No Caffeine, No Drugs: Here's How To Pull Off A Healthier All-Nighter

by Kara Kamenec

No, they're not ideal, but all-nighters are a necessary evil from time to time.

Whether they're for career-focused deadlines, such as prepping for a final or presentation, or for more self-inflicted purposes, like those weekend events that start at midnight and end around dawn, all-nighters are just a fact of life.

Yet, in college, all-nighters are more: They're the fun, social, so-called "thing to do" on campus.

How could shoving facts into your brain at daunting hours (until it literally hurts) magically be spun into a social activity? Maybe it has to do with the priceless campus life daily routines that allow you to sleep until noon and party all night?

More than that, I think it's just the enticing sense of community that surrounds you, knowing thousands of other people are up at the same single-digit hours of the morning, supposedly cramming as well. And they're only a room, a table or an arm's reach away.

In a truly rebellious fashion, on the outside, all-nighters are simply all-night study sessions. On the inside, they are excuses for social interaction fueled by mass consumption of 24 oz. Red Bulls, 5 Hour Energy drinks and, more times than not, some type of prescription stimulant purchased from a friend of a friend of a friend.

In college, all-nighters made sense to me. And very obviously, they also did to everyone else.

But it wasn't about studying half the time. Rather, the all-nighter lifestyle was the epitome of an excuse for calculated, casual, social encounters.

Predictably, on any given late night, groups of girls would stroll in to the local libraries, 24-hour cafés or any other hip new study spot at 1 am.

They did so study-material-free, instead bringing with them about a pound of makeup on their faces to complement full hair blowouts, shorter than short shorts, low-cut shirts, push-up bras and, of course, UGG boots to tone down the ensemble.

Guys, on the other hand, would crowd outside the study spots, eyeing the new arrivals up and down like they were on the prowl.

They'd be decked out in some sort of school-themed attire and reek of cologne, while they sipped on espressos that would take them about 30 minutes to consume and pretended to smoke cigarettes they had bummed off the guy in the corner.

As acceptable and as social as all-nighters may be, pulling them off the old-fashioned caffeine or other stimulant-induced way inevitably results in some type of crash. The next day you feel loopy, with more than a little lightheadedness and euphoria, muscle weakness and more often than not, irrational behavior and over-emotional thinking.

It's not a pretty sight, and medically, it can take your mind and body days to recover from just a single night of caffeine or other drug-induced non-shuteye.

On the flip side, done a healthier way, all-nighters don't have to be such a drag. You can actually be productive, get sh*t done and avoid feeling down the following day.

Plus, when you want to flirt at 3 am, you'll look and think a hell of a lot better.

As a graduate, I now know better than to jilt myself awake with caffeine, candy and cigarettes at 4 am. But back then, I wish I had known there were other options as well.

A healthy all-nighter doesn't have to be an oxymoron. If you want to approach your college all-nighters with alternative, healthier methods, here's how to do so:

1. Stay cool.

Even if the temperature outside is ungodly low, resist the urge to turn up the heat.

When the effects of your circadian sleep rhythm start to chime in, signaling to your body you're ready to sleep, it's natural to feel colder. Instead of blasting the heat -- which can make you sleepy -- layer up and embrace the cold.

2. Walk it out.

Exercise can help keep you alert. And while a trip to the gym probably isn't necessary at 2 am, keeping your body moving is.

Schedule in short walks, even if they are only about 10 minutes or so, to keep your body functioning at normal capacity.

3. Opt for water over caffeine.

Even if everyone around you is drinking coffee, avoid the urge to join in.

Coffee may give you a short perk of energy, but in the long run, it leads to dehydration. This can make you feel even more tired and absent-minded.

If it's a behavior issue, carry a water bottle and regularly fill it in place of trips to the counter for caffeine refills.

3. Skip the Monsters, Red Bulls and jitters. Go for Vitamin B.

B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, can help keep your brain healthy and alert.

More importantly, your performance is greatly improved when you have a steady flow of fuel from pure vitamins, rather than sugary energy drinks.

4. Toss the caffeine pills (and other prescription stimulants) in exchange for natural energy supplements.

Sure, popping a pill of manufactured energy is tempting, but it isn't healthy or even that useful in the long run.

Plus, the come-down is hell.

Instead, take a trip to your local nutrition store the day before your all-nighter and pick up some natural energy boosters. Rhodiola Rosea, DLPA, L-tyrosine and Ginseng are all excellent alternatives that do the trick.

5. Refresh yourself to fight off sleepiness.

Of course, you'll get tired at some points throughout the night, but there are natural ways to jumpstart your body and brain.

Go outside and breathe in fresh air for a few minutes, or take a room-temperature shower to awaken your senses.

6. If you really need a boost, lather on the Vicks.

Instead of feeding your body something unhealthy, a lesser-known trick for that extra boost is found in Vicks Vapor Rub.

Of course, it is a drug (containing menthol and camphor, specifically), but it does the trick to stimulate your senses, when used within reason.