An endless night cramming everything there is to know about the Civil War. Spending the wee hours memorizing the function of the nervous system. Finishing the last pages of that essay at 4:00 am. Maybe you’ve been in one of those situations. All-nighters often seem like a great solution to that pesky procrastination problem. But what most people believe to be a productive studying technique can actually be harmful to your health. Here’s why...
Difficulty retaining information and concentrating
After cramming all night long, you’d think you’d be well prepared for next day’s test. So why can't you seem to remember half of what you studied last night? The memory part of your brain experiences more activity when you are sleeping than when you are awake, and it needs those sleeping hours to recharge. When you deprive it of that crucial rest time, it doesn’t retain information properly. Also with lack of sleep comes lack of concentration. After a sleepless night, your attention span shortens and you may have difficulty focusing on the exam.
Related: How Important Is Sleep to Academic Success?
When hunger strikes at 2:00 am, you're most likely going to be craving that leftover pizza rather than an apple. When you are sleep deprived, the hormones ghrelin (tells us when to eat) and leptin (tells us when to stop eating) tend to get a bit altered in your body. You start to produce more ghrelin than leptin, which can lead to gaining that well-known Freshman 15.
When you sleep, your body uses that time to repair, but those late-night snacks tend to fill your body with excess sugar. When you stay awake all night, your body doesn’t have the chance to filter out all that extra glucose, which could potentially cause kidney problems or even lead to diabetes.
Caffeine side effects
It’s almost impossible to pull an all-nighter without a little caffeine boost, but that’s probably the last thing your sleep-deprived body needs. When your eyes can barely stay open to for that last-minute cramming, it is only natural to depend on energy drinks or coffee. Not only do these sources of caffeine have an excessive amount of sugar, but they will also cause your body to shut down a few hours later, and come test time, it will be difficult to stay awake. An overload on caffeine can also cause anxiety and even panic attacks in the long run.
Related: 6 Smart Coffee Hacks for College Students
If you pull one or two all-nighters in your lifetime, you don’t need to be worried—just don’t make it a habit. The long-term effects are more severe to those with chronic sleep deprivation. Try to get as much sleep as you can, when you can, and your body will thank you later.
Find more helpful sleep, health, and study tips in our Student Life section.