How to pull an all-nighter, a rarely told, but powerful secret

I regularly work nights. I also have been pulling all nighters for the past twenty years, so I’ve gotten my method fairly down to a science. I don’t recommend doing this all the time and I do want to express the importance of sleep. However, when push comes to shove, sometimes you just have to stay up all night. Additionally, I also want to warn against using all nighters to memorize anything; it won’t work, so don’t try it. All nighters should strictly be used for work that you have to get done, but don’t have to think too much about to get to the finish. The reason for this should be obvious, but as the hours wear on, your mind starts to go. Many people have approached me after I’ve had a grueling night and asked, “how do you do it?” After this, you’ll know.

Step 1: Preparation

The first thing you need to do is prepare yourself for the hell that awaits you. If you don’t prepare, you will fail. You need food, water, milk, and your favorite caffeinated beverage. I’d recommend a multivitamin in there too. For the food, you want to do want your body knows it will love, but stay away from sweets, as the sugar will make you crash. If you are going to eat protein rich foods, I highly advise you to avoid eating them with the milk, as your body can not process dairy and protein at the same time. Lastly, if you intend to go outside after you are done, I highly advise you to get a pair of sunglasses and headphones or ear plugs.

Step 2: Schedule

After you have all your food and nutrients lined up, you need to make an easy schedule. Start with the end, i.e. the time you are going to crash, then work your way back to the start. Schedule in a five to ten minute break every hour to two hours just to get up and walk around, or something similar. Half way between the start and finish, schedule in a set time to take the multivitamin.

If you are a beginner, I do not recommend you stay up longer than thirty six hours. If you are more advanced, I do not recommend you stay up longer than seventy hours. I recall reading that the government states mental insanity can be declared after seventy two hours with no sleep, but you don’t want to hit that. For those that have pushed themselves hard, you know things start getting strange way before seventy two hours.

Above all, know your limits. If you push yourself too far too long, you could die.

Step 3: Start Early

Knowing your regular sleep time is very important to this process. The reason is: if you know when your body is going to be tired, you can stop it. This takes timing and preparation, but it is not an exact science. Alternatively, if you want to get a better night’s sleep, start going to bed at exactly the same time.

Once you know when your normal sleep time is, you need to start the process well before that point. If you are on the fence and trying to decide if you should go to sleep or not and are going to try to stay up longer, don’t. Go to sleep at that point. The focus here is you need some lead time to trick your body into forgetting that this is the time you normally go to sleep. I recommend starting at least two hours prior to your normal sleep time.

Step 4: Hit the cycle

You have your schedule and preparations done by this point, so you are ready to start. You are going to start with the caffeinated beverage of your choice. Drink it now. Then, thirty minutes later, drink some milk. Then, another thirty minutes later, drink some water. You are going to keep this cycle for the whole night, but increase the wait times by a minute to five minutes each hour. If you choose coffee or a caffeinated beverage that is high in caffeine, make sure to pace yourself. It’s okay to skip a serving of caffeine any time in this process, as it’s a drug, thus you can overdose. If you start feeling jittery or shaky, you’ve had too much and you need to slow down now. If you skip it, drink water instead. The human body processes caffeine differently for each person. Some people can process a cup of coffee in a hour, some it takes four. Once you are in this cycle, it should be easy to stay up well past your normal bed time, as the caffeine will not let your brain know it is tired.

Step 5: Keep Focus

This is the hardest part of pulling an all-nighter. You have to keep focus. If you find your mind drifting or you want to go to sleep, stand up, walk around, get the blood pumping, and then get back to work. As the hours pass and it gets more difficult to stay awake, remind yourself of how much you have done and how little you have left to accomplish. Focusing on your goal will make this process a lot easier.

When you reach the multivitamin point, take it. Your body normally is restoring itself at this point of the night and here you are running it into the ground. The multivitamin will help to make sure you don’t feel massively groggy; the water will only help you. The more hydrated you are through out the night, the easier this process will be. I’d also recommend eating some protein around this point too, but make sure it has amino acids in it. The amino acids will aid your body in rebuilding the muscle tissue.

The closer you get to the finish, the more it is okay to reward yourself. Just make sure you get everything done that you said you were going to get done.

Step 6: Crash

Once you have finished all the work you needed and the all-nighter is complete, it is time for you to crash. Sleep somewhere close to where you were working, or have some one come pick you up, if driving, or help you home. Once you get to your sleeping location of choice, sleep and don’t wake up until your body is fully rested.

