Millions of college students know exactly what it’s like to pull an all-nighter. They know the surge of energy and hyperactivity – the feeling of being alert and perfectly awake – and they know all too well about the crash
They might also be aware that the seven or more cups of coffee they will need to make it through the day after an all-nighter will prevent any semblance of effective sleep the next night as well.
But more than that, what does sleep deprivation actually do to a person? Could just one sleepless night really hurt? That test tomorrow is important, after all.
Yes. Sleep deprivation is the worst thing in the world. It seems silly that something that seems so unimportant is actually significant to a person’s health both mentally and physically.
Though each case is different, sleep deprivation typically results in forgetfulness. Which, hello, is not a good thing if you just wasted a perfectly good night of sleep to study for a test. In fact, in just one missed sleep cycle brain tissue starts to disintegrate. We are college students, so we must spare all the brain cells that we can.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to increased risk for stroke, heart problems, high blood pressure, increased risk for diabetes and obesity, higher cancer risks and overall a higher mortality rate. It can also significantly lower your sex drive.
I know from experience that staying awake all night sucks. I’m awake at roughly 5 a.m. to start my day, but then my day is super busy and I have things I need to do. Then I am up all day doing my daily routine. Darn. I need to stay up all night to get XYZ tasks completed because they are due tomorrow. I just cannot ask for an extension or a life pass because these don’t exist.
So, there I am stuck writing a paper and finding some time to actually eat food. I feel fine until around midnight.
That’s when the giggles start and everything I see or hear is absolutely hilarious. I can’t focus on anything and I really want nothing more than to go to sleep. By the time 4 a.m. rolls around, I have literally squandered or completely misused my time staring at the ceiling and nothing is accomplished.
I want to go to sleep now, but I rationalize with myself because if I check out now, I might not wake up in time and then I’ll feel even more behind which means even less sleep. The trick is at 6 a.m., I feel like I could run a marathon and climb a mountain. Then it wears off and I crash hard. Two weeks later when I get my work back? Not A+ material.
Sleep is a gift. Anything short of a diagnosed sleep disorder is a grave misuse of this gift. That paper can wait. You can clean your entire house tomorrow. Those documents for work can be done in the morning. Get in bed earlier and sleep. Savor the sleep you can and appreciate it like it is the most important thing in the entire world, as if your life depends on it. Because, let’s face it. It really does.