I often find myself working on projects late into the night. The problem I have is that at some point, I almost always crash. I'll start feeling tired, and half an hour to an hour later, I'm out like a light. I've played around with coffee (only buys a few extra hours), loud music, bright lights, etc. It seems that inevitably I get tired, and then pass hour for 6 to 10 hours. Moreover, it really doesn't matter what alarm I set for myself during the pass-out time, as I always sleep through them, no matter how loud, frequent or annoying.

So the question, made as specific as possible, is how do I manage to skip a night of sleep, without caffeine, and without immediately crashing afterward?

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    Lack of sleep is so detrimental to the system, the body has a safety mechanism which, after some deprivation, forces you to go to sleep even if your rational mind doesn't want it. How would you expect to find a workaround of a major health safety mechanism which qualifies as "healthy"? It may have no side effects, but its main purpose is decidedly unhealthy.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 12, 2015 at 17:55
  • I'm not planning on depriving myself of sleep for the rest of my life, just occasionally for a few nights at a time at most. Nov 16, 2015 at 0:33
  • But each occasion of sleep deprivation is unhealthy on its own. Your question is akin to asking "what's a healthy way to smoke a cigarette". The whole premise contradicts itself.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:18
  • Ah, and in case you want some more info, look what question just happens to be on top of Bio: biology.stackexchange.com/questions/20631/…. These are just the acute effects. If you were to repeatedly derive yourself of sleep, that would add chronic effects.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:38
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    @rumtscho IMO this line of reasoning is fallacious. First, some of us (at least) encourage IV drug users to use clean needles because, well, it's less bad. Second, some of us do things like work nights (:-o). This is generally because we have priorities (or indeed necessities) other than our own health that lead us to make the decision to continue such behavior. Life involves compromise. Optimizing performance and minimizing health consequences within a framework of sleep deprivation is neither contradictory nor ignoble.
    – Susan
    Mar 11, 2016 at 10:09

1 Answer 1


The answer is "really badly." There are several drugs to treat ADHD that students are taking to improve focus and study all-nighters before exams. But, this is a really unhealthy use of those medications. You most probably will eventually crash (as you would say) because you have to. This is your body's way of recovering from the damage you are imparting on it by skipping sleep. It is clearly not a sustainable effort. Human beings do need sleep for body repair, cognitive function and learning (yes sleep plays a key role in encoding information you have learned during the day).

I am not sure the long term effect of taking ADHD drugs for adults regarding impact on sleep has been studied. This is probably because ADHD drugs are typically not aimed at adults to begin with, but to treat children with ADHD. There has been some studies regarding ADHD children (medicated and unmedicated) and their respective sleep patterns vs control groups. And, the results are not entirely conclusive as expressed in this one study.

The above, nevertheless, should not give one any comfort that using such ADHD drugs over the long term as adults to reduce chronically sleep requirement is safe. That's for a simple reason, attempting to reduce one's sleep requirement is downright unhealthy and dangerous by itself.

However, human beings differ. A rare minority of the population (1% or 2% of the general population) are called "short sleepers." These fairly extraordinary individuals can fare very well with much less sleep than the rest of us (probably half the requirement or close to 3 or 4 hours a night instead of the regular 7-8 hours). Unless, you are a true short sleeper any effort to cut on sleep is not a healthy idea.

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    This post has the makings of a very good answer, but here on Health, we strongly encourage using references. They are the only way in which we can tell if information is reliable or not. If you are struggling to find good sources, check out, What are reliable sources? If you want to learn more about our site's stance on answers without references, check out, Should answers without references be immediately deleted? Thanks :)
    – michaelpri
    Nov 12, 2015 at 2:45
  • michaelpri, thanks for the insight on how this forum operates. The reference hurdle rate so to speak is somewhat higher than at some other StackExchange forum I participate in. However, I fully support the intent of referenced-answers. And, going forward I will do so [add reference to my answers].
    – Sympa
    Nov 12, 2015 at 4:36
  • michaelpri, based on your feedback, yesterday I did add an additional paragraph to my answer including a reference. Thanks again for your constructive feedback, it was very helpful.
    – Sympa
    Nov 13, 2015 at 4:40

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