The productivity of not sleeping?

Last night I pulled an all-nighter as I thought hey, why not. I got tonnes of work done and didn’t really feel that bad until maybe 24-28 hours of not sleeping, from then on I just did easy uncreative non-thought provoking work. What I’m wondering is…

Can pulling an all-nighter be productive? 

There are many aspects of productivity x all-nighters that I believe should be taken into account, I will outline all those after I make this point. Sleep is necessary, you cannot sustainably function without it, but I think giving yourself extra time to smash a deadline due to bad planning or just a need for unobstructed progress. You must take into account that pulling an all-nighter Monday night severely affects the amount of work that can be done on Tuesday. This is why I have developed criteria for when and why to pull all-nighters in my uneducated but experienced (in the art of all-nighters) opinion.


  • University or school deadline the next day
  • ^ Deadline will not be met unless you get 6-12 more hours to work
  • You’re willing to sacrifice quality for quantity
  • You have no need for work or other work to do the day after.
  • You have significant distractions during daytime hours.
  • Your work can be done in silence.


  • You have significant work coming up consistently in the next few days
  • You will fall asleep and mess up your sleeping schedule.
  • You will procrastinate the whole night.


So many people think of caffeine and Redbull as a GREAT fuel to get through the night but, (boring answer incoming) generally most people say that good food, water and exercise help the most which is very very true, you should be eating a decent amount of food significantly more than normal to account for the extra calories being burned. Personally, I also think that light exercise is good to keep the brain awake and blood flowing, plus if you’re sitting down working you’ll be getting tired. Exercise also wakes the brain up and primes the brain to learn! However, that may not carry over to all-nighters.

However, some studies find continuous interval dosing of caffeine (spread out over a few hours) can reduce bad driving and increase general awareness. So how do we implement this? Well personally my schedule went like this…

  • 11 pm: eat.
  • Work til 2-3am, eat more.
  • Go to the gym at 5:00 am.
  • First coffee with a meal at 6:30 am
  • Cold shower at 7:00 am
  • Work til 10:00 am (get a coffee)
  • Go for a walk at 11:00 am

12 hours after beginning this schedule I noticed that my tiredness was seemingly gone, I’d gone outside and continued to work exposing myself to a lot of light, it turns out light suppresses melatonin production (sleepy hormone), in particular, blue light from your cell phone or laptop, this might be why I was finding it very easy to stay awake once it got light out…

However, just walking home from the gym I noticed significant sleep deprivation negative effects such as I was zoning out, very unfocused vision (unless I concentrated), I felt slightly sick in my stomach, and sometimes I would stumble around like a drunk while walking home, and I definitely couldn’t get any real productive work done that requires real thought past maybe 6 am. If you’re doing an assignment that requires intensive thought or meticulous scanning for errors I would definitely recommend that you steer clear and instead of working hard overnight just work smarter AND harder during the day.

In conclusion, no sadly I would not recommend this UNLESS you MUST meet that deadline and are willing to sacrifice quality, or… well that’s about it really there are few situations where this is plausible, in my opinion, if sleep deprivation in a crazy pursuit of success is your thing and you work a 9-5, many people always say success is made in the 6 pm – 2am timeframe, then get up and go back to your other grind rinse and repeat.


References: (bad APA 6th)

Johnson, K. (2016). Early morning repeat-dose caffeine mitigates driving performance impairments during 50 hours of sleep deprivation. Road & Transport Research,25(3). Retrieved July 6, 2017, from;dn=471039957632893;res=IELNZC?

E., H., & K. (2015). Physical activity, brain, and cognition. Cognitive enhancement,4, 27–32. doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2015.01.005

What I’ve Learned: WHY Exercise is so Underrated (Brain Power & Movement Link)

Why night light is messing up your sleep

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