Staying Awake

There are a lot of benefits to working overnight. The email inbox is generally quiet. Nobody is going to call1. The temptation to goof around outside in the sun is impossible to fulfil. And, one of my favourite reasons to work all night, it's actually possible to catch up on all the podcasts! That said, the hardest part about working all night is staying awake. This is the problem I've faced this week in order to participate in some meetings with colleagues on the other side of the globe.

People often suggest I drink coffee in order to stay awake, but this has never worked. Naps can happen right after an espresso without any problem whatsoever. Podcasts that are discussion-based are also a trap to avoid, as some shows can make a person drowsy at noon. Generally what works for me is a music playlist that I keep handy for whenever the desire to sleep cannot be ignored.

Headphones on a Mac

Generally during the day I like to listen to electronic or house music while coding. This tends to encourage the creative elements of the mind that are so important when solving problems. Late at night, though, this sort of music comes across as just noise. Instead, the midnight playlist consists of songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Songs from Sting, Paul Simon, The Beatles, Don Henley, and dozens of others play on an endless, semi-random loop, keeping me awake by triggering memories associated with those songs and giving me something to focus on other than the momentary dizzy spells that come and go as my fingers hammer away at the keyboard hundreds of times a minute. There's something about this music that makes it difficult to sleep, yet easy to think clearly. Given that the playlist includes some pretty silly songs, it's certainly not the quality of the music. Either way, if it works, it works.

Hopefully this will be the last all-nighter for the year. Despite the numerous benefits, very little can beat a solid night's rest in a warm bed.


  1. Unless it's one of the dreaded phone calls ...