(MoneyWatch) Working late is never fun, and being inefficient during those long hours just adds insult to injury. "After about 17 hours of being awake, our performance will get worse and sleepiness will increase," said Kevin Gregory, vice president of Alertness Solutions, a scientific research firm. "Individuals who have been up this long perform at a similar level as someone who's drunk a couple of beers."
So how do you maintain your A-game well into the wee hours? Here are six tips that will help you get the job done.
Take a short nap. If you can pull a George Costanza and catch a couple winks at the office, do it. "Even 10 minutes or so can boost alertness and productivity. If nothing else, rather than fighting sleepiness, it can help take the edge off," Gregory said.
Have a second coffee in the afternoon. Caffeine has been proven to put a pep in your step for a few hours. But don't prevent yourself from getting to sleep when you're finally able. "Many night-shift workers will stop using caffeine after about 2 a.m. when working nights, so they can get to sleep when they get home in the morning," Gregory said.
Know that a second wind is coming. Feel sluggish between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.? It's naturally to feel sleepy during this time. But most people get a second wind in the mid-evening hours. So if you're able, complete simpler "busy" work during the afternoon, and schedule more taxing tasks for dinner time or after.
Get your blood flowing. If you're ordering dinner in for the team, offer to go out and pick it up instead of having it delivered. Or just take a quick spin around the office. "Any activity can help boost alertness for a short period afterwards," Gregory said.
Turn up the lights. Brightening your space tricks your body's internal clock into thinking it's still daylight, and can temporarily boost your alertness.
Build in breaks. Break up boring tasks with a coffee break or by tackling another project on your "to do" list before coming back to the original one. "Working on one thing for an extended period of time can increase feelings of fatigue. Take breaks or work on different things if possible," Gregory said.