Should You Stay Up Late to Finish Your Book? The Pros And Cons

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Anna Gooding-Call

Staff Writer

Anna Gooding-Call is a librarian and writer originally from rural central New York. She got her BA in the city that inspired "The Twilight Zone" and confirms that the hitchhikers really are weird there. Today, she lives in Massachusetts with her wife and two cats.

This post is about whether to stay up late to finish your book. It is not for people suffering from real, medical, chronic insomnia, which is a potentially crippling condition that deserves the attention of a doctor. If this describes you, please go read this other post, which is about actual serious sleep issues, instead.

Here’s an endless problem: should you stay up until 3:00 AM to finish that novel? It’s a great book, sure, but you also have work in the morning. Plus, you still have to endure the obligatory Worrying Hours where you must stare, wide-eyed, at the ceiling as you run down the lengthening list of existential threats facing humanity, plus that thing you once said to that person you don’t talk to anymore about the hat and the poke bowl that you think might have been insensitive to some aspect of their mother’s educational history.

Maybe it would be simpler to just stay up late to finish your book.

PRO: You’ll get to finish your book.

At last, you’ll close your eyes with that sweet sense of accomplishment that can only come from closing a cover. There’s nothing quite like owning your Goodreads list in the wee hours of the morning!

CON: There’s another book in the series and it’s available on Amazon.

Oh shit. Oh shit. You HAD to update Goodreads, didn’t you? Now it’s become obvious that you have more reading to do. You’re still human! You still need to rest! Cut it off.

PRO: You’ll actually finish the book club book.

You can’t cut it off. You have book club tomorrow. Don’t be lame and half-read the book again. They’re catching on, my good friend! Power through, for Dog and country.

CON: You’re reading the wrong book.

Let’s be real here. You’re not actually reading Portnoy’s Complaint. You’re reading Gideon the Ninth! Meanwhile, Philip Roth languishes under a pile of tax paperwork on the other side of the room. You’re three pages in and you hate it and you’re not going to read it, deadline be damned.

PRO: Everyone else at work is reading this too, so they’ll understand.

It’s that book, the buzzy book. It’s Where the Crawdads Sing or Fifty Shades Of Grey. Every time you face a colleague with sagging eyelids and a blank stare, you give each other a wavering smile. You’re all on this adventure together. Together, you will all stay up late to finish your book. Everyone understands.

CON: You still need to do your job, and you work with backhoes, so there’s that.

BAM! That was the sound of you plunging the toothy bucket of your eathmover right into a city water main. Was staying up late worth the $5.3 million your municipality is going to have to pay to fix this? If your answer is no, then it’s time to go to bed.

PRO: Depending on the time of the year, you might meet Santa.

And I bet he has new books for you!

CON: Regardless of the time of the year, you will likely meet a ghost. Or aliens.

Your house is haunted AF for the 364 days of the year that are not Christmas. Don’t forget all the aliens lurking out there just waiting for likely abductees. Don’t become a statistic!

PRO: You can snack!

Go work on your night cheese. Peel some grapes for yourself. This is a party! You’re the host, guest of honor, and #1 VIP. Midnight book resort much? Time to stay up late to finish your book in style!

CON: You’ll snack.

Imagine how you will feel in the morning after mindlessly, joylessly, absently mouth-vacuuming all your richest food all night long. Your stomach will ache and your living room will be a mess, adding to the cleanup you’ve got to accomplish while exhausted—unless…Wait. Did you eat in the bed?

PRO: You’re going to do it anyway.

Arguments are almost immaterial. You’ve already cracked the cover and you don’t really want to stop. You, as your mother continues to remind you, are a goddamned adult. You’re definitely going to stay up late to finish your book. Nobody is going to break down the door, strap you to the bed, and claw the book from your grasping fingers. Might as well read until you pass out, and remember to set out the good coffee for the morning.

We have sleep habits for you night-readers, too. We’re not merciless. If you actually aspire to literary insomnia, you do you, I guess. We can help.