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4 Tips to Get Back on Track After an All-Nighter


Sleeping college student
(Image source)

As the end of the semester nears, many college students sacrifice personal care to tend to pressing matters such as final exams, papers, and projects. During this time of year, sleep is often one of the first activities students give up, either by sleeping irregular hours or not enough.

While many students believe they will simply reclaim this lost sleep over the weekend, regular all-nighters can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which can negatively affect the body’s ability to catch up on sleep. The symptoms of sleep deprivation include sluggishness in class and work, difficulties concentrating, and greater levels of irritation.

But what do you do if you just can’t avoid the all-nighter? How can you transition back to a healthy sleep schedule as easily as possible when an all-nighter is your only option? Here are some ideas to make all-nighter recovery as easy as possible.

1. Realize that all-nighters are not a way of life – use them only when necessary.

I’m a natural night owl, so staying up and taking advantage of my most “alert” period of the day always seems logical to me. However, when I wake up the next morning, I usually find myself completely useless until at least 10 am.

So while it may be appealing to put things off till the wee hours of the morning, doing so on a regular basis is ultimately damaging and sets a poor precedent. After all, if you are regularly staying up until 3 am doing normal homework, you’ll probably have stay up until dawn to finish a final paper.

College exam
(Image source)

2. Have less caffeine and more water, vegetables, and fruit.

While many people turn to caffeine to keep them going after an all-nighter, this could make your physical state even worse. I have written previously about the dangers of caffeine and these negative symptoms peak when your body is at its most vulnerable, such as after an all-nighter. Though it may seem like a reasonable idea to drink a couple cups of coffee before heading to class, it would often be better to put something healthy in your body first. Very cold water can keep you awake and hydrated, and fruit and vegetables can give you the natural boost of energy needed after a long night.

3. Some sleep is better than none.

While it is probably not a good idea to take a nap during the middle of the day, as it may further disrupt your sleep schedule, if you can get an extra two or three hours of sleep before you need to get up for class, take advantage. Your sleep schedule may remain just as disturbed by sleeping for those two or three hours, but the extra sleep is likely not going to make things much worse. Besides, there is little doubt that there are more benefits to getting some sleep than getting none.

Student asleep in class
(Image source)

4. Try and go back to your normal schedule the following night.

While it might be tempting to just take advantage of your newfound ability to stay up later than usual, it will likely make things more difficult for you in the long run. Doing so may make your one-time all-nighter into a regular habit – which, as we discussed before, is not what you want.

Instead, I recommend trying to reset your sleep schedule after an all-nighter. To do this, don’t go to sleep as soon as you get back from class. Instead, put off sleep until your “normal” bedtime if you can. You may find yourself so exhausted that you could pass out before dinner or, in contrast, so used to staying up late that it is difficult to sleep before 2 am, but try nonetheless. The sooner you make the first step towards regaining your healthy schedule, the better.

What do you think?

Do you ever pull all-nighters? What do you do when you’re trying to recover from them? What works best for you? What doesn’t seem to work at all? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Posted on on April 3, 2011 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , , , ,

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18 Responses to “4 Tips to Get Back on Track After an All-Nighter”

  1. 1
    April 3rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    ohh, i so wish i could show this article to my boyfriend without him laughing at me. i personally just can’t do all-nighters and do everything in my power to avoid them, but i’ll keep this in mind in case i have no other option!

  2. 2
    April 3rd, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve been pulling all-nighters this week, these tips are very helpful as I want to get back to sleeping again ^_^ Thanks for sharing!!

  3. 3
    April 3rd, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Great article! I don’t do all-nighters but I frequently have 3-hour of sleep nights. These tips will come in handy.

