Stephan Brown

How bad is it for you to pull an all-nighter?

Stephan Brown
How bad is it for you to pull an all-nighter?

We all had nights where we forced our bodies to stay up. Whether it was in college, where you did a 40-page essay in one night, or, at work where you crammed to finish a last-minute presentation. Our lives are filled with deadlines we never make and workloads that are very overwhelming, but we somehow manage to pull through

Health problems

When you don’t sleep, you’re denying your brain the ability to repair itself. This causes your memory to be less functional, your attention span to be shorter, you’ll lose basic skills to recall information and, your focus will be lost.

Sleep deprivation can cause short-term euphoria. When your body is sleep deprived, it creates an artificial surge of energy to help complete tasks, giving you a false euphoric sense of high gratification.  On the outside, you may think this is fine, but it's a sign that your body is trying to make you stop doing work to rest.

Weight gain is almost unavoidable. The later you stay up, the more your body craves unhealthy food.  When you are sleep deprived, the hormones ghrelin (tells us when to eat) and leptin (tells us when to stop eating) get altered. This causes your body to produce more ghrelin than leptin, which is the cause of the famous “freshman 15.”

During your all-nighter, when you munch away at your stress, that can cause long-term digestive problems.  Since you are eating a lot and not sleeping, your body doesn’t have enough time to filter out all the extra sugar. This can lead to kidney problems and diabetes.

Lack of sleep increases your risk getting a stroke as you age. No matter how healthy or physically fit you are, your sleeping routine can ultimately affect your health. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, healthy adults that sleep less than six hours of sleep a night are four times more likely to suffer a stroke than adults that get more sleep.

When you don’t sleep, you also increase your chances of getting sick. Sleep deprivation lowers your immune system and impairs your fever response. Lack of sleep can also make you less responsive to vaccines. John Park, MD, a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., agrees. "We know that our immune response is suppressed when we are sleep deprived and that we develop fewer antibodies to certain vaccines if we are sleep-deprived," Park says.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the recommended amount of a sleep a person should get in a 24-hour period is seven to eight hours. If you can’t achieve that, then they recommend working out before bed, limiting your daily caffeine intake and lowering your use of nicotine.  

Energy Drinks

Often apart from your late-night work/study session, copious amounts of caffeine can hinder your health too. If you drink more than 500 milligrams in a 24hr hour period, you can cause yourself to get insomnia. According to John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, drinking caffeine before bed can delay sleep and alter the normal cycles of sleep at night.

In a 1974 study conducted by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, middle-aged adults who drank 300 milligrams of caffeine at night caused a big disturbance in their sleep. Once participants went to sleep, they were not able to reach proper deep sleep stages. Over time, this will cause people to constantly feel tired and not well rested.

Not using caffeine during the day after pulling an all-nighter can also lead to acute withdrawal. Once you wake up from your all-nighter nap, your body expects you to drink more caffeine to feel that same energy again. When you don’t give your body that caffeine, you can experience headaches, poor concentration, and anxiety. Depending on the individual, the side effects may vary based on their caffeine dependence.

Why you need sleep

No matter what you’re pulling an all-nighter for, anything you try to retain after 12 am will be completely useless. You’ll most likely remember nothing of your study session, and the longer you stay up, the worst your ability to answer questions will be.

If you are a college student, it is recommended that you study earlier in the day over the span of multiple days.  Spend about 5 or 6 hours, earlier in the day, studying and then take power naps of about 90 minutes max to recuperate and retain all the information you learned. Sleep increases your ability to learn and is important to the process of successfully retaining information.

When you are sleep deprived, you affect everyone around you as your mood will change drastically. You’ll go from being nice to being grumpy almost immediately. Constantly getting less sleep can increase anxiety and depression. Since your brain is not functioning as normal, your thoughts and the way you handle situations can get manipulated, causing you to otherwise act like a completely different person.

Sleep, in general, is the best beauty tool. Eight hours a night can improve the appearance of your skin, get rid of dark circles, helps with weight loss and you’ll look and feel healthier. When you don’t sleep, you get puffy eyes, wrinkles, dull skin and an increased appetite. Sleep not only for your health but to look good every day too.

As college students, sleep is important to getting good grades. As working adults, sleep is important to achieve high-quality work. Although sometimes you need to pull an all-nighter to get whatever task you have done, it is important to remember that quality is better than quantity. Space out your schedule over the course of a few days and get high-quality work. You’ll regret it later in life, if all your “best work” was conceived at 3 am, under a stress-induced panic.