Lastly, if you drive and you will need to drive home or to the location to sleep, don’t drive. Sleep in your car with the window cracked, or have some one drive you, like I said above. Driving tired is more dangerous than driving drunk. You could hurt yourself or even another innocent driver, if you do get behind the wheel. Don’t believe me? Every year doctors lose their lives because they pushed themselves too far and get in a car wreck on their way home. I know a few people that this has happened to, so heed my words.

Good luck!

13 Responses to “How to pull an all-nighter, a rarely told, but powerful secret”
  1. Robert Richardson says:

    Great article …. thanks

  2. gretaghoul says:

    Honestly, ive also discovered that, the early morning is the hardest. On my first all nighter, at about 4 a.m. i started hallucinating, and seeing things that dont exist. For example i saw a man step out of the mirror and come forward to me.
    I dont believe you can stay up for more than thirty six hours at the most.
    I mean, please. Seventy? Its not humanly possible. You would just pass out after forty hours or so.
    And you are telling a beginner to stay up for thirty six hours. When i used to be a beginner i could go for twenty two hours at the absolute maximum.
    And well, if you stay up for seventy two hours you are really crazy and can even damage your health. Get some rest. Seriously.

    • texmorgan says:


      Morning is definitely rough, especially if you start going down the road of “it’s really bright and all these people slept, but I didn’t” thought; this will just torture you.

      You may not believe that I can stay up past thirty six hours, but I did that every week this past term for school. I’ve been pulling all nighters for well over twenty years though, so please take that into account. Seventy is definitely possible, and I did it twice this past term; it’s not easy, by any means, but it is possible. As for your forty hour mark, I worked thirty five hours straight three times in the past six months and I definitely was up more than five hours past that each time.

      Also to clarify, I’m not telling beginners to stay up thirty six hours, I’m saying they should cap it off at that as the max. Most likely, beginners will stop well shy of that. They should. And please, don’t think that I’m encouraging people to needlessly stay up later and later. You should take care of your body.

      I’m well aware of the side effects of this and the damage it causes. However, I was living a lifestyle where these things were necessary given the workload. Thank you for your advice and I’m definitely doing so now.

    • Olivia says:

      Last year I stayed up for over 72 hours except for a 1.5 hr nap the first afternoon and a 20 minute nap the next afternoon. It didn’t help me because I was in the middle of midterms, and I did end up developing walking pneumonia because I was sick when I started. It’s crazy. It didn’t work. I will stay up two nights in a row with no sleep if I have a lot of writing assignments due but, even at this point, my focus wanes and my critical thinking skills take a sharp dive. It’s more productive to get a little bit of sleep after the first night, even if it’s just 3 – 4 hours. You wake up and can go much faster.

    • Chloe Johnson says:

      It is possible. In fact, a study was done where they kept volunteers up for as long as they possibly could. The average time, if I recall correctly, before their body refused to stay awake was 11 days. Granted, this was under ideal conditions, but still. I personally have stayed up 48 hours once. Right now, I’m on hour 34. I’m going to end up at about 41 hours if everything goes well. If not, I may have to be up later.

    • Anonymous says:

      I managed 45 consecutive hours awake in college once. Ended because I chose to crash, not because I passed out. You keep telling people it can’t be done, while people like me keep doing it.

  3. Isaiah says:

    I died

  4. chemE says:

    I think this article was veryyyy informative and helped me out greatly. Another tip I would lie to add is, when pulling all-nighters try and minimize the amount of energy you are using i.e. stay warm (an average temperature)! Don’t sit in a cold room while doing your work, and vice-versa don’t be hot either, otherwise your body will be using energy to keep you warm/keep you cool… I know it may sound trivial, but when you are essentially starving your body of sleep/energy, everything counts! Good luck

  5. Noah Dresser says:

    At this point in my life where health is one of my top priorities, I make it a point to never EVER sacrifice sleep for any sort of work. In the long run, my body’s health is much more important to me than getting a good grade. (obviously I’m still a student based on the maturity of my answer hehe)

  6. Sabbie Narwal says:

    Trying this right now, it sounds genius! The longest I’ve stayed up is 24 hours but I have to an hour of driving to school and back…I dunno how far I can/should go!

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