Remember when pulling an all-nighter was an exciting adventure to tackle with friends at a sleepover, when you would sneak snacks from the kitchen in the dark and find PG-13 movies on TV to watch with the volume low enough so that your parents couldn’t hear?
Unfortunately, since then, all-nighters have become the dreaded (and sometimes only) solution to getting work done, with our constantly packed schedules of classes, extra-curricular activities and social events. They’re the solution to finishing that term paper you left until the last minute or covering the past six lectures of Gen Chem in preparation for an exam. But, all-nighters are a lot easier said than done, especially if you need to stay focused. While you may have heard some basic tips about successfully conquering an all-nighter, such as, of course, getting a lot of sleep the night before and not eating a huge dinner, there are a few important pointers to keep in mind when the urge for a midnight (or 2am…) snack strikes.
Check out this list of tips with the best foods for staying awake during an all-nighter and staying functional the day after:
Protein and Fiber: Nuts and Seeds
Where to find it: Trail mix packs and Clif bars (usually only White Chocolate Macadamia flavor) in the vending machine, as well as that last remaining bran muffin at Whispers
While it is unlikely that you would crave a steak or a piece of grilled chicken in the middle of the night, other sources of protein such as nuts and seeds will provide you with sustained energy to stay awake. Similarly, the bran in a bran muffin, for example, is packed with fiber to keep you full so that you can focus on your work. You may opt to avoid almonds, though, as they contain tryptophan and magnesium, which naturally reduce muscle function and steady the heart rate, causing some people to feel slightly sleepy.
Where to find it: Bananas and apples in Whispers (although, since they often run out, we suggest grabbing whole fruit from the DUC earlier in the day to prep for your all-nighter)
This one is tricky because while whole fruits can provide some natural sugars to increase your energy levels, dried fruits, fruit snacks and fruit juices are not equal substitutes because of their excessively high levels of sugar. In other words, everything in moderation, but especially sugar. The dried fruits and fruit-flavored snacks and juices can induce a crash after the initial buzz that will easily have you dozing off in your chair. It may be wise to avoid cherries, however, as they are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle.
Caffeine: Coffee or Black Tea
Where to find it: Whispers. The everyday coffee drinker should opt for an espresso drink during an all-nighter, instead of plain coffee, for a stronger, longer-lasting effect.
Although caffeine seems like the obvious solution to making it through the night, there are some specific tips to keep in mind for getting the best effect from your caffeinated drink. If you are normally a heavy coffee drinker, try cutting back on coffee in preparation for an all-nighter, because the body tends to develop a tolerance to its effect. If you normally do not drink coffee, you might opt for black tea during your all-nighter instead, since it has lower levels of caffeine than coffee, so you can avoid getting jittery. Regardless, the caffeine will work more effectively if you take it in small doses, so avoid downing multiple cups of coffee or tea in preparation for an all-nighter and opt for sipping your drink throughout the night instead.
Where to find it: Water fountains (yay for sustainability and reusable water bottles!)
Interestingly, drinking two to three glasses of ice water each hour can be as effective for staying awake as a caffeinated beverage. The key is that dehydration causes grogginess that leaves you unable to focus and is also the source of most headaches; water is simply the best strategy to avoid these issues. The cold temperature of the water will also keep you alert if you take small sips throughout the night.
Avoid foods filled with carbohydrates because they generate a spike in blood sugar that could leave you groggy and also will not fully satisfy your hunger, causing you to keep reaching for more. This means no chips, cookies or candy, which you will hopefully crave less after filling up on the above healthier choices.
The Morning After:
Let’s say you used all of the tips above and you made it through the night! Congratulations on your successful all-nighter! In some cases, you may actually feel euphoric from the adrenaline rush that comes with seeing the sunrise after a full night awake. However, you’re bound to feel groggy at some point the next day; for most people, it comes around 24 hours after the time when they normally wake up because of the natural body clock or circadian rhythm. Easting a substantial breakfast with a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats such as an egg and cheese sandwich from Cherry Tree or Einstein’s can provide you with some extra energy to ward off the tiredness, at least for some time.
In addition to following the above food tips, you might consider taking 10-15 minute power naps (anything longer may cause you to feel more sleepy when you wake up), taking short breaks to go for a walk and leaving bright lights on in your work area during an all-nighter.