How to Pull an All Nighter

Two Parts:The EssentialsStaying Awake

There are many legitimate reasons to pull an all-nighter on occasion. Perhaps you've got to cram before an important test or finish off an essay, perhaps you just want to have a movie marathon. or perhaps you need to stay awake to finish an important assignment. You might even be off schedule for sleeping (all-nighters help that). Whatever the reason, pulling an all-nighter doesn't come naturally to all people and it takes some know-how to do it effectively and safely.

Part 1
The Essentials

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    Think positive and do not stress. Bathe at night to cool the body. Study during the night to avoid wasting the time. Scary movies can keep one alert but don't do it so much that it becomes a distraction; it's enough to do a little during your hourly 5-20 minute break.
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    Avoid black tea. Black tea may seem like an ideal solution but you may get a temporary buzz then crash badly the following day (perhaps halfway through your test or meeting).
    • Instead, drink two brimming glasses of ice-cold water every 30 minutes. Not only will the cold water help to keep you awake, but you'll need to urinate very often. It's difficult to sleep on the toilet.
    • Non-caffeinated herbal tea will also naturally keep you awake due to tea's extensive amount of herbs.
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    Turn off instant messengers and emails, your cellphone, the TV, and do not surf the internet, fiddle with games on your electronic devices, read, draw, write poetry, etc. In fact, pinch yourself if you do any of these distracting things. The act of pinching will draw you back to reality and to a need to focus on getting your work done, but if you want to pull an all-nighter for another reason, phones, tablets, etc, give off blue light, which can keep you awake. (Try to see if a friend wants to join you from their house!)
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    Eat protein-rich foods like sandwiches, cheese, and other dairy products. Sugary foods may make you feel awake for a little while, but can eventually make you feel drowsy as you crash off the sugar high. Apples keep your blood sugar stable so you're able to stay awake longer––and some say they're better than caffeine. However, any fruit or healthy food is better than eating anything sugary and you might want to avoid eating too much at all, as this can cause you to become bloated, distracted and even more sleepy.
    • Avoid eating a heavy meal the evening of the all-nighter. This will leave you feeling lethargic and sleepy. Eat a light, healthy meal, such as a stir-fry.
    • Don't eat granola, milk, lemons, turkey, bananas, figs, or toast. These are all foods that will make you tired and sleepy.
    • Do something like tapping your feet. It may seem weird, but it helps for some people to constantly tap their feet. If it becomes a habit, it might just save you from falling asleep at those final dire moments and it keeps you awake without being distracting.
    • If you have an energy drink or coffee, take one small sip every 30 minutes. It keeps you awake without the crash. If you feel like you are going to really fall asleep, close your eyes and put an ice cube on them. You will feel awake immediately.
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    Try hard not to yawn. You're yawning because you are taking in less oxygen, and that means your breathing is steady, light, and slow. You don't want that. However, you may be yawning right now if you're sympathetic to yawning!
    • Instead, try laughing. Laughing a lot helps keep you busy and entertains you. It works out your muscles and sends endorphins running through your body, making you happy. Watch a funny video on the internet if you feel yourself nodding off.

