5 Tips For Surviving the Day After an All-Nighter

how to look great the day after an all nighter2016 Update: Check out our recently-updated story on how to look great the day after an all nighter at work

We’ve all been there — stuff needs to get done, and stuff needs to get done now. In the high-stress job, the all-nighter (sometimes several nights in a row!) is par for the course. One of my bosses once said she reveled in looking like crap the next day, wearing it as a badge of honor. I don’t. If you look sloppy and tired and incoherent, well, that’s how you tend to get treated. So, that said, here are my tips for how to avoid looking and acting like the walking dead, after the jump.

1. Get as much quality sleep as you can. Your goal on these nights is to complete as many REM cycles as possible. There are four stages to sleep; the final stage is REM sleep. It generally takes 90 minutes to finish a full cycle, but it can vary, so play around with it. My point is that once you get home from the office, figure out how many 90-minute cycles you can get in. Go for solid numbers of sleep cycles, because it’s a little like doing your laundry: if you’re interrupted halfway through you’re worse than you were before. Note that a sleeping pill will interrupt your sleep cycles. In general, if you remember your dreams, you’re waking up in the middle of a cycle.
Sleep 101 [WebMD]

2. Force your skin to look young and awake, even if you feel anything but. Almost every skin care line has masks or lotions that use natural acids to exfoliate the skin and promote the skin’s turnover rate. If you’re loyal to one skincare brand, check that line first — look for something like the REN Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask. Recommended by InStyle as one of the best products of its type, this only requires 7-10 minutes to make it look like you haven’t spent all of last night staring at a computer screen. I know what you’re saying: Who has 7-10 minutes when you’re scrambling around trying to get back to the office as soon as possible? I suggest you put it on while you’re still making the morning coffee/checking your Blackberry. Another good one that requires less time: Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Facial Peel, 1.7 oz (50 g).

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need energy after all nighter3. Ward off colds. No, an on-coming cold doesn’t really affect the way you look, but after a sleepless night your immune system will be vulnerable. I’ve been a huge fan of Zicam since my college days — it’s a zinc gel that you squirt up your nose. Sexy! But I swear, it works. (Update 7/12: I still preferred the gel, but the Zicam mist isn’t too bad.) You may also want to try some Emergen-C packets — you add them to 8 oz of water and the Kool-Aid type concoction gives you more than 1000% of you Vitamin C for the day. (Especially for when the office emergency has passed and you’re now just trying to make it to the end of the day, we prefer an Emergen-C packet to coffee for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up — no caffeine crash.) Alacer Emergen C Acai Berry 36 Count, Packages (Pack of 2)

how to look great after all nighter4. DePuff Your Eyes. The adage says the eyes are the window to your soul — so it’s best to avoid that blank, swollen look in your eyes. Before you leave the house, apply something cold to your eye area. Tea bags soaked in cold water will do in a pinch, but a gel mask is far less messy. Second, invest in a good eye cream — let’s face it, this area always needs help. I like Aveeno Eye Brightener but, again, recommend you look first to whichever brand of skincare products you use. Also, Visine is handy if your eyes are very red — but we’ve heard you should use Visine sparingly — i.e., not daily — because the ingredient that gets the red out will eventually stop working. If your eyes are continuously dry and sore, we luuurve TheraTears — they’re preservative-free and come in both a regular liquid and a super-duper thick and soothing gel.
` Elasto Gel Hot / Cold Sinus Mask.
Aveeno Positively Radiant Eye Cream, .5-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 2)
Visine Advanced Relief Lubricant/Redness Reliever Eye Drops, 1-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 3)
TheraTears Lubricant Eye Drops, Single-Use Containers
TheraTears Liquid Gel, Lubricant Eye Gel, Single-Use Containers

5. Choose a safe outfit. Trust me, today isn’t the day to experiment with that new trend you just read about in Lucky magazine. Even if it’s going to be a low key day, I suggest going ultra safe here: pull out your interview suit, and pull your hair back into a bun or a French twist. The look you’re going for is clean, professional, and most of all, coherent.

Do you have more tips? Comment below.


  1. One tip for women – mascara and/or curling your eyelashes also helps your eyes appear wider and brighter, and therefore more awake.

  2. To keep eyes looking more awake try Benefit’s “moon Beam” highlighter. It looks like a nail polish bottle of shimmery pink stuff, but if you blend a dab in the inner corner under each eye, and a little on cheekbones it really helps eliminate dark circles. But careful – a little goes a long way.

  3. surrounded by lawyers :

    Alas, this advice assumes you were able to go home.

  4. Perhaps keep an emergency kit in the office then… so that you don’t look like roadkill when everyone shows up fresh, clean, and in new clothes.

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