You’ve been awake for the whole night. Now you’re tired and exhausted and you just want to sleep. But how much sleep do you need after an all-nighter? Some people say you should sleep the regular 8 hours, others say 16 hours, some would pull off another all-nighter (don’t do that). After you’ve read this, you will know exactly how much you need to sleep after an all-nighter and you can stop worrying about messing with your sleep schedule and health.
The quick answer: After an all-nighter, you should sleep as much as you need without counting hours. To be able to slip back into your regular sleep rhythm you need to go to bed in the early evening (8pm-9pm) the day after your all-nighter and then sleep until you are not tired anymore. Mostly, about 10 hours of sleep are best for being refreshed the next day. However, depending on how exhausted you are, you might need more or less.
All-nighters are really messing with your brain. There are quite a lot of things to consider to be able to survive your tiredness afterward and adapt to your normal sleep rhythm. We will discuss:
- How much sleep do you need after an all-nighter?
- When to go to bed after an all-nighter?
- How to sleep after an all-nighter? With or without an alarm?
- Why you should avoid all-nighters from now on!
How much sleep do you need after an all-nighter?
After an all-nighter, your body begs for sleep (as you most likely experience now). Over the course of a day a chemical causing the so-called “sleep pressure” accumulates in your brain. The sleep pressure, however, only decreases if you sleep. After an all-nighter, you have the sleep pressure from the previous day plus the sleep pressure of today inside your brain and it didn’t get reduced in between, because you didn’t get to sleep at night. That’s why you feel so exhausted and tired. Some people would say that after an all-nighter you need just the amount of sleep that you regularly need. But that’s not the case.
The more exhausted you are, the more sleep you need. My personal record of really deep sleep was about 16 to 18 hours. Remember that’s the double amount compared to what you normally need (8 hours). If you want to know what happened on that day (it was horrible), take a look at How long can a person sleep continuously? Also, it’s about sleep diseases which cause you to sleep up to 40 hours without waking up in between.
Just like that, you are exhausted after an all-nighter. So never plan to sleep just the regular 8 hours.
How many hours of sleep do you need after an all-nighter?
The number I absolutely recommend is to plan about 10 hours of sleep after a regular all-nighter. The reason is that if you sleep less, you will still not be fit and refreshed on the next day. If you sleep more than 10 hours you usually destroy your sleep-rhythm. 10 hours is the golden middle where you get the maximum regeneration with minimum sleep rhythm disturbance.
Still, depending on what you did during your all-nighter you might even need more than 10 hours of sleep. Here are a few examples:
- You’ve studied for an exam: 10 hours of sleep are fine afterward (by the way: if you study all night, you are wasting potential. Here’s a better strategy for what exactly you need to do the day before your exam to get the best grade possible (without any all-nighters).
- You were sick and could not sleep. Definitely sleep as much as you can. Up to 12 hours (or more) are a reasonable time depending on how you feel.
- You had more than one all-nighter (never ever do that). Your body will experience low energy levels as if you were sick. 12 hours are suitable.
- You spend all night partying. 9-10 hours should do the job for you.
When should you go to bed after an all-nighter?
Now that you have an idea of how many hours you need to sleep after your all-nighter, let’s head on to the next question: When should you go to bed after an all-nighter? If you go to bed too early, you will destroy your sleep rhythm. If you, however, go to bed too late, you won’t find enough time to get the right amount of sleep before you need to wake up. That’s especially a problem if you had an all-nighter from Saturday to Sunday night and now you are thinking about when you should go to bed to be fit on Monday. To find out when to go to bed you, we first need to set goals:
- Be fit and refreshed the next day.
- Keep your regular sleep rhythm.
The general strategy is to stay awake until the early evening so you have enough time to sleep until you need to get up on the next day.
Nap for one hour after lunch
If you are really tired after spending the whole night awake, you can do a one-hour nap after lunchtime. But a nap is only necessary if you can’t stay awake until regular bedtime in the evening. Naps really help you with overcoming a part of your tiredness. But definitely set an alarm or you will oversleep the whole day.
