Keeping mentally sharp when working late at night
July 8, 2004 8:40 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to stay mentally sharp when doing late-night work? What works and what doesn't?
posted by inksyndicate to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
In my opinion, what does not work is caffeine, of any kind. (I believe that it, like cocaine, causes restlessness and lack of focus) On the other hand, fruit, short breaks that include fresh air, and lots of water seem to work well for me.
posted by BlueTrain at 8:44 PM on July 8, 2004 [1 favorite]


An apple or orange contains complex carbohydrates, which will give you instant energy in about a half hour after eating.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:57 PM on July 8, 2004


Thanks! I feel better already.
posted by inksyndicate at 9:03 PM on July 8, 2004


I agree with BlueTrain. When in college I discovered that drinking plenty of water was the key to actually getting anything done in the second half of an all-nighter. I don't find caffeine to be too helpful, although I do find it helpful in the mornings.

The other thing that I found was that my eating habits over the previous one or two days affected my ability to concentrate for long periods. If I'd been eating regular, balanced meals, I'd be in much better shape than if I'd skipped a meal or three (which I have a regrettable tendency to do).
posted by hattifattener at 9:10 PM on July 8, 2004


I do find caffeine to be helpful, but that's sort of a baseline. I second the fresh air and water suggestion. If you can, take a cool shower.

More than fruit, I find it helpful to eat some protein. Sugar will give you a rush, but it'll be gone in an hour.

If you feel REALLY tired, sleep a bit, but for less than 15 minutes.
posted by Caviar at 9:17 PM on July 8, 2004


For me, adderall.
posted by the fire you left me at 9:24 PM on July 8, 2004


Provigil.
posted by nicwolff at 9:29 PM on July 8, 2004


Methamphetamine.

May cause unpleasant side effects
posted by cmonkey at 9:55 PM on July 8, 2004


Sorry to be a pedant, but the sugars in apples and oranges are simple, not complex carbohydrates. That being said, they are both relatively low on the glycemic index (especially apples), and as such do not promote the fatigue-causing insulin spike common to refined grains, sugars, and white rice.

Personally, I've found that cottage cheese is the ultimate energy food. I ate it by the quart during college.
posted by trharlan at 10:02 PM on July 8, 2004


See also this AskMe thread.
posted by Quartermass at 10:04 PM on July 8, 2004


If you have access to a computer alongwith headphones, download sbagen and go from 8Hz-15Hz within a span of 20 minutes. It might work with speakers, but that's iffy.
posted by Gyan at 11:16 PM on July 8, 2004


Stay on a consistent sleep schedule. If you're just doing an occasional extended shift, then Bluetrain's advice is good. The other thing that will keep you awake is interesting work.
posted by rdr at 11:32 PM on July 8, 2004


I'll third the water suggestion (said while sipping coffee.. oh well). Also tea works well because it also has a muscle relaxing property to it that counter-acts the jitters that some people get from coffee. And yeah, anything that will give you real energy is good, but don't eat the equivalent of a whole meal or all the blood will go to your stomach.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:34 PM on July 8, 2004


nicwolff: Where do you get your provigil from? Are you from the US? I have a bit of an academic interest in it and am wondering if it's freely available over there.
posted by adrianhon at 12:31 AM on July 9, 2004


I'm suprised nobody has mentioned the importance of constant bright (preferably high-quality) lighting, which is important for less troublesome futzing with one's circadian rhythms.

also, if you take a nap before you pull the all-nighter, that helps reset your sleep control center, or whatever you wanna call the "nod train module" of the brain
posted by LimePi at 12:43 AM on July 9, 2004


Not having children. Particularly, not having children who wake up at 5.30 in the morning.
posted by humuhumu at 2:51 AM on July 9, 2004


Laughter. If you're working in a group, tell silly jokes. In an office, set up mild practical jokes on the people who aren't there. If you're working alone, keep something handy that always makes you laugh hard -- a passage from a book, a bit from a movie, something, and refer to it when needed. The laughter will energize you.
posted by JanetLand at 5:36 AM on July 9, 2004


Short naps--back in my software development days, I bought a chair for my office that was actually more of a sized-down futon couch. Not only was it very comfortable to sit in normally, but you could fold it flat and crash on it. I got it specifically to make it available for anyone who needed it during an all-nighter.

Unless you really really need to be conscious all night long, I've always found that getting an hour or so of rest around 3 or 4 in the morning is an enormous help.
posted by LairBob at 6:30 AM on July 9, 2004


IF you really need to be awake, I find moderate exercise does the trick. It's such a strong effect, in fact, that I have to be concious not to exercise too late in the evening, otherwise I'll have trouble droping off. A half-hour workout perks me up better than any drug (and feels less artificial) and keeps me awake for several hours.
posted by bonehead at 11:31 AM on July 9, 2004


Sugar Free RedBull.

There is a reason caffiene works. It block adenosine receptors in your brain. Adenosine is the (one of the many) by-product of metabolism, so by night time and you're tired, there's a lot of adenosine flying around. Block the receptors so adenosine can't interact with your neurons, and you won't feel tired.

However, don't do this too often, or you're leading down the path to addiction. Once in a while should be okay of course.
posted by ruwan at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2004


Vitamins.
posted by kindall at 2:09 PM on July 9, 2004


Gingko Biloba
posted by greasepig at 3:47 PM on July 9, 2004


Weatgrass juice.
Initially gross, but highly effective.
posted by dong_resin at 4:02 PM on July 9, 2004


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