Published on March 19, 2012
I recently came across this “Anatomy Of An All Nighter” infographic. Whether you're a student, a busy parent, or have an important work project that keep you up, this is valuable information to know.
Check it out, and then be sure read my tips below to learn what you can do to limit the damage from lack of sleep.
By the way, the text on this graphic is bit small, so use the “command” and “+” button on a Mac to zoom, or the “control” and “+” button on a PC to zoom.
OK, so now that you're scared senseless of all nighters, what can you do about the potential damage?
Here are three tips for you:
About halfway down the infographic, you see a suggestion to nap during your all nighter. This is a great suggestion, but I've personally found it leaves me groggy and very unmotivated to wake back up when the alarm goes off.
Instead, you may want to instead use the strategy of “polyphasic sleep”, so here is an excerpt from the written transcript of Podcast #110, in which I talk about how this works (the section I've bolded is the part to really notice):
“There’s been some studies done that have suggested that this polyphasic sleep actually allows just as much enhancement of recovery and performance as getting the deep rapid eye movement and 8 hour phase or 7 and a half to 9 hour phase sleep cycles. There’s a few different phases that have been studied and a lot of these studies have been done of course in the armed forces, the US military, by NASA, a little bit in the Italian air force and by the Canadian marine pilots but essentially it’s scheduling your napping in a specific format to allow your body to get the optimum levels of sleep in both deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep and there’s a few different types of polyphasic sleep cycles that you can go to. So here’s what they are. One would be to get right around 6 hours of sleep. So for example, sleep from midnight to 6 and then do one 20 minute nap. For example after lunch. Another sleep pattern that’s been experimented with is to get just 4 and a half hours of that core sleep… so for example sleeping midnight to 4:30 and then doing two 20 minute naps during the day. Another cycle would be three hours of sleep with three 20 minute naps and then one and a half hours of sleep with four or five 20 minute naps. Now obviously you’re getting in the realm there where you would have to be planning your naps very regularly to get by on that. And then there’s one final phase of polyphasic sleep cycling called the “Uberman” where you’re actually only sleeping a total of two hours during a 24 hour sleep cycle but you’re doing that via six 20 minute naps. And even with that, under extreme circumstances you can still maintain alertness and performance for several days.”
Using the strategy I've bolded, you could technically sleep from about 4am to 7am, for example, and then try to get a 20 minute nap at noon, and a quick nap in the afternoon, and another right before dinner. Or, for example, you could sleep from 6:00-7:30am, and just get in a few extra naps.
Worth a try for getting you through finals week or a tough series of sleepless nights.
2) Eat Right.
When you sleep, your brain releases neurotransmitters and hormones that can help you control your appetite or be more satisfied by meals.
Basically, around bed time, you experience a natural drop in excitatory neurotransmitter levels like epinephrine, norepinephrine and histamines, and a rise in inhibitory neurotransmitter levels, such as serotonin and GABA. This cascade signals the production of melatonin, which makes you sleepy.
Then, during the night, those decreased levels of excitatory transmitters and increased levels of inhibitory transmitters and melatonin are what your body uses for deep, restful sleep: which is when you repair and recover.
Unfortunately, lack of sleep throws this all out of whack, and sugar and caffeine (i.e. a Red Bull) can further aggravate the neurotransmitter and hormone imbalance.
So when you're pulling an all-nighter, try to limit sugar and caffeine intake, and instead rely on lean proteins like turkey, chicken, hummus or egg whites (fats can make you sleepy) and slow carb foods. This will stabilize you later in the day and keep you from getting overly sleep and experiencing cravings.
You should also read: 12 Dietary Supplements That Can Massively Control Your Most Intense Carbohydrate Cravings. Any of the supplements listed in that post can significantly help limit the damage from an all nighter.
3) Protect Yourself.
As you probably saw towards the end of the infographic, lack of sleep depresses your immune system. In 2009, the Archives of Internal Medicine did an interesting study in which they quarantined people and gave them nasal drops containing rhinovirus (the common cold), comparing those who got adequate sleep with those who did not.
28 days after exposure to the virus, they took blood samples to see which subjects had developed antibodies to fight infection, and sure enough, the less an individual slept, the more likely they were to develop a cold.
This increased propensity to get sick from lack of sleep is basically because your immune-boosting T-cells go down if you are sleep deprived, and inflammatory compounds called cytokines go up.
So if you know you're sleep deprived, make every effort possible (although it's very hard in many cases) to avoid situations that vastly increase your germ exposure, including:
-Large groups of people
-Sneezing, coughing kids
-Buses, airplanes and carpools
Instead, as much as possible, try to keep to yourself. If you simply must be in large groups of people or around kids, I'd recommend you take 4-5 sublingual drops of my favorite airborne pathogen protectant: oil of oregano.
So there you have it…
…all nighters are tough on your body, but you can limit the damage by throwing in strategically timed naps, eating and supplementing wisely, and protecting yourself from germ exposure.
Do you have more of your own tips? Questions or comments? Leave them below.