How to decide when to go to bed after all-nighters?
You should decide when to go to bed with two questions in mind. The answers to these questions help yourself reach the goals from above:
- How many hours of sleep do you need?
- When do you need to wake up in the morning?
Let’s say you need 10 hours of sleep at night and you want to wake up at 7 am for school, university or work. That means you should go to bed at 9 am (just subtract 10 hours from 7 am). It’s as easy as that.
When not to go to bed after an all-nighter (Never ever!)
At which time you go to bed still is your decision, however, there are a few times where it’s okay to go to bed and other times when you should absolutely avoid sleeping. If you go to bed at this time of the day, you will definitely harm your sleep rhythm and sleep quality. I’m talking about going to bed right before lunchtime and in the early evening. Right before lunchtime is a bad idea. Over the course of a day, you have energetic highs and lows that follow the circadian rhythm (the human day and night rhythm). If you go to bed right before lunchtime (12 pm) you will sleep through a time where you are normally high in energy. You will have bad sleep quality.
Also, going to bed in the early evening (around 5 pm) is a bad decision. Because you are used to going to sleep at night, you will definitely harm your sleep schedule. And even if you just sleep for a few hours, you will have problems falling asleep when you actually need to – at night.
How to sleep after an all-nighter? With or without an alarm?
Depending on what you have to do the day after your all-nighter, you might need to wake up early in the morning. If you have to go to work, definitely go to bed early and get your 10 hours of sleep. Plan a lot of extra time before sleep so you can calm down and fall asleep easily in the evening. Maybe even grab a book instead of watching tv (which is way better anyway). Set your alarm clock and go to bed. That’s all you have to do. If you have a sunrise alarm clock (like this one listed on amazon with thousands of customer ratings), definitely use it! They are incredibly powerful for stabilizing your sleep schedule and help you wake up naturally. Personally, I always wake up before the alarm tone rings because of the gradually rising light.
If you, however, have a free day the day after your all-nighter, what you should do is this: Go to bed a little earlier than usual (no problem, you are tired as hell anyway). Don’t set an alarm. Darken the room. If you have no opportunity to darken the room, a sleep mask will always do the job for you. I’ve written about them in “Are Sleep Masks Dangerous? – The Ultimate Sleep Mask Guide” where I covered everything you ever need to know about sleep masks. Use the opportunity of your free day and sleep just as much as your body needs (until you wake up naturally) without disrupting your sleep with an alarm.
Why you should avoid all-nighters from now on!
All-nighters might be a great idea on the first glance, especially if you are preparing for an exam. I know, if you are partying you don’t really have a choice unless you want to leave too early. And if you are sick, you also can’t really do much about it.
Still, an all-nighter, regardless of the reasons, is really bad for your body. You will sleep-starve yourself. Sleep is vital. As Matthew Walker, a well-known sleep scientist said: “Sleep is non-negotiable”. If you miss sleep, you will suffer from a bad mood, decreased health, increased heart problems, extreme tiredness and on top of that, you are also more likely to get sick. I got sick after literally nearly every all-nighter in my life. And if you are into fitness, all-nighters will also harm your muscle growth.
Skipping sleep means skipping the opportunity for your brain to process all the information you received during the day. It discards useless stuff (like the grumpy lady in the supermarket) and stores useful information (like the name of your pet). Forgetting your pets name is not something that you would want to achieve. That’s also the reason that pulling off an all-nighter before an exam decreases your chance of passing the exam. Therefore get your sleep every single day. Decreased brain functionality because of lack of sleep is a thing (as shown in this study)! There’s a reason various brain dysfunctions like Alzheimer’s disease are linked to lack of sleep (this study). Every single all-nighter increases your chance of something terrible to happen – and you can’t catch up on the sleep you’ve missed (as shown in this study)!
If you want to learn more about sleep improvement and boost your sleep today to feel refreshed every single morning, check out my other guides right here!