How to stay up the entire night painlessly and efficiently
Submitted by darktremor on Tue, 04/15/2008 - 12:06
- I'm posting this here because I constantly forget to do these things properly when working on assignments and studying all night (as is only too common in university).
- Avoid excess serotonin. Don't take SSRIs (if you're on them, you can skip one day with little effects: unless you're on Effexor, then don't), drink lots of milk, or eat very large meals. Milk in coffee or tea won't hurt.
- Drink coffee. No brainer, but don't drink too much, or you'll actually inhibit your intellectual capacity and motivation, which you'll really need. Like 2 cups, updating with 1 every 4 hours. This should be tweaked to you personally, but that's my general rule. I'm 6'1 and 180 pounds, so keep that in mind (if you're smaller, less, if you're bigger, more, as a rule of thumb - minor weight differences in this won't make matter much).
- Nausea is a problem with sleepless nights, but don't take Dimenhydrinate (aka gravol, dramamine), as these are sedatives. Chew on ginger. I'm serious - 2 placebo controlled trials actually found it to be more effective than some prescription anti-nauseants. It works really well. Mint tea with two bags in the water and no sugar also works well: I usually use a combination of the two. Note that if you take too much dimenhydrinate with something to keep you awake, you'll hallucinate wildly. You'll get a bit of this effect taking Gravol when staying up all night - things will feel weird, anxious, alien, and a little bit scary. Just avoid it. And don't try this recreationally, I've heard it's terrifying and extremely painful, and you actually can't tell the hallucinations from reality, because they're so vivid. There's a reason such a powerful hallucinogen is legal: it's so unpleasant that no one could possibly abuse it.
- If you have to stay up all night all the time, you'll become tolerant to caffeine. If this occurs, try getting a prescription for modafinil. It's a very effective stimulant that works on a completely different pathway from caffeine. It doesn't feel like a stimulant - it just feels like you got enough sleep. This is an official use of it, if you have to stay up overnight regularly (it's called shift work sleep disorder). It find it far more effective than caffeine, and it appears to be safer as well.
- If you can't get a modafinil prescription, sudafed has some nice stimulant properties, different from caffeine's. However, I recommend staying away from it unless you're really exhausted, because it's ever-so-slightly dysphoric - it will make you anxious. Using it with a bit of caffeine (which is mood-lifting) removes this effect, but when the crash comes, you'll be more depressed than you can possibly imagine - it will take you a long time to actually go to sleep.
- See if you can find yourself some ephedrine. Don't take it all the time (long-term, excessive use can cause muscle degeneration), but during all-nighters, it can be a life-saver, and it is quite safe for occasional use. I think ephedrine may be a controlled substance in the US now, but if (like me) you're in Canada or anywhere else where drug laws aren't written by Christian fundamentalists, you can buy it in leaf form in your city's Chinatown - it's called Ma Huang. Actually, even if you can get the pills, I still suggest steeping the ma huang leaves into tea: it's a nice thing to sip on while working, and you can sip it slowly the first time you use it to prevent adverse reactions (which are actually quite unlikely, because honestly, ephedrine is a very weak stimulant, on par with caffeine - although it acts on a different neural pathway, so there's no cross-tolerance, hence why I suggest it). Plus if you drink it as a tea, it's very socially acceptable, whereas it freaks people out if you take ephedrine pills (for a perfect example of this, look at the difference in reactions you get when you tell someone you drank three cups of coffee versus if you tell them you took three wake-up pills, even though there is no difference in your psychoactive drug consumption between the two cases).
- Focus will wane at some periods of the night: to counter this, flex every muscle in your body that you can - tense yourself up - while still reading. It sounds absurd, but it's clinically proven to work. A number of peer-reviewed studies have found that this position is your body's natural position in extreme concentration (hence why it's so seen in constipation, as you might have noticed). Other studies find that physically reproducing your body's emotional states (of which concentration is one) actually partially create brain activation in areas associated with the state, as well as similar blood hormone levels. Concentration is no exception. While it's not quite the same as real concentration, it actually makes a big difference. It's best for rote memorization and reading impossibly dull and poorly written segments.
- Advice: No one e-mailed you in the 2 minutes since you last checked your e-mail. (The same goes for facebook).
- More advice: Surfing Youtube does NOT qualify as "research." Trust me, that video of a turtle beating up a cat will not find its way into your presentation as "comic relief," no matter how much you convince yourself otherwise.
- Just because you're reading something that generally relates to the field you're studying, doesn't mean you're actually doing work. For example, taking a test on tickle to see what personality disorder you most resemble is not relevant to a paper on the mathematics of Hebbian neural networks.
- Talking to friends is not "research on the psychology of interpersonal relations."
- Stay off listology, or you'll end up making stupid little lists instead of working.