Today's post is authored by MedEq's Communication Committee Chair, Ali Berri.
Admittedly, we’ve all done it at least once or twice. You tell yourself, “I’ll just relax for now and stay up studying for my exam all night; that gives me more than enough time!” Little do we realize the detrimental effects of pulling all-nighters has on our bodies, especially regarding our brain and mental health.
More than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation with college students accounting for a significant portion of that number. As college students, we are willing to compromise our recommended 8 hours of sleep in order to increase our time studying. What happens instead is that we fall into the trap, time and time again, where we don’t sleep at night and make up for that with a nap during the day. It’s an ongoing cycle – one that is difficult to correct. Though it seems innocent, this habit takes a huge toll on the human mind.
After a busy week, you come to the realization that the exam you were dreading is tomorrow. Noticing that you haven’t started studying at all, you decide to pull an all- nighter, determined to ace the exam. We as college students think of sleep as a luxury, rather than a necessity. Staying up all night is all too common of an occurrence for us. We are too preoccupied tackling tough classes, along with our jobs, our social lives, and any other activities and/or clubs we may be involved with. This leaves us with virtually no time for sleep, thinking if we stay up to study it will benefit us during the exam – but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Lack of sleep impairs various cognitive functions of the human body, including those required on exams. Your brain converts your short- term memory into long-term memory while you sleep. A part of your brain called the hippocampus does this by “replaying” this information while we are sleeping. No sleep results in loss of these memories, making the new information you are trying to cram in at night much harder to recall during the exam. Additionally, a sleep-deprived brain may misinterpret information, leading to false memories. Sleep deprivation also affects your alertness and your ability to focus, further hindering our ability to complete our exam. This is linked to lower GPA’s since the deprivation is affecting memory, concentration, and the ability to learn. Moreover, all-nighters actually kill brain cells in the brain stem, which may result in irreparable damage. Research is consistently proving that a full night of sleep is much more beneficial for you than staying up all night trying to do some last minute studying.
After that long night of tireless studying, the next day you decide to take a nap to compensate which is a temptation we must learn to avoid! Taking long naps only further disrupts your sleep-wake cycle, emphasizing this vicious cycle. Disruptions of our sleep- wake cycle bring a whole plethora of conditions that we should be worried about. This includes jet lag, circadian rhythms, and other sleep disorders. According to a study done by the University of Michigan, 18% of college men and 30% of college women report having suffered from insomnia in the past three months. Our daily habits and activities affect how well we sleep, so in order to stay mentally and physically healthy we must be conscious of the things we do on a daily basis.
Practicing time management is one of the most important skills to acquire as college students in order to juggle all of the responsibilities that we hold. Nonetheless, sleep should be a priority for even the busiest of students in order for us to have the energy and the ability to put our best work in – whether it is into our schoolwork or any other activities we may be involved in.
The following is an infographic provided by Science.Mic on the effects that sleep deprivation has on different areas of the human brain:
1. Adebayo, Morenike. "This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Don't Sleep."
IFL Science. N.p., 12 June 2015. Web. 23 Dec. 2015.
2. Fisher, Theresa. "What Sleep Deprivation Does to Your Brain, in One Stunning
Infographic." Science.Mic. N.p., 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2015.
3. Heid, Markham. "Your Brian On: No Sleep." Shape. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2015.
4. Kryger, Meir, Dr., and Phyllis Zee, Dr. "Sleep-Wake Cycle: Its Physiology and Impacts on Heath." (n.d.): n. pag. National Sleep Foundation. Web. 23 Dec. 2015.
5. Killgore, William D. S., Dr. "Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognition." Diss. Harvard Medical School, n.d. Abstract. (2010): n. pag. U.S. National Library of Medicine National Instititue of Health. Web. 23 Dec. 2015.
6. "Sleep." Campus Mind Works. University of Michigan, n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2015.