5 Tips For Surviving the Day After an All-Nighter

tips for surviving the day after the all-nighter2017 Update: We still stand by these tips for surviving the day after an all-nighter (and links have been updated below) — but you may also want to check out our more recent post on how to function at work without sleep.

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 surviving the day after an all-nighter, after the jump…

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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 (if you do), 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. Further reading: Sleep 101 [WebMD] (2017 update: if you often suffer from lousy sleep, check out our discussion about professional women and insomnia.)

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. 2017 Update: these days I’d suggest looking for a product like Sunday Riley’s Good Genes — you can put it on overnight or as just a 15-minute mask; see my fuller review here. I know what you’re saying: Who has 15 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. Like the sound of Good Genes, but $105 sounds a bit steep? You can get a lactic acid solution from The Ordinary for under $15.

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 — if possible, grab a Zicam RapidMelt or echinacea. 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.)

4. 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. (2017 update – check out the caffeine solution from The Ordinary — see my review here.) 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 — the single-use containers are preservative-free and come in both a regular liquid and a super-duper thick and soothing gel.

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 for surviving the day after an all-nighter? Comment below, we’d love to hear them!

Shirt pictured at top: CafePress. Zombie social media image credits: Stencil.tips for surviving the day after the all-nighter - image of a zombie Barbie

Even if you're feeling like the walking dead, you STILL often have to go to work the day after you've pulled an all-nighter. Here are our best tips for surviving the day after the all-nighter, from managing your energy to looking great.


  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.