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I'd love to hear from people who've managed to do this

Anecdotes about how "hardcore" people are in this regard usually wind up being worthless. 9 times out of 10, when I ask someone about an "all-nighter" they just pulled, it turns out they actually stayed up until 4:30 and slept until 9.

I expect most people who talk about how they can stay locked in the zone for 8 hours, in reality take breaks for coffee, browse the internet, and break for lunch.

(There's nothing wrong with taking breaks!)

Well fwiw, I personally have pulled honest-to-goodness all-nighters in exceptional circumstances (debugging production problem, team (including management) expecting my code the next morning to start release-testing, etc. Of course it includes things like bio-breaks, snacks/coffee etc. But since "The night is a programmer's best friend for it is silent and expects nothing"(1), it's not that hard to get back into the zone after a break especially with a sword hanging over your head.

(1) Me. Just now.

Yeah, the adrenaline of sheer terror can motivate you to amazing things for a while...

I think you are making quite a few generalizations. I've on multiple occasions coded for over 12 hours straight. With regard to all-nighters, I've had them stretch to noon.

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