Coffee is a poor substitute for sleep. But it keeps your brain just hyper and panting enough to avoid that moment when you wake up soaked in your own drool, wondering which day of the week you’re on and what your name is. The best alternative is to actually go to bed at a decent hour, but sometimes, this just isn’t possible. Because writing. Or epic board games. Or Minecraft. Or Skyrim. Or late-night theology discussions.
There are people who will tell you to avoid all-nighters at all costs. You should listen to those people, because, like I said, caffeine just isn’t the same as a good night’s rest. I speak from experience. But I probably won’t mend my ways, and maybe you shouldn’t either.
Here are five ways all-nighters can benefit you:
1) Mind Over Matter
You’ve always wondered how close to the breaking point you can push your body, but aren’t quite ready to commit to a quest as major as, say, carrying the One Ring to Mordor or journeying to the center of the Earth. Staying up all night is an excellent first step as you begin to test your limits. Can you force yourself to stay out of bed? Can you resist your body’s pleas to shut down for the night? Can you make your brain keep doing what it was doing for the next eight hours instead of letting it rest? Do you have what it takes?
2) More Time
Yes, yes. You’re thinking, “But you don’t get more time! Staying up all night means you have to crash for thirteen hours straight later and possibly never catch up! You could subtract years from your lifespan!”
Which, okay, that might be true. But. The enterprising all-nighter can, with a little practice, use that 6-8 hour block of time to accomplish EVERYTHING at one go instead of doing things in their practical daily slots. For example, seniors are supposed to spend two whole semesters on their senior theses. It’s a major project and ought to be done over eight months. However, why spend eight months on something when you could instead spend eight hours on it? In trade for one night of panicked, overwhelming work, you get all that time in which you should have done the project to do other, more fun things. Why write college assignments when you could be creating the next biggest thing since Twilight?
I am too poor to get addicted to any life-enhancing substances besides coffee. So, if I want to experience a higher plane, I have to make my brain get there myself. There are two ways to do this:
Oh, the feel-good chemicals your body produces when you punish yourself like this! Your body adores you when you run, so it tries to trick you into doing it again by producing pain-masking, cheer-up feelings. But I’m too smart to be fooled by this. Running stinks.
I become a slightly different person when I haven’t slept. This would be bad if I had a great personality, but I don’t. When I haven’t slept I become . . . less stressed. Because who has time to worry about tests, job-hunting, or bills when your body is worried about something as basic as keeping your eyes open? Larger problems become small and distant. Life is simply about completing everyday tasks like walking in straight lines and not being hit by buses. If I can succeed at maintaining consciousness while driving, I can totally write a bestseller, pay my rent on time, and not die alone and unhappy. I’m a conqueror.
Refusing to sleep is usually you being stupid and irresponsible. Sometimes, though, it is simply you exercising your right as an individual when you say, “I need to do this: this is more important than anything else right now.” And then you do it. For example, when I was finishing a draft of a writing project a couple years ago, I got into the throes of the climax at about midnight. I had to get up for work at five, but the thought of allowing myself to stop writing just when everything was coming to a head was abhorrent. I couldn’t just quit – not for something as menial as sleep. So I kept writing. I finished the book. And I went to work. And when I got home, I slept.
5) Later Does Come
Night comes on a pretty regular basis. If you can’t sleep tonight, sleep at another time. It’s not the best, but it’ll be okay.
Or, you know. You could just hang the consequences of not getting done whatever it is you’re supposed to get done and go to bed. Your choice.
I know what I’m choosing. I’ll see you all in the morning.