Part 2
Staying Awake

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    Make sure the reason for the all-nighter is worth it or unavoidable. You should not stay up all night just because you need to study; your sleep is the time when memories of studies and activities from the day before are properly processed and denying yourself sleep can make you both memory impoverished and lacking in the energy needed to succeed. In most cases, it is always better to stay up for a good length of time but then you should get some rest.
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    If you have decided that an all-nighter is the only solution, then start preparing. For example, your boss may be demanding those garments be completed before the fashion show, the numbers crunched before the foreclosure meeting, or you have a major project due the next day.
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    Try to take a short afternoon nap, so you have more energy during the night. If at all possible, make this a two to three hour nap as this will allow for good rest.
    • During the actual night, set a timer if you're going to nap. Don't nap for more than 20 minutes during the all-nighter itself, and stay half-awake. Be aware that napping during the night could lead to you to staying asleep, so it's best avoided. The afternoon nap should suffice to see you through.
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    Watch something that will keep you awake. What keeps you awake at night? Scary movies, whodunnit thrillers, dance competitions? Choose whatever excites and invigorates your senses to try to create wide awake feelings. Just be careful that you don't get too distracted by the movie or show to get your work done!
    • Get scared. Sure, it sounds silly, but try it. Watch a horror movie or read something frightening. You'll be too scared to fall asleep. This is best used when you're at the end of the night and need to get through that last little bit, and make sure the movie goes straight to the action; it's easy to fall asleep in dull moments. Do not do this if there is work to be finished, though!
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    Do your work. Given your flagging energy and desire to go to sleep, you may get sidetracked as the night wears on depending how well "in the flow" you become. Avoid a flagging sense of energy and motivation by setting a constant pace for yourself: For example, try 40 to 55 minutes of work, and taking a 5 to 20 minute break, or perhaps a quick walk around outside in a safe and well lit area. Keeping your mind occupied should make it easier to stay awake, so try to leave the work that you find most interesting or easiest for the later part of the night.
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    Play hardcore metal music. You may not enjoy it, but it must be, at all costs, harsh and a bit arrhythmic. Try to stick to instrumental music, which is less distracting. This will keep you from being lulled to sleep.
    • If others are sleeping around you, clearly you'll need to keep the level of the music low. Use earphones if necessary.
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    Work with the windows open. Cold air will help to keep you awake, while warm air knocks you out. Think of the nights you can't sleep because of being cold compared to the nights when the cozy warmth of a room causes you to nod off. If you find the cold air is effective in keeping you awake, you can even go to the bathroom and splash your face with cold water.
    • Not everyone improves their alertness in cold air and feels sleepy in warm air. For some people, it works the other way around. Obviously, choose whatever works for you best.
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    Set your computer screen to a lower setting, (duller and darker) so as not to strain your eyes. Eye-strain is caused by excessive tiredness, reading in bad light, or staring at computer screens for long periods of time. Take a break from reading or computers every ten minutes, simply by turning your head and looking around the room for a few seconds, focusing on something far away for a change.
    • If you're using Microsoft Word, you can set the screen to blue with white text in the Tools > Options > General menu. This helps reduce eye strain.
    • If you're using Emacs, you can change the background color with M-x set-background-color. This helps reduce eye strain.
    • Specially designed software, such as f.lux, is available to Windows and Mac users to automatically adjust your screen to adapt to the time of the day and avoid light strain. The program works great, but one thing to keep in mind is that it works as a "Blue Blocker" to allow melatonin to be produced in your brain which aids sleeping.
    • Keep the light on. It's hard to stay awake when you're in a nice, dark room.
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    Do not work in bed, on a couch, or on the floor. If you work in any other place than a cold, hard table and chair, you will feel very tempted to sleep and the more comfortable the location, the worse you'll feel. If possible, work somewhere far away from your sleeping area or bed, so that it's an effort to go back and sleep. Try to be around some other people, too, so that you do not feel comfortable sleeping in your chair.
    • Careful of slumping! When you're tired, slumping your body becomes a natural habit. However, make yourself sit up straight. It increases your state of alertness and helps you to feel better. Try reading standing up (use a music stand/top of a low bookcase or side buffet, etc.) as other ways to maintain your posture.
    • If you have one, try sitting and bouncing on an exercise ball. It is nearly impossible to fall asleep then, but make sure to not do it to much as to where you get nauseous and can't think.
    • Try sitting in different places around the room.
    • Squeeze and massage your ears. There are acupressure points on your ears, and when stimulated, send electrical signals into your brain. You'll feel buzzed immediately.
    • Still feeling tired? Lie on your back on a hard surface and hug your knees to your chest. This will help awaken you.
    • Don't lay in bed with your eyes closed. You will fall asleep, falling into a crazed dream state in which you convince yourself that it has all been done already...
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    Think positively. Thoughts such as: "I am almost done," "This is actually not too bad," "I will get to see the sunrise," "I will get a good grade" or "I will wow the board in the morning with these finished statistics charts" can definitely help.
    • If you're tired and bored of studying the same thing over and over again, remain positive. You can even try to make a game out of it so studying won't be so strenuous and dull.Try even singing a song of what you're doing and while you write out the sums.
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    Be careful with creative thoughts. As the night wears on, you may start to fall into a daydream state where you think about what you'd rather be doing, where you'd rather be and how nice and comfortable things could be if only you weren't there.
    • Don't write poetry or quietly sing songs, draw, or even play with your hair while daydreaming. These can lull you into sleepiness.
    • Don't think about anything luxurious, such as being in a mansion or in a hot tub, you will feel relaxed. If you have to daydream, think of scary things like being trapped in an uncomfortable room before the chopping block.
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    If you have time at the end of the night, Try to catch at least a few winks. First, pack up your stuff in readiness for taking with you, lay out your clothes in readiness for slipping on quickly, then set your alarm as late as possible in order to achieve the most possible sleep. Just be sure it's loud and perhaps even have another household member to check that you've actually woken up and stepped out of bed.
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    Consider going to bed early and getting up early instead of pulling an all-nighter. This is often a lot kinder to your system than an all-nighter, although you will probably still feel bleary-eyed and tired because it's a change in routine. However, it may be a better way to getting things done and crashing mid-afternoon the next day instead.
    • If you have a test in the morning you should not stay up all night just because you need to study. Remember that you also need your sleep which is even more important. Stay up for a good length of time but then you should get some rest.
    • Realize if you're "hitting the wall" and you can't even remember what you just read or you're nodding off involuntarily. Sometimes it's better to get four hours of sleep and cram what you can in the morning rather than be in a complete dreamworld for the test.


