As Red Bull inventor dies, we look at ways to stay awake all night


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So farewell, then, that Thai bloke who invented Red Bull.

March 17th saw the passing of Chaleo Yoovidhya. We like to think that the 89 year old died whilst listening to some banging tunes and driving a winged F1 car off the end of Brighton Pier, but the reality of his demise is probably somewhat more pedestrian.

But however he yanked the ring pull that took him to the life beyond, most of us have reason to thank Mr Yoovidhya. After all, there can’t be many of us who have not succumbed to the Red Bull at one time or another. Particularly during an all night work session.

Red Bull aside, what are the best ways to stay awake during an all-nighter? And which don’t rely on caffeine, taurine or anything else likely to induce anxiety, palpitations or irritability at that crucial deal-making moment at three in the morning?

We asked several leading scientists their opinions. They were all too busy to come to the phone, so we looked on the internet instead.

1. Water. Drinking ice cold water is great for staying awake, if only because the low temperature is likely to give your system a jolt equivalent to having snow put down your pants. Also, the more you drink the more you’re likely to need to visit the smallest room. Nobody ever dropped off with a distended bladder.

2. Short naps. These are good for re-booting your system. The trick is to sleep for no longer than fifteen minutes, after which it’s possible you’ll fall into a deep sleep from which it’s difficult to recover. Some experts recommend drinking caffeine just before your nap. The caffeine will take about a quarter of an hour to kick in, helping you revive at just the right moment.

3. Shuffling. If you’re listening to an iPod or equivalent device, set it to shuffle. The surprise of what comes next should help you stay conscious, and having to work to identify a track will keep your intellectual cogs turning. Keeping the music low, rather than loud, forces you to concentrate on it.

4. Gum-chewing. Whilst it might make you look bovine,  grinding your jaws stimulates facial muscles and increases the flow of blood to your head, helping you stay alert.

5. Healthy eating. The best foods are the ones that give you long-term energy bursts rather than short-term spikes. High on your list of consumables should be anything containing vitamin B6 (tuna, chicken, sunflower seeds) or B12 (beef liver, turkey giblets and pork liver sausage), according to Wikipedia, although you’re probably unlikely to find these in your firm’s vending machine.

6. Cold. Turn the heating down to Captain Oates levels. Don’t get all toasty and comfortable or you’ll be dozing before you know it. Turn the lights up along with the air conditioning, if you can.

7. Talking. That colleague opposite. Yes, the trainee that annoys the bejeezus out of you. Cash in on that relationship by winding him/her up and having a proper barney. The ire that rises in your dander will render all thoughts of rest redundant.

8. Water-snorting. Yes, this is a form of water-boarding. The idea is that you inhale as much cold water from a full sink as you can. It wakes you up, and hopefully you choke out all the water you can’t healthily absorb. Either that or you contract aspiration pneumonia and die. A safer variant is to rub ice-cold water into the pulse area on your wrists.

9. Mouth-tickling. Much gentler than water-snorting. Use your tongue to tickle the top of your mouth – the uncomfortable sensation will keep you awake. Sharply pulling your ear-lobes will also banish doziness, according to ear-lobe experts.

10. Tabasco in your eye. Finally, and perhaps most stupidly, soldiers have for generations recommended rubbing tabasco under your eyes to keep them open. (Apparently, the heat of the tabasco keeps the upper lids from closing.) Don’t, however, rub tabasco into your eye, as this might result in blindness and consequent proof-reading errors. AB

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