Many college students feel overwhelmed by the workload of each semester. This often leads students to think that the only way to survive college is to pull “all-nighters.” Days are filled with lectures, activities and work, and night-time is the time to prepare for that huge exam that they’ve known about since the first day of class. Students think that sacrificing sleep is better because they are studying, which should be helping them be ready for the exam tomorrow, right?
After several nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two (NIH, 2013)!
Sleep deficiency affects how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others (NIH 2013). People who are sleep-deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes (NIH, 2013).
While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day (NIH, 2013). It’s forming new pathways, which help you to retrieve information and to learn new things (NIH, 2013). Sleep enhances your ability to problem solve, pay attention, make decisions and be creative (NIH, 2013).
Did you know that you can actually sleep while you’re awake without even realizing it? These are called microsleeps (NIH, 2013). Think about a time when you were driving, and after a while you realize that you don’t remember part of the trip. If this has happened to you, then you have experienced a microsleep. These are caused by sleep deprivation. If these happen to you in lecture, you could potentially miss an important point the professor is trying to make, and get behind on learning the concepts (NIH, 2013).
A sleep deficiency can also cause weight gain due to hormone imbalance (NIH, 2013). If you are getting enough sleep, you would have a normal balance of the hormone ghrelin (hungry feeling) and leptin (full feeling) (NIH, 2013). When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin goes up while leptin goes down (NIH, 2013). As a result, you will want to eat more when you are sleep deprived than when you are well-rested.
Additionally, sleep-deprivation can weaken your immune system (Morgenthaler, 2013). Studies show that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus like the common cold (Morgenthaler, 2013). You will also recover more slowly if you do get sick (Morgenthaler, 2013).
Let’s put everything together now. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, difficulty concentrating, inability to recall information, difficulty learning, increased mistakes, decreased ability to pay attention, decreased creativity and cause physical sickness. Getting enough quality sleep per night does the exact opposite of all of these!
So does pulling an “all-nighter” still sound like the best idea? I didn’t think so. Just remember, an adult should get between 7 ½ to 9 hours of sleep each night (HELPGUIDE, 2013). While that may not be easy with the college schedule, I hope you will want to make sleep a priority.
For more info on sleep, how the sleep/wake cycle works, and how to know you may be accruing a sleep debt without even knowing it, visit this website: http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm.
HELPGUIDE.ORG. (2013). How much sleep do you need? Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm
Morgenthaler, T. (2013). Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lack-of-sleep/AN02065
NIH. (2013). Why is sleep important? Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why.html