  • Your brain works better when you're rested than when you're tired. It might be better to go to bed early and get up early to study.
  • If you feel your eyelids drooping, try pinching yourself, rubbing your face with a piece of ice, standing up, running in place, and doing a few jumping jacks to get an adrenaline rush. Or, if at worst, take a ten minute nap. Be careful with naps!
  • Music channels and news channels work very well because they don't demand your attention all of the time, and yet are interesting enough to keep your attention and keep you awake. They may be somewhat of a distraction, but if it's just books you're poring over for hours and hours, it'd be a lot harder to keep going.
  • Listen to music from musicals every once in a while sing and dance along. Just listen on your breaks or when you feel sleepy just sing and dance along for a whole song.
  • Keep the room lit well enough to keep you awake.
  • Avoid using too many stimulants. Having too much in your system can lead to anxiety.
  • Keep a notepad by you when studying or working to jot down any things you may think of instead of getting distracted. If you're prone to thinking of things you have to do when you're busy or ideas pop into your head randomly, this way you can keep track of what comes into your mind (such as what to study, other chores or things you have to do) without interrupting your progress.
  • Rotate subjects every hour, if applicable. You'll quickly mentally wear out on one topic.
  • Eat high-protein foods on an infrequent basis through the night: smoothies, cheese, a sandwich, a plate of stew will all keep your energy levels as high as they are during the daytime.
  • Watch your time. It will not do to work on the project all night only to miss your class, meeting or hand-in deadline. Don't rush. You have all night, but also don't procrastinate any further. Neither will have a good grade or presentation outcome.
  • Before you leave for the day, jump around, do push-ups, and get pumped up and awake. Be ready to do well on the test, give your board presentation or whatever it is ahead of you. You worked hard for it, and you probably know or have prepared a lot more than you think.
  • Staying up and doing the work with "responsible" friends or colleagues can help you stay on track.
  • Taking a cold shower can be very refreshing. Also, cold air keeps you awake, as does cold water or ice.
  • If you are in the position where you're going to be unable to sleep for several days due to workload, it is important to look at the situation realistically. For example, if you have to learn 5 chapters of chemistry, it may be better to learn 3 chapters really well and just skim over the rest and get a few hours of sleep before the exam. Rely on nutshell versions for parts of study you're not going to reach; a little is better than none or pure exhaustion.
  • Napping: Take naps only for about ten minutes. Set a loud timer to wake you up, and stay half-awake. Short naps refresh you. Anything longer and you'll fall into a deep stage of sleep, which will leave you groggy when you are forced awake.
  • Spicy food is a great way to keep yourself awake. If you're pretty resistant to spicy food, try some extra spicy Asian Noodle Dishes or Burrito with habanero Hot Sauce. It's doubtful you'll be able to fall asleep while you're panting and gulping down all that ice water.
  • Organize your work, you're more likely to do it if your book is already on the right page and the worksheet you need done is already out.
  • If you get tired, get an ice bag and rub it on your forehead or the back of your neck, anywhere that will be cold enough to wake you up!
  • Have a good time! As hard as this sounds, you need to not want to go to bed! Instead of napping, take those ten minutes to put on your favorite music and dance around. You'll be exhausted bodily, but your mind will be completely refreshed.
  • If you have a pet, keep it in your room so they can help you stay awake.
  • If you have to go into an exam or present in front of people, try eating bananas; they kill off part of the zombie effect that too much caffeine can give you and they help to keep you focused with a sustained amount of carbs and potassium. One every half hour/question works if you're really in bits.
  • Avoid coffee or soda until just before the test. If you drink a lot of it while studying, you will completely crash a few hours later. But if you really must, your best bet is to take a small gulp then sip an energy drink throughout the night. It will wake you up then keep you up. Side note, energy drinks have ingredients in them that actually aid memory retention. Also, think about what time you want to go to sleep. Stop drinking about an hour before this time. This will make sure you die down a little so you can actually go to sleep. It's a really good idea to have two cans on hand. One can for the night and another if you need a kick before the test or throughout the day.
  • If you wear contacts, take them out before you start so you're not distracted by rubbing them all the time.
  • On second and third sequential all-nighters, you may find 45 minutes of moderate exercise helps you think (endorphins).
  • Warm showers are super bad they make you sleepy, also comfortable clothing after a cool shower defeats the purpose. Try driving juice natural sugars help, also walking around every few hours.
  • Try to not slouch or get too comfortable. Try sitting up straight and in a well lit area.
  • Try not to get too comfortable, such as getting in pajamas, laying in bed or on a couch, sit up straight, and watch something that keeps you entertained at all times.
  • Keep moving and walk around the room for a little while, or if you have enough room run some laps but don't tire yourself.
  • If you have a fan and feel tired, turn the fan on high and eat an ice cube. This method will make you cold and hopefully keep you awake.
  • If you're having a slumber party or sleepover, play games that are fun and engaging but can last for a while, like Monopoly.
  • Playing exciting video games will keep your brain alert.
  • Work in a room you won't be able to fall asleep in, like a bathroom, washroom, or the kitchen. Comfortable furniture like couches and beds might make you doze off more easily. Studying on the floor or an uncomfortable chair might help you stay awake too.
  • If you're pulling an all-nighter, do it on the weekend or during the holidays so you can catch up on your sleep. You'll need about half a day to recover from the loss of sleep, so going to school or work next day can be excruciatingly difficult.
  • Drink Orange Pekoe tea, avoid herbal tea and black and green tea, they make you sleepy.
  • Listen to upbeat music if you can't stand metalcore.
  • If you look like a zombie the morning after, slap a little foundation for girls, and for guys, use much less, but still use it (but avoid sparkling foundation if not worn on a regular basis).
  • Make sure to take a cold shower in the morning if you have school. This will wake you up, and you hopefully won't fall asleep in class.
  • Try not to do anything bad while at an all-nighter; if anyone catches you it's all over.
  • If you get tired try to take a mini nap or close your eyes. Just don't fall actually fall asleep. If you've decided to take a mini nap set two alarms one to wake you from your nap and the other just in case if you fall asleep. If you have a phone alarm, try to put it on snooze.


