When you’re an invincible college student, it’s easy to view sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. But studies suggest putting down that Red Bull and taking a closer look at the short- and long-term consequences of burning the midnight oil.
According to experts, staying up all night can…
1. Wreck your body.
Beyond the usual grogginess and irritability that comes with fatigue, habitual sleeplessness can intensify a host of emotional problems that includes anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
2. Make you ugly.
Well, OK, maybe not ugly per se, but there’s a reason they call it “beauty rest.” Sleep deprivation can result in shakiness, sallow skin tone, dark under-eye circles, and an overall run-down, disheveled look. Sleep deprivation over time is also associated with increased body mass.
3. Do more academic harm than good.
Even though it can sometimes feel like your only option, all-night cramming is a bad study strategy. In essence, when you stay up, the restorative, consolidating effects of sleep are lost, and the information doesn’t “click.” You’re actually much better off with a normal study session, a good night’s sleep, and a light breakfast on exam day.
4. Have terrible long-term effects.
According to the National Institute of Health, habitual sleeplessness can result in decreased learning capacity—which is pretty crucial for a little thing we call success. So even if all-night cramming works in a pinch for that elective course, it’s not a good idea to rely on it for building the skills that you’ll actually need to use someday.
5. Lead to bad decisions.
We all know that slaphappy feeling that comes when lack of sleep triggers a rush of natural painkillers—but that’s not strictly a good thing. Feel-good hormones like dopamine interfere with the brain’s ability to plan logically, sometimes resulting in unpredictable behavior and an increased willingness to take risks.
On a realistic note…
Despite the dangers, all-nighters are a common and sometimes necessary part of college life. If you find you absolutely must forgo sleep to cram for an unexpected exam or finish an important term paper, take these precautions:
- Don’t make it a habit. All-nighters pose serious long-term risks, so if yours are increasing in frequency, it may be time to reevaluate your routine.
- Skip the stimulants. Instead of crash-inducing caffeine, try natural energy boosters like peanut butter, vitamin C, and electrolytes.
- Get any sleep you can. One hour is better than no hours, so catch a few zzz’s, if at all possible.
- Take breaks. Stretch, meditate, walk, listen to music—any little refresher you can squeeze in will help stave off fatigue and burn out.
- Pay your body back. You’re going to have to make up for lost sleep at some point, so make it sooner than later…as in, right after class, if you can.