It's the age old question: should I stay up late or go to bed? If you're anything like me, when you're deliberating this quandary, you're already at the point where your work has piled up, your mind is racing, and you cannot imagine getting a restful night's sleep. On the other hand, you look at your bed and can absolutely imagine passing out and waking up early to accomplish your goals... that is, if you remember to set your alarm.
For me personally, I all too often pull an all-nighter — but while I technically accomplish my goals by doing so, I'm always groggy and disoriented the following day. The science behind this isn't surprising: after the adrenaline that initially kept you awake all night wears off, your body is in a worse place during your work day than it was in the wee hours of the morning. David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania explains that because you've thrown off your body's natural rhythm, once 24 hours from the time you normally wake up passes, you're going to have a really hard time staying awake and functioning normally.
So, why do we do it? For many of us, school work piles up, final exams arrive sooner than we'd like, or we're struggling to balance work and personal obligations. Some people also experience anxiety at night, and feel that accomplishing as much as possible before bed is necessary to ease their worries.
All of this said, guess what? Staying up late really is bad for your health. Here are some of the scariest ways staying up late can affect your health — which, incidentally, also double as scientifically-backed reasons for why you should go to bed on time in the first place.
1. Kiss Your Memories Goodbye
All of that studying you did? You know, all of those facts and formulas you wrote on flashcards and repeated back to yourself at 3 a.m.? Unfortunately, staying up late really messes with your memory, so it's very likely that come test time, you won't remember much of what you stayed up reviewing. How come? Basically, the hippocampus part of your brain helps you remember things by replaying it in your mind while you sleep. No sleep therefore equals lots of problems for your long term memory.
2. Hello, Poor Judgment
Staying up late can have really adverse affects on your judgment. You know how delicious yet relaxed you feel after you pull an all-nighter (or heck, even just go on too little sleep), where the world is at your fingertips and you want to follow all of your impulses? That's because a lack of sleep causes your prefrontal cortex to stop working as efficiently — which is a problem, because that's the part of your brain responsible for you making good and smart decisions.
3. You Are Going to Eat Everything
It's true: The night munchies are totally a thing. The science behind this unfortunate reality, in simple terms, is basically that sleep deprivation affects your levels of peptides, which in turn cause an increase in your appetite. According to a study out of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, "late-night sleepers eat 248 more calories a day than those who get to bed at a decent hour, and all of that can lead to about two pounds per month." Apparently, night owls also eat more fast food and less fruit and vegetables, though the study does clarify they don't know if night owls choose unhealthy food because they're night owls, or because it's simply what is available to them at the time.
It goes without saying that you should eat whatever the heck you want to; however, if you're actively trying to get more fruits and veggies into your diet, staying up late might make accomplishing your goals a little harder. Just something to keep in mind, if that's a thing that concerns you.
4. You May Become Prone to Negative Thoughts & Anxiety
There's been a lot of research done on this point, and for good reason: Mental health is no joke, and the effects of our sleep schedules make a major impact on our moods and emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation boosts anxiety, which is actually a huge issue, as many people who suffer from anxiety disorders also experience difficulty sleeping. Even for people who don't necessarily have anxiety disorders, going without sleep, or going to sleep for short periods of time after staying up late, is linked with experiencing negative thoughts than those who sleep regular hours.
5. You Are Going to Tank Your Immune System
Staying up late to be "more productive" is definitely going to backfire on you if you end up calling out of work or school because you're sick. And, lo and behold, staying up late, or missing sleep entirely, is linked again and again to a terrible immune system. Basically, when you throw off your body's internal clock, you're also throwing off your body's programs for fighting off bacteria and keeping you healthy.
So, what's the solution? Seriously: get enough sleep. There are a ton of benefits to going to bed early, including more energy and better, healthier skin. More sleep can also help you think better and solve more complex problems, as well as help you regulate your emotions and interactions with others.
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