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

Pulled an all-nighter for an exam? Here’s how to get your sleep schedule back on track.

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How to get back on track after an all nighter - photo of girl sleeping at her desk

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.

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

Healthy fruit bowls

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.

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

Woman getting her sleep schedule on track after an all nighter

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.

Need more help getting back on track? See our list of sleeping tips to prioritize sleep this semester and get your sleep schedule sorted out.

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!

8 thoughts on “4 Tips to Get Back on Track After an All-Nighter”

  1. I pulled an all nighter last last and it’s 2 pm now. i am so tired and sleepy i can’t do anything to keep myself busy. I don’t wanna take a nap so that i sleep early at night and fix my sleep schedule but it’s so hard to resist sleeping!

  2. I agree with daina but i actually only get 2 hours of sleep and thats like 2am – 4 am because of apush. Best way to do allnigters are rock and roll music (not like i prefer it but it helps), lemon, cold waters, cold water to the face, and a clear objective.

  3. 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!

  4. 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 :(((((((

  5. 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 !

  6. 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.

  7. 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!!


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