Terminally Incoherent

Utterly random, incoherent and disjointed rants and ramblings...

Monday, April 10, 2006

How to pull an all-Nighter?

I was reading Lifehacker, and I found this article about pulling all-nighters. It's all nice and dandy but there is nothing in that article that wouldn't be common sense, and self explanatory.

What is the point of giving advice such as: when you are sleepy, don't like down, take a cold shower, walk around or drink coffee/tea. No shit sherlock!

The truth is - pulling an all-nighter is not difficult. Staying up should not be all difficult unless you are 5 and it's Christmas Eve :P

What is difficult is coping with prolonged sleep deprivation and sleep debt. When you pull an-all nighter, you most likely need to go to school/work the next day. Hell, you might be forced to work late night hours the very same day. Thus you may not be able to "catch up" on sleep till the weekend or something like that.

You will likely accumulate sleep debt, and you will get progressively more exhausted and fatigued every day.

It all really depends on your natural resistance, physical condition and etc. Everyone is affected differently. A stand alone all-nighter is usually harmless, especially if you are young and fit. But when it is followed by several late night coding sessions (or another all-nighter down the road), even the toughest, meanest hard core coffe chugging hacker can start to suffer from sleep deprivation symptoms.

First, and most important tip for those who pull an all-nighter is: try not to not drive the next day. Especially in the evening. Beware of the microsleep lapses. They can be extremely dangerous when you are behind the wheel. The worst part is that you can't control these - your brain simply switches off for a moment.

Most people are not even aware they fall asleep this way. You go from fully awake, to out cold to fully awake again in under a minute. To you it may seem like you "spaced out" for a second but most likely you just had a microsleep lapse. A minute is enough time to drive into a ditch, or hit a tree. So be careful.

Second, be aware of the "Undead" syndrome. This is where you turn into a living zombie and you sit at your desk staring at your monitor for a good hour or two. Your mind will wander, and generally work in low gear. Are sharp like a razor in the morning, chances are that by lunchtime you will turn into a barely coherent, spaced out lump of flesh. Your concentration will suffer, and getting into "the zone" will be twice or three times as difficult as usual. Every time you get interrupted you will be knocked out off the flow, and it will take you a while before you can resume work at your normal pace. This is normal.

Third, Caffeine rush is to be expected. See, you were up all night drinking coffee and soda. Now you are at work/school drinking more of it to keep yourself awake. You should expect to be unusually hyper. You may also be moody, fidgety, irritated or even anxious. And you will crash eventually. Caffeine crash may range from a total physical shutdown to a mild downer. It usually manifests itself as energy drain. At some point you just stop fidgeting, and you slump down into a near coma. You may experience extreme fatigue, muscle pains, dry mouth, headache and etc. The severity of the rush, and subsequent crash of course depend on the amount of caffeine you ingest. If you just drink coffee or soda you will likely experience only a mild crash.

If you are into Jolt Cola, energy drinks, caffeinated mints and Caffeinated soap - and you use them in excessively during your all-nighter and the day after... Well, you will feel like shit when you crash.

I recommend sticking to your regular amounts of caffeine. You really don't need 7 coffees, and 10 Red Bull's and a pack of coke to stay awake all night. If you don't go overboard you may avoid the caffeine rush, and the subsequent crash.

And lastly, long term abuse of your circadian rhythms will affect your sleep patterns. If you pull many all-nighters, your body will try to adapt to all this late night activity. So once you go back to normal sleeping pattern, you may find it difficult to fall asleep even when you are very tired. You may find yourself tossing and turning till 4am for few days/weeks until your cyrcadians return to normal. This is to be expected :P

Please note that IANAD - most of this is from personal experience, and stuff that I heard from others.


  • At Tue Apr 11, 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous ZeWrestler said…

    Hehe, i can relate to all of that. Especially, the microsleep lasp. Had one of those when I was driving my xgf home from my house. Nearly drove off the road.


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