  4. 4
    April 3rd, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    as a student I had my fair share of all-nighters, and my best advice is quite simple: take a shower ( make it a cool one or you will fall asleep in the bathroom). It revives me in no time.. But I have to disagree with n.3, I usually work better with no sleep at all rather than, say, 1 hour. Maybe its only me, but if I sleep so little after a tiring night then I feel like a zombie :)

  5. 5
    April 3rd, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    In highschool I always went to bed by 10, but now in college I’ve been pushing my bedtime to 3 or 4 to finish hw and finals etc so that now my sleep sched. is completely ruined….but for spring 2011 quarter i will definately use this as a routine for any all nighters I can’t escape.

  6. 6
    April 4th, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I’m constantly up all night or only getting a few hours of sleep, there’s not much I can do about it. I take 6 classes (I’m an Elementary Education major with an English Literature minor) and none of them are the kind of class you can just sail through without too much work. I’m constantly doing papers and projects, more than anyone I know. I sleep mostly during the weekend and summer…lol! What else can I do? Not doing the work is not an option, and I’m the kind of person who needs to get an A if at all possible in all my classes. Nice tips though for those who can use them. :)

  7. 7
    April 8th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Depending on your body it definitely can hurt to get three hours of sleep- for most people none is actually a better option. Oh and another helpful tip, try to wait until an hour or so before your normal bedtime to fall asleep. If you pass out mid-afternoon you can really screw up your sleep schedule.

  8. 8
    April 10th, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    Yes I liked this. Very helpful. All night-ters and energy drinks are tempting except I woke up nauseous this morning and realizing that I need to go to bed tonight!

  9. 9
    April 15th, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I should show this to my roommate… She stays up almost every night until 3 or 4 and sometimes even 5. It’s crazy. I have no idea how she does it.

  10. 10
    October 26th, 2011 at 2:00 am

    awh im litraly soo tired its now 7 in the morning im awake since 5 yesterday evening. Dont know how im going to stay awake until 8 or 9 tonight, ive tryed napping & when i do i litraly cant get up and have a full sleep then its just the same routine all over again that night into the morning. Really sick ov it i love my sleep just have really bad insomnia. I Guess a few cans of red bull will have to do to give me energy and plus i have to try keep my self busy its gna be hard but wish me luck !

  11. 11
    March 15th, 2012 at 6:21 am

    well. i stayed up all night last night than tempted to stay up all day and go to sleep tonight but didnt work i fell asleep at 11:30 am and woke up at 5:30 pm. so i got 6 hours in but now i guess im going tempt it again its 5:20 am and im still awake going to try to push through it all day wish me luck.

  12. 12
    November 14th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I have pulled 4-5 all nighters this semester and I crashed after class last night at 5pm thinking I would just take a nap, woke up at 630 this morning, lacking any energy to even to open my laptop.

    I notice if I eat lots of fruits and oats i recover faster.

  13. 13
    August 18th, 2013 at 2:25 am

    lol i only had one day of internet left on my computer so i made the most of it and now i have to stay up till 10:30 pm to use it all and its 7:24 right now. :( im SO TIRED!
    but if i sleep then i will wake up at 5:00 pm :(((((((

  14. 14
    December 2nd, 2013 at 4:09 am

    I often fall into the habit of staying up late to finish homework because it so so hard for me to wake up in the morning and to fall asleep at night. I’ll take naps during the day varying from 30 min to 2 hours.

    To get back on a normal sleep schedule I’ll go to bed 8.5-9 hours before I have to get up the next day (giving me time to get ready in the morning and also allowing me time to fall asleep assuming I can’t right away). About twenty min before I actually go to bed I make a cup of Sleepy Time Tea (chamomile) with two bags, not one and drink it while I lay down in my cozy bed reading, or watching a short tv show and I fall asleep instantly. I force myself out of bed the next morning when my alarm goes off the FIRST time and do WHATEVER I can that day not to take naps and fall asleep at the same time.

    Getting into a routine is the hardest thing to do once you drift from your sleep schedule. Good luck to everyone!

  15. 15
    January 19th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    it’s like… people don’t understand that to be fully effective during their day, they must have a full night’s rest. You can’t have one without the other.

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