Too much is happening at once. Too much is due at once. Too much has been put off all at once. These, combined with a sports game, taking the late shift at work, and unexpected car trouble will all contribute to pulling an all-nighter.
Assuming you are relatively new to this process, here is an approximate hour by hour guide about what the experience is like – settle in for the long haul, it’s going to suck.
11:00 pm- You have hopefully started working by now, productivity is probably slow but steady. The stress keeps you awake and working.
12:00 am- Tiredness is starting to grip your psyche, and you’ll want to nap. Even the tiniest 10 minute nap is ridden with guilt, as you wake up with a jolt of horror realizing the workload that awaits. This hour is marked with wandering thoughts and endlessly scrolling through social media, a wasted 60 minutes. If you haven’t had any caffeine (high volume of coffee or espresso, energy drinks, whatever floats your boat) already, the time is now. (Remember, the key to actually being able to even make it to morning is to caffeinate, caffeinate, caffeinate)
1:00 am- Totally forgot about these two assignments. What? They’re due tomorrow already?!? Hold on a second, that’s today!
1:30 to 3:00 am – Your productivity will experience a decline from fair to poor in these hours. This is either when you power through and finish your work or realize that you might as well take your time because you’ve got all night. The amount of work and the decisions made during this time period is what separates the sleep-deprived from the sleep-desperate. Stress is replaced with indifference.
3:30 am- Hopefully, you’re not hallucinating.
4:30 am- This is a good time to expect to see a final spike in productivity, which will have to carry you through to completing the last of the night’s (morning’s?) work.
5:30 am – It isn’t really worth going to bed at this point, just take a thirty minute nap on the couch.
6:00 am- And now I have to go to school?!? Even after I stayed up ALL NIGHT?!? Sure do, if the night itself wasn’t so bad the next day at school might feel pretty awful.
7:20 am- Going to school is an odd experience after not sleeping since the last time you were there. It makes you realize and appreciate that even a restless four-hour night’s sleep does offer a mental reset, where each day is started out with a normal morning routine and a clean slate.
The rest of the day – It doesn’t feel like a real day: it feels surreal, it feels extraneous, it feels like a weird, unimportant, recycled leftover from the day before. And to you, now successful All-Nighter Completer, that’s exactly what it is.
Everyone experiences the Day After a little differently, but you can probably expect the following:
- You may not really feel that tired during the day, but the moment there is a little silence and you can rest your head on something even marginally comfortable, it’s lights out.
- Depending on your caffeine intake, don’t be surprised if you’re anxious, jittery, can’t stop tapping pencil, got a shaking leg, etc.
- The stuff that you will say is even dumber than usual. You could find yourself wondering what strange/inappropriate/surprisingly wise phrase just leapt out from your sleep-deprived conscious.
- Maybe you feel fine, but understand you’re not, not at all. When put in a situation that tests your limits, you’ll feel the lack of sleep makes it more difficult to make decisions in stressful situations. Be creative, and stay focused.
- Between coming down from the caffeine high and being deprived of rest, you’ll feel sick, like you’re coming down with a cold.
- DO NOT DRIVE YOURSELF TO SCHOOL! Get a parent to take you to school or carpool with someone. Driving when your this tired (even if you don’t feel that tired) is incredibly dangerous.
By this time you will have been awake for over 40 hours, and you probably won’t want to ever do it again. It’ll take a few nights of good sleep (8-10 hours) for your body to recover. To an extent, these experiences are preventable; you will learn to manage your time and workload better so as not to need to do an all-nighter again.