in Productivity

The Secret to Winning a Hackathon



Hackathons can be incredibly grueling challenges, but the reward of victory is too great to pass up. Dr. Nitun Verma and our friends at Peerwell have worked with the likes of Facebook, Google, and Apple to develop a plan that helps programmers stay alert throughout a hackathon, an edge that can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Dr. Verma developed this plan for all day and all night work and study sessions during his medical school training and was able to determine what works and what doesn’t. He found that the powerful plan he was able to create was perfect for programmers who planned to hack away all night. The plan is specific for all-nighters and is not for everyday use. In his own words, Dr. Verma describes the plan as “not just about staying awake – it’s about staying awake, focused, and creative.”

Here is Dr. Nitun Verma’s sleep plan, which can be the secret to winning a hackathon. When your opponents are crashing hard at 2am, you’ll be more alert and able to finish your product more effectively. The plan is laid out in four-hour increments to power you through a all-night event and on your way to victory.



8am – Noon

Dr. Verma states that you should have your normal caffeine intake and avoid naps. Avoid sugar and processed foods. Opt for food high in fiber and protein. Sugar will cause grogginess by lunch.

Noon – 4pm

If you are able, a 90 minute nap after lunch is optimal. Allow yourself to lay down once you feel a bit sleepy or mentally groggy. Ninety minutes allows you to go through an entire sleep cycle and this helps you later in the evening. You should avoid caffeine and processed foods, but should eat some unrefined carbohydrates (whole grains, legumes, fruits, and veggies). Make sure you do a few physical exercises after your nap to recover alertness.

4pm – 8pm

This is another optimal time to take a nap. You just need twenty minutes if you were able to grab a 90 minute nap earlier. You’re free to drink some caffeine now and it’s better that you do before you take your nap. This will give it time to kick in, so when you wake up, you’re ready to go.

It’s best to split your dinner into two smaller portions, separated by a few hours. Stay away from sugar like rice, pasta, and pizza. Unrefined carbs and protein are your friends.

8pm – Midnight

This time will be crucial. It’s starting to get late and you’ll crave sugary snacks. Stay away from the Red Vines! Eat some nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Vegetables and beef jerky are an option too. Caffeine is ok now, but try to save it for later as long as possible.

To read the crucial tips for the hours from midnight to 8am, read the rest of Dr. Nitun Verma’s hackathon sleep plan over on the Peerwell blog. It’s these eight hours that will separate the true champions from the rest of the crowd. And remember to leave us a comment after the next hackathon you power through.  We’d love to hear how you did, and how you didn’t do.

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