You’ve been putting off studying for your midterm all week and now the exam is tomorrow. The future of your grade rests in the hands of this single test. With less than 24 hours until go time, you decide to capitalize on every second you have left. Bring on the coffee, sleep is nowhere in sight. Pulling an all-nighter must be the answer here, right? WRONG!
All-nighters are as debilitating as they are painful. It is hard to stay awake for that long and there is a reason for that: your body is telling you it is a bad idea! Here’s the scoop on the dangerous effects of pulling all-nighters.
Hazard 1: Caffeine
The first thing students turn to when they are feeling drowsy during an all-nighter is either coffee or an energy drink. Both have terribly high levels of caffeine in them. Caffeine is a diuretic that causes you to urinate more often, and it also increases heart rate. According to the FDA, the average American adult consumes 200mg per day of caffeine, or about two cups of coffee.
It is addictive and should be used with caution. Long term consumption and/or high doses can result in…
- rapid heartbeat
- upset stomach
- muscle tremors
When reducing caffeine consumption, be sure to wean yourself off of it little by little to escape the effects of withdrawals, which take the form of more intense side effects.
Hazard 2: Lack of Sleep
Many people lie in bed all night and wish they could fall asleep, while many students force themselves awake. For optimal coherency during the day, it is necessary to get bet
ween 7 and 9 hours of sleep, says Boston University. A lack of sleep can cause an array of problems. Sleep is a time for tissue repair and homeostatic maintenance. Two major effects of little sleep are memory problems and health problems.
The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural cycle that tells you when to wake up and when to sleep. Consistently sleeping in abnormal patterns can cause long term sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea. Insomnia is when falling asleep or staying asleep is difficult. Sleep apnea is when breathing randomly stops and starts. Catching up on sleep can only slightly prevent these serious disorders after prolonged sleep deprivation.
While we sleep our brain is hard at work. Our hippocampus replays daily memories to our cortex for long-term storage. When that process is interrupted, memories may be lost. By depriving your body of sleep, every last battle of the American Revolutionary War that you crammed into your head at 4 AM will likely not be stored long enough to remember for the U.S. History exam.
Aside from memory, lack of sleep can have serious physical effects as well. Growth hormones are released during sleep, so if you have not reached your final phases of growth, you may limit yourself by less sleep. Other hormones are controlled during sleep, such as ghrelin and leptin. These hormones control diet and alterations may lead to weight gain.
Hazard 3: Ineffectiveness
When students study, they want to absorb the greatest amount of information in the shortest amount of time. Working under a sleepy-haze can result in sub-par work. If you are working on a project or studying for a test, a lack of focus due to sleepiness may cause you to make silly mistakes that cost your grade.
During an exam following an all-nighter, your reasoning skills are impaired by your lack of sleep. You may have trouble reading clearly, thus reading questions wrong on tests and assignments. Answers that you may think are logical, may only appear that way because of tiredness. It is fruitless to take a test after subjecting yourself to a lack of sleep.
Finally, a Stanford University Study found that students who consistently pulled all-nighters had significantly lower GPAs. As expected, when those same students refrained from pulling all-nighters, their GPAs increased as well. A better solution for preventing the terrible consequences of all-nighters is to plan in advance. Write due dates and test dates in a planner and study effectively days before an exam!