Surviving the Day After an All-Nighter
What works and what doesn't after you've been up all night.
After a night without sleep, your working memory is impaired. That means you can’t keep as many things in your mind at one time, Drummond says.
A study of 40 young adults who had 42 hours of sleep deprivation -- equivalent to staying up all night and the next day until a late bedtime -- showed a 38% decrease in working memory capacity. Imaging studies confirmed that the part of the brain involved in integrating information isn’t as active in people who are sleep deprived.
Know Your Limitations
You may try to snap yourself awake by splashing cold water on your face or opening a window or making the room a bit cooler. You may feel better after taking a shower and dressing up for a new day. But there’s no way to trick your body and mind. That refreshed feeling is destined to be followed by a slump.
“The biological drive for sleep is so great that you just can’t cheat it,” Drummond says. “It is as important for life as water and oxygen and food.”
There’s good news at the end of an all-nighter. Once you finally get to sleep again, you will sleep more deeply than usual, with more slow-wave sleep. “It's better to sleep until you just naturally wake up,” says Dinges, which means you may sleep 9 or 10 hours. That will be the true recovery from your sleepless night, he says.