If you have trouble staying awake all day at work — and you know you do, you sleepy-headed little minx — you are probably not going to feel very enthusiastic about the prospect of staying awake all night.
Let’s be honest here. One of the big reasons you sleep in the daytime is so you can be rested and ready for sleeping at night.
Yet, there are times when one is commanded to work well into the wee hours. This is the subject of a recent column in The Wall Street Journal by Heidi Mitchell, who certainly was not asleep at the switch when she knocked out a few hundred well-chosen words to answer the “Burning Question: What’s the Best Way to Pull an All-Nighter?”
To get the facts, you need to resist the sleep you need. Mitchell interviewed Eric Olson, co-director of the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine.
According to Olson, who I sincerely hope was interviewed at 2 a.m., the optimal day for most people to pull an all-nighter is Monday, since it follows an all-weekender of indolence, laziness, apathy and sloth. This is a big advantage for you. Because you experience indolence, laziness, apathy and sloth every day of the week, any day is a good day for you to work all night.
What you drink and eat during your nocturnal ordeal could determine how well you perform as your all-nighter wears on. The trick is to trick your circadian rhythm. (Having seen you on the dance floor at the Christmas party, some of your co-workers may wonder if you have any rhythm, circadian or not. But it’s not your fault. Everyone knows that circadians only come out every seven years.)
Caffeine is the traditional substance used to blast your way through midnight, the time “most people will feel pressure to sleep.” With a double-double espresso washed down by a Red Bull washed down with a Rockstar, you might be able to fight off your evolutionary need for a blanky and fuzzy bear. Even if all these highly caffeinated drinks don’t keep you alert, you co-workers could be fooled into thinking that you are a contributing member of the night watch by your constant running back and forth to the bathroom.
Definitely, you want to stay away from unhealthy snacks. These are defined as pretty much everything you want to eat, and deserve to eat, and are not kale. While a short-term sugar rush can be exhilarating, it can be followed by a sugar crash so severe it will leave you curled up under your desk with a bag of Jolly Ranchers in one hand and a bottle of Hershey’s syrup in the other. It’s not a pretty picture and is sure to lead to rehab.
Your environment will also determine how well you can perform in an all-nighter. A calm, peaceful workplace could lull you to sleep. Fortunately, the supremely screwed-up work environment that your management has provided will keep you wide-eyed as the personalities of your loser managers and the bungling boobs they manage deteriorate with every passing hour. Really, a circus of stupidity this dysfunctional would keep you awake even if you worked in a mattress factory.
For all the so-called scientific advice coming from Olson, I still believe that the best technique for surviving an all-nighter is to make sure everyone else in your workplace falls asleep first. There are a number of ways you can accomplish this. Replacing the sugar substitute in the break room with powdered Ambien doesn’t seem like a unreasonable solution. Or you could simply have the IT department play Beck CDs nonstop on the company’s public address system, but be careful, this could prove lethal.
Or just take advantage of your natural gift for being one of the most boring people in your workplace. As the night wears on, go from cubicle to cubicle, telling elaborate tales of your totally fascinating childhood. Be sure to include those thrilling high school years, and if your listeners seem distracted or not interested, just start at the beginning and tell the same stories again.
You’ll see: By the time the circadian rhythms start pounding in their little brains, your colleagues will be sound asleep. At this point, take a nap. You want to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when you meet the boss at the front door the next morning, ready to blame your co-workers for the fact that nothing got done.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.