Pulling an All-Nighter Guide: 12 Tips for Before, During, and After

June 4, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. Consult your physician before taking any supplements, beginning any diet or fitness plan, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you likely know how much of a toll it can take on your body. At night, our bodies are naturally programmed to get drowsy and fall asleep, and staying up for 24 hours straight can cause a similar level of impairment to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10% (above the legal driving limit of 0.08%). 

Whether you’re cramming for a final or creating a presentation, it’s important to set yourself up for success when you’re planning to stay awake all night. To help you maximize your productivity and minimize your recovery time, check out these 12 tips for before, during, and after pulling an all-nighter.

How To Prepare for an All-Nighter

To set yourself up for success during an all-nighter, it’s important to prepare your body so you go into the night feeling healthy and well-rested. Check out these tips for getting yourself physically (and mentally) ready for the night ahead.

illustrated tips for pulling an all-nighter

1. Prepare With a Good Night’s Sleep

Although more sleep the night before won’t completely make up for lack of sleep the night of, you can prepare by getting the recommended amount of sleep for your age. For adults ages 18–64, this is typically 7–9 hours per night. 

To set yourself up for success, make sure you’re following good sleep hygiene practices like creating an environment between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 19 degrees Celsius) and unplugging from technology at least an hour before bed.

Tip: Instead of trying to bank sleep the night before, aim for 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep in a cool, calm environment.

2. Have a Plan

Pulling an all-nighter is no easy feat. To make sure you stay on track, create a plan of action and set concrete goals beforehand. Whether you’re staying up all night to study for a final exam or finish a presentation, you’ll want to break down your overarching goal into manageable chunks to make your all-nighter easier to power through. 

Tip: To make the night feel more manageable, break down your larger plan into smaller goals and give yourself a reward for completing each one.

3. Take a Power Nap

One of the best ways to boost your productivity during an all-nighter is to take a power nap beforehand. However, you’ll want to time your power nap with your natural sleep cycles so you don’t wake up feeling groggy or bogged down. 

So, according to your sleep cycles, what’s the best nap length for an all-nighter? Studies have shown that even a quick shut-eye of 10 to 20 minutes is enough to give your brain a boost for the night ahead. 

Tip: Aim for a 10- to 20-minute power nap to give your brain a boost and help you feel refreshed.

During an All-Nighter

illustrated tips for what to do while pulling an all-nighter

If you’re getting started on your all-nighter, here are some tips to keep yourself focused and alert throughout the night.

4. Eat Healthy Snacks

Setting yourself up for success during an all-nighter starts from the inside out — literally. By eating nutritious snacks, you can make sure your body has the fuel it needs to power through the night. 

You’ll want to look for snacks high in protein and healthy fats to keep you satiated and alert. Savory snacks like hummus, walnuts, and salmon are all jam-packed with nutrients that may even help improve performance and memory.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, consider antioxidant-rich foods like apples or even dark chocolate

While it can be tempting to munch on packaged foods while you study, your belly (and your brain) will thank you for keeping your meals light and nutritious.

Tip: Look for foods high in healthy fats and protein to help support brain function and keep you feeling satiated through the night. 

5. Hydrate

Drinking lots of water isn’t exactly groundbreaking advice, but staying properly hydrated is especially important when you’re putting your body through the stress of sleep deprivation. You may have heard that it’s suggested to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, or an average of 8 ounces every three hours.

However, during all-nighters, many people turn to caffeine to help them stay up. Since caffeine is a diuretic, it may cause you to pee more often — meaning you’ll also need to drink more water to stay hydrated. Because of this, it’s essential to replenish your fluids so you don’t end up dehydrated and groggy. 

Although it’s commonly suggested to drink 64 ounces (eight 8-ounce glasses) of water per day, Mayo Clinic says that the amount of water you should drink each day is far more, and actually differs between men and women.

  • Men: Up to 124 ounces (7.75 standard water bottles) per day
  • Women: Up to 92 ounces (5.75 standard water bottles) per day

Tip: Aim to drink at least 8 ounces of water every two hours, or a standard 16-ounce bottle of water every four hours. 

6. Monitor Your Caffeine Intake

If you do use caffeine during your all-nighter, be sure to monitor your intake during a given period of time. Although caffeine is a useful stimulant to help you feel alert, it’s important to remember that there can be too much of a good thing — and too much caffeine might cause a serious crash later on.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for most healthy adults. That’s roughly equivalent to:

  • Four 8-ounce cups of coffee
  • Two and a half 16-ounce cans of Yerba Mate
  • Four 12-ounce cans of Red Bull

Too much caffeine might trigger adverse side effects like headaches, jitters, or anxiety, so it’s important to be carefully monitoring your caffeine intake during the night.

Tip: To balance your caffeine intake, aim to drink 16 ounces of water for every 8-ounce cup of coffee.

