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The Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Just about every student at some point or another has pulled an all-nighter. There are many reasons to do so, whether it’s procrastination, a busy schedule, or a poorly timed weekend before exams. Sometimes it’s just necessary to maintain your marks. But just how effective is an all-nighter and what does sleep deprivation really do to your body?

When you pull an all-nighter, you are depriving your body of sleep. Although memorizing everything for your exam may seem extremely important, beauty sleep is way more important. Almost nobody out there can get by with six hours of sleep a night. In fact, people who sleep six hours, or less, a night might not feel impaired, but many don’t realize the impairment in their own performance. They are harming themselves more than they realize by not getting a good amount of sleep.

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Some of the negative side-effects of pulling an all nighter include:

  • Decreased alertness: Probably the most obvious side effect, not sleeping enough means your body isn’t being refreshed and your energy levels aren’t being restored, so you feel lethargic and drowsy, and have difficulty focusing on tasks (like writing an exam or paper!)
  • Memory and cognitive impairment: Those all-nighters are usually counterproductive. You might get through a few extra chapters and skim through a few more lectures notes, but your ability to process that information and actually recall it during the test is drastically reduced if you skip the sleep and head straight for the exam after leaving the library.
  • Strained relationships: Mornings are rough enough as it is. The more sleep-deprived you are the more irritable, cranky, and moody you’ll be. Your normal morning cup of coffee won’t do you any good either if you’ve already been chugging it all night. So those you live with better beware.
  • Increased risk of injury: Whether you’re working, driving or just going about your everyday tasks, the combination of the above effects and being less alert overall leads to higher chances of carelessness and accidents that could be avoided with proper rest.
  • Weight Gain: Pulling all-nighters alters two important hormones: ghrelin, which is the hormone that tells us when to eat, and leptin, which is the hormone that tells us when to stop eating. When we’re sleep-deprived, our bodies produce more ghrelin and less leptin. Factor in the less-than-stellar quality of junk food we typically eat during those power study sessions and what do you get? Weight gain.

The effects from pulling all-nighters will go away soon, right? Wrong! Chronic sleep deprivation can leave us with many surprising long-term side effects like high blood pressure, depression or other mood disorders, ADD and it even increases the likelihood of stroke. The solution? Start early, use a homework planner, get organized and take a pre-exam nap!

By Punit Solanki

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