for stuff like this.
posted by filmgeek at 8:37 AM on October 22, 2007

Stay the hell away from energy drinks. They mess with your heart. I had my first energy drink in well over a year the other day because I had pulled an allnighter, and had classes till 7PM. Not only did I feel like complete crap, but I couldn't fall asleep afterwards even though my body was completely exhausted.
posted by Phire at 8:50 AM on October 22, 2007

Modafinil/Provigil. It's not a stimulant and should let you stay moderately alert.
posted by electroboy at 8:51 AM on October 22, 2007

Stay active in class: take lots of notes and raise your hand whenever possible.
posted by Kevin S at 9:44 AM on October 22, 2007

I'm in the middle of one of these nights right now (gotta proofread an HK student's treatment of "the future of business communication devices") and god only knows how I'll handle it tomorrow, which is, six hours of teaching aside, the day I trail my girlfriend while she buys faucets and lightbulbs and new pipes for the house). Coffee has typically been the only thing that's saved me on nights like that.

If you can, get music and food. Both make a vast difference, and I have the TV on, sometimes music on, and I'll second the cold water/soft drinks thing.
posted by saysthis at 9:45 AM on October 22, 2007

Best answer: Fidget a lot, tap your foot that sort of thing and take walks whenever you have a chance.
posted by whoaali at 10:15 AM on October 22, 2007

powernaps are the way to go. 10 minutes with alarm in an uncomfortable position. You will make it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:15 AM on October 22, 2007

Lick your finger - get it good and gooey - and wipe the drool under each eye. As it evaporates - which it will do in any climate-controlled situation - the chill keeps you more alert.

I don't know that ANY technique is going to help you for extended periods of time. In the future, don't pull all-nighters, they're long-term counterproductive to your learning quality and your health.
posted by phearlez at 1:07 PM on October 22, 2007

Just because they give you chairs doesn't mean you have to use them.

Explain to your professors before class starts that you feel sleepy today and may have to stand up to stay awake. Then, when you start getting woozy, get up and go stand by the wall. Stand at the back of the class to avoid distracting other students, if you can.
posted by springo at 1:10 PM on October 22, 2007

Response by poster: Hello again,

I just got back from work. The day went spendidly. What worked:

-chewing gum constantly
-participating a lot in class
-wearing summer clothes despite the autumn weather
-drinking cold water/pop
-running into interesting situations at work.

Btw, yes, I know all-nighters are bad. Yes, I'm working to change my study habits. But this is a process, and, frankly, it's probably going to happen again, so thanks for all your advice!

Now I'm going to bed.
posted by notswedish at 3:30 PM on October 22, 2007

I would recommend strong mints and water. And don't do the rubber band thing, you just end up with a sore wrist-- if you're going to go that route, you'll get the same results with pinching yourself.

And if by some chance you get set the thermostat in the classroom before anyone gets there, make it as cold as possible.
posted by perpetualstroll at 4:22 PM on October 22, 2007

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