“I can sleep when I’m dead” has nearly become a motto for busy, overworked college students. Between class, work, parties, homework and extracurricular activities, it is easy to understand why students tend to put sleep on the back burner.
But it is time for college students to rethink this philosophy. Not getting the recommended amount of sleep—seven to nine hours per night according to the National Sleep Foundation—can do more than cause you to fall asleep in class.
“After an all-nighter, I used to feel exhausted but yet accomplished,” said MU undergrad Meredith Saville. “I don’t do [all-nighters] now because I realized I then spend the following day napping.”
While not getting a full night of sleep every once in a while will not cause serious harm, a consistent lack of sleep (also known as sleep deprivation) can lead to serious health problems later. Long-term health issues caused by lack of sleep are serious.
Adults who regularly get under six hours a night are four times more likely to experience stroke symptoms.
Not enough shuteye could also be to blame for those extra couple pounds. Not sleeping enough can cause junk food cravings (due to hormonal changes) and serving yourself larger portions. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps to regulate your appetite and hunger schedule.
Over time, not sleeping affects the insulin in your body as well. Studies found that teenagers who sleep less than six hours a night have high insulin resistance, meaning that their bodies do not use insulin effectively, which can contribute to diabetes.
Every college student has forgotten a due date, but sleep deprivation can eventually lead to long-term memory loss. One study found that “brain deterioration” could occur, partially explaining memory loss.
“It’s a way for the body to integrate everything that happened over the past waking day and to kind of prepare for the next day,” says Dr. Virend K. Somers, who studies sleep and heart health at the Mayo Clinic.
There is a reason schools encourage students to get enough sleep: without sleep, the cognitive process required for learning is slowed. Sleep deprivation can lead to a lower attention span, which can limit reasoning and problem solving.
Even one all-nighter can affect you. Immediately.
As anyone who has pulled an all-nighter knows, not getting enough sleep causes drowsiness, decreased alertness and distractibility. Studies found that drowsiness caused by lack of sleep can slow reaction time when driving as much as driving drunk. Fatigue causes over 10,000 accidents and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In addition, impaired judgment, not just behind the wheel, can be caused by a lack of sleep. Because the body is working on little sleep, the way we interpret events can be compromised. This makes assessing situations and making judgments difficult.
While pulling an all-nighter to knock out that paper might seem like a good idea, put down the coffee and consider getting a full night’s sleep instead.