  • Pulling an all-nighter may be counter-productive. If you are very tired during an exam, you will not be alert, and you will not do your best.
  • Take a shower and freshen up every so often.
  • If you have school the following day, don't pull an all-nighter unless absolutely necessary.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar. Both, while giving you a temporary high, will induce a "crash" which will only make you more tired. These are to be avoided, as they'll screw up any chance of performing life-like in class or work the next day. If you are used to coffee, know what it does to you and feel you can get it all done by the time you "crash", it may be worth it.
  • Be careful about driving and operating machinery after an all-nighter. In fact, don't! Being severely drowsy behind the wheel or unsettled from all the caffeine is a recipe for disaster.
  • Try to avoid pulling all-nighters if you can, for your body needs sleep, and staying up all night can be quite unhealthy. In truth, if you're pulling an all-nighter, it should be because something is due the next day, and not finishing it can get you fired or send you to summer-school.
  • Pulling an all-nighter might not be worth it. By that point, you either know the material, or you don't. Cramming so much information in such a short amount of time will not help––your brain will not absorb it, and you might not be able to recall it by the time you take the test. It might be best to get a good nights sleep, so that you will be alert and at your most productive.
  • If you are going to be pulling sequential all-nighters, it is not recommended you use of stimulants. It is easy to get addicted if they're being used on a regular basis.

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