In the rare instances I miss college, I have to remind myself that it wasn't all boxed-wine-and-Netflix binges and reckless grilled cheese consumption. There was also these pesky things called grades (??), classes (?????), and papers (but WHY), and in order to get them good and done, you more than likely had to pull some all-nighters. At first the prospect of it might even seem a little exciting. You hunker down with your coffee and the mountain of snacks you procured for yourself with your dining plus dollars (#SWAG), get all your books organized in a way to achieve Instagram nirvana, and settle into your chair for the long haul.
Cut to five hours later: you're either falling in and out of sleep, crying, or both. (Multi-taskers REPRESENT.) Pulling an all-nighter sounds like a simple enough concept, but — and this may come as a shock to you — the human body does not consider learning biochem as an immediate life-threatening emergency, and will not cooperate with pumping the necessary adrenaline to keep up with your crazy studying whims. Bummer, I know. And it only gets worse from there! Because when you pull an all nighter, you aren't just running the risk of getting hella hangry. You do all sorts of other crazy things to yourself as well. Here are a few things that happen to your body after you pull an all-nighter:
Your Immune System Peaces Out
You know how you've always wanted to study abroad? Well, maybe your immune system can send you Instas from Paris or Tokyo or wherever the hell it went, because it's certainly not here for you now that you've deprived it of an entire night's worth of sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with a decrease in T-cells and an increase in inflammatory cytokines. Translation: your immune system has been compromised. As Diwakar Balachandran, the director of the Sleep Center at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, puts it, "The more all-nighters you pull, the more likely you are to decrease your body’s ability to respond to colds or bacterial infections."
Stress Hormones Crash The Party That Is Your Brain
During sleep, your body secretes a lot of hormones — among them cortisol, the infamous "stress hormone". Cortisol production naturally increases during sleep to better prepare you for everyday stress, but when you pull an all-nighter, the body goes into hyperdrive and increases much more of it than usual. Your body doesn't care about contextual analysis of Shakespeare and basically assumes that you aren't sleeping because there is some threat to your being that requires you to be alert. Alas, you are not getting stalked by a mountain lion (I hope), so this is fairly unhelpful and will only make you miserable throughout the day.
You Become The Dory Of Your Own Narrative
In 2009, researchers determined that sleep was essential for the "sharp wave ripples" that help consolidate memories — not just, say, what you loopily posted into a YouTube comments strand at 2 a.m. (why, bro?!), but also the very material you are trying to study. Lack of sleep prevents the brain from storing these memories in the long-term, and even causes you to be forgetful as your body copes with the sleep deprivation. Consider also that research shows that getting a good night's sleep immediately after studying material is hugely beneficial to getting it concrete in your brain.
You Will Not Be In The Mood For Any ~Sexy Times~
I mean, if you're pulling all-nighters, odds are you don't have time for a quickie in the stacks anyway. But if you were expecting a post-all-nighter revel with one of your fellow sleep-deprived souls, consider that you are both going to experience a significant decrease in your sex drive. Hell, even getting as many as six hours of sleep per night can lead to reduction of the hormone testosterone in both men and women — imagine the kind of damage an all-nighter can do! (No worries, though. Day napping is the new sexy.)
You Will Be Hangry As All Hell
A mere six hours of sleep or less boosts the production of ghrelin, the "hunger hormone". And as much as we all enjoy getting our grub on, there is nothing more frustrating than when that grub cannot be satisfied. Say that all-nighter you pulled is preparing for a test or a presentation at work — how well do you think you're going to be able to focus if your stomach is roaring throughout?
You'll Be On An Emotional Roller Coaster Of Your Own Design
This is probably not at all surprising to you at this point in the game, but LOSING SLEEP CAN MAKE YOU FEEL STUFF. The sleep deprivation makes it harder to concentrate, which makes you frustrate easier — and as I mentioned earlier, your cortisol production is shooting up to compensate as well. Any human under that amount of stress would be liable to falling off the rails a bit.
Your Brain Will Basically Think It's Drunk
OK, don't, like, quote that subheading for science or anything, but there are some studies to back me up on the idea of it. Sleep deprivation literally slows you down — you are more forgetful, your reaction times are much slower, and your brain fails to process things that are happening around you at its normal speed. You've heard about car accidents caused by people falling asleep at the wheel, but did you know that sleep deprivation can cause a delay in reaction time that is the equivalent of driving drunk?
Images: NBC; Giphy