In a bid to stay awake, we tried some traditional (and not so traditional) ways of boosting our energy levels. Find out which worked best
Aaron Surtees (cityhypnosis.com, surteesmethod.com) was called in to lull three Stylist staffers into a meditative state. He spent 35 minutes hypnotising them (in the middle of the office) asking them to relax their bodies and loosen up their hands and feet while telling them: “You are not going to feel tired throughout this challenge. When you do, squish your thumb and index finger together and you will feel energised.”
“It was funny how easy it was to focus on his voice; the background noise just faded away,” says Sophie Haslett, Stylist’s acting editorial assistant. “I felt heavy and cold afterwards, but it soon wore off. I didn’t really feel tired at all after that.” Stylist contributor Suzanne Scott had a mixed response. “When he was hypnotising us, my right arm went completely numb, and I did feel relaxed,” she says. “But around 2am when I was feeling stressed and tired I tried the ‘finger trick’ and it didn’t really work for me.”
Verdict: Mixed. All found they were more energised for a few hours after the session, but none could make the ‘finger trick’ work.
One of the key ways to control how your body feels under extreme stress (as caused by lack of sleep) is to choose what you put into it. Three members of the team were assessed and given tailor-made food programmes from Soulmate Food (soulmatefood.com) and tips from nutritionist Hala El-Shafie (nutrition-rocks.co.uk) to help see them through the night. Meals included energy-boosting grains like cous cous and lentils, grilled meats and antioxidant-rich vegetables like beetroot, eaten in five-hour intervals.
“Eating the ‘healthy’ option when everyone else was tucking into burgers was hard, but it also meant I didn’t feel sluggish and heavy,” says Sejal Kapadia, digital assistant. Amy Adams, deputy production editor says: “I had a slump between 7pm-8pm when my blood sugar dropped but after I’d eaten I was awake for the rest of the night.” However, Gemma Crisp, acting associate editor, admits: “Sorry, I crumbled and cheated when the pizzas arrived at 1am.”
Verdict: A very handy method of avoiding sugar highs and lows (if you can stick to it).
Hollie Pinnington from Matt Roberts Personal Training (mattroberts.co.uk) put together an exercise plan for some brave team members, which included 15-minute jogs, yoga exercises and ball games at 3am to boost endorphins and keep energy levels up. “I noticed the difference straight away after doing desk stretches for 10 minutes at 2pm,” says Gareth Watkins, Stylist’s production editor. “It wasn’t strenuous but I felt rejuvenated. Just taking my mind off work for a while meant I was forced to relax and I definitely felt more alert.”
Elinor Block, online writer, says: “It certainly felt odd playing catch in the office at 3am, but it helped focus my brain and gave me a real boost of energy.” Stylist’s features writer, Lizzie Pook, agrees. “I had a slump at about 9pm but this was counteracted by going for a quick jog (OK, brisk walk),” she says. “I found myself looking forward to the next session [every three and a half hours] because it kept my brain engaged and boosted my energy.”
Verdict: Everyone found they were more alert after exercising. A failsafe option.
Unsurprisingly, we weren’t short of volunteers for this group, who followed a programme put together by sleep expert Dr Victoria Revell from the Surrey Clinical Research Centre. The group was allowed optional power naps of 45 minutes (short enough so that they don’t enter Slow Wave or REM sleep, from which it’s harder to wake up) between 1-2am and 5-6am. “I easily took a 40 minute nap at 1.30am and woke up quite alert,” says Lucy Frith, Stylist’s sub-editor. “But I was also very much looking forward to my next nap and was really struggling by 4am,” she adds. “I found it quite hard to actually fall asleep,” says fellow sub editor Katie Grant. “But once I did I slept much longer than the time allocated (oops) but felt far better afterwards.” Laura Kenny, designer, says: “I had a light sleep at about 1.10am for 40 minutes. I felt really rested afterwards and didn’t really think about sleep after that because I was so full of adrenalin.”
Verdict: Half found they were more groggy, and half more alert. Only do if absolutely necessary
The 24-hour Stylist office was anything but relaxing. There was always something going on, from other colleagues and friends enjoying cocktails by our desks to midnight DJs, Duck & Waffle food deliveries, ukulele classes at 4am and a band playing so loud you had to shout like you were at a gig to speak to the person next to you. So there was plenty to keep the team from nodding off, aside from the adrenaline of putting together the issue. But many still faced the inevitable slump. “Mine came between about 4am and 5am when I was hopelessly holding a ukulele,” says acting entertainment editor, Lyndsey Gilmour. “I couldn’t concentrate at all. Admittedly, I didn’t eat much but some chicken at 2am gave me a boost.” “I felt totally fine,” says photography director Tom Gormer. “But that was probably because I had about 12 cans of Diet Coke and two burgers. I didn’t have any water for 24-hours though and now I feel really irritable.”
Verdict: Most suffered a ‘crash’ at around 4am: too much caffeine (and excitement).