7. Work in a Comfortable, Brightly Lit Room

At night, your body naturally begins to wind down as melatonin production kicks in. To combat the drowsiness, make sure you’re set up with adequate sources of light throughout the room.

Spending hours staring at your computer can already lead to digital eye strain (DES), also known as computer vision syndrome. Add a poorly lit room into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for visual and mental fatigue. Experts suggest using the 20-20-20 rule to minimize eye strain. After every 20 minutes of looking at a screen, you should take a 20-second break to look at least 20 feet away. 

You’ll also want to work in a brightly lit room with your computer on medium brightness — bright enough that your eyes aren’t straining to see, but not so bright that they’re being overloaded. 

Tip: Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break from your screen and look at least 20 feet away.

8. Take Breaks

Once you get in the zone, you might not want to take a break and disrupt your focus. But it’s important to remember that all-nighters are a marathon, not a sprint.

Failing to take breaks could lead to quicker burnout, so you should aim to take a five-minute break at least once an hour to keep yourself energized and alert throughout the night. To keep yourself focused, aim to take an active break —  standing, stretching, or walking — instead of switching to your smartphone during your break. 

Tip: Take a quick break to stand up and move around for at least five minutes each hour.

How To Recover From an All-Nighter

illustrated tips on how to recover from an all-nighter

Sleep expert and editor of the journal SLEEP David Dinges, Ph.D., says that you’re at your worst 24 hours after your usual wake-up time, meaning that the most challenging part of an all-nighter might actually be the morning after. Check out these tips for taking care of your body the morning after a sleepless night.

9. Schedule Rest Time

After a long all-nighter, it’s time to take some well-deserved rest. Set aside some time in your schedule for a quick nap to give you the boost you need to make it through the day. The following night, plan to turn in early so you can get some quality shut-eye.

Tip: To help speed up your recovery, schedule time for a quick 10- to 20-minute power nap. 

10. Avoid Too Much Caffeine

While coffee or an energy drink the next day may seem tempting, the burst of caffeine can make it more difficult to fall asleep the following night. Instead of your usual cup of joe, opt for a cup of caffeine-free tea or go old-fashioned with some thirst-quenching lemon water before hitting the hay.

If you need a caffeine pick-me-up, you should be strategic and cap your intake at 100 to 200 milligrams, says fatigue management expert Mark Rosekind, Ph.D.

Tip: Swap your coffee for a caffeine-free beverage like chamomile tea or hot lemon water.

11. Eat a Nutritious Meal

After your all-nighter, it’s essential to nourish your body with foods that are high in nutrients like protein and whole grains to help you feel full and energized. To start off the day on a positive note, consider having some eggs for a quick, protein-packed breakfast, or opt for a protein shake if you’re on the go.

While a pastry or sugary drink may seem tempting, you’ll want to avoid too much added sugar the next day. Eating too much sugar may cause a crash, slowing down your recovery time and causing you to feel tired and groggy. 

Tip: Opt for a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast the following day, like eggs or a protein shake.

12. Get Some Fresh Air

While air quality isn’t something you can always immediately see, studies have shown that getting more oxygen can significantly improve sleep quality and next-day performance. Whether you go on a quick outdoor walk or just spend some time relaxing in nature, your brain will thank you for it. 

Tip: After a night spent indoors, getting some fresh air can improve your performance and sleep quality the next day.

All-Nighter FAQs

Girl up late doing homework

Need to pull an all-nighter but don’t know where to start? Check out these popular questions to get ideas on how to successfully pull an all-nighter.

How to stay awake after an all-nighter?

After an all-nighter, you’ll likely face a morning slump. If possible, you should try to take a quick 10- to 20-minute power nap to give yourself an energy boost for the day ahead. If you need a pick-me-up, consider taking a lower dose of 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine (around one or two cups of coffee). 

Is it better to pull an all-nighter or sleep for two hours? 

An average sleep cycle is 90 minutes, or around 1.5 hours. Research has shown that a quick rest around that 90-minute mark may help minimize feelings of grogginess compared to a 60- or 120-minute sleep session. If you don’t have time for a full 1.5 hours of rest, aim for a 20-minute power nap instead. 

What happens to your body when you pull an all-nighter?

Pulling an all-nighter can strongly impact your body. If you stay up all night, possible side effects include:

  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Slower decision-making
  • Making poor choices
  • Struggling to retain information
  • Creating false memories

Can you drive after an all-nighter?

After an all-nighter, you absolutely should not be behind the wheel, says Rosekind. According to the CDC, staying awake for 18 hours can cause a similar level of impairment to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. When you increase the time to 24 hours, that number jumps up to a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. 

Although you may feel fine, your brain function is impaired. Combine this with the monotony of driving, and Rosekind warns that you may end up falling asleep on the road. 
Pulling an all-nighter is no easy task, and recovering from one may be just as difficult. If you want to get some restful shut-eye after an all-nighter, check out our mattresses for more quality sleep, and less counting sheep.