Weird Things That Happen When You Stay Up Reading

by Charlotte Ahlin

We've all been there: you get into bed after a long day. You're ready for a refreshing night of sleep. You decide that you'll read just one chapter of a book, just to calm down before bed. Next thing you know, it's 5 am, the birds are chirping, and you're sobbing uncontrollably as you reach " The End " of your book, turn the final page, and realize that you have one hour to go until your alarm goes off. And a whole bunch of weird things are happening to your body.

We in the modern world are no strangers to sleep deprivation. Most high school students sleepwalk through their first few classes. Most college students have pulled an all-nighter at least once. Most adults fully intend to get to bed on time, but then somehow it's 2am and they're still watching the movie Heathers in the bathtub (or at least, I've done that). But staying up all night reading is a whole different thing. You start out vaguely aware that you should put the book down and go to bed, and then morning just happens to you. You get so wrapped up in that fictional universe that you might actually be a little taken aback to discover that the real universe still exists.

It happens to the best of us. But it might be best to set aside some hours pre-bedtime for reading binges, because here's what's going down with your body while you read all night:

1. You won’t remember what you read

While you sleep, your brain is hard at work cleaning house and storing memories. That's why reading something right before drifting off will make it stick in your memory better: it's fresh in your mind when you start nighttime memory storage. So if you read straight through the night, you don't get a chance to convert your short-term memories into long-term, and you're going to have to do some rereading if you want to be able to spoil that book for your friends a few days later.

2. You become a snack monster

Let me guess: somewhere around the major climax, when the protagonist's ally turns out to have been working for the villain the whole time, you were overcome with the need for cheese puffs. Or when you finally put that book down you're so hungry, even though there are four hours to go until breakfast. When you don't sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, the hormone that orders you to EAT. And it doesn't produce enough leptin, the hormone that gently tells you it's probably time to stop eating. Hence your insatiable hunger after a sleepless reading binge.

3. You’ll make questionable choices

When you finished that tear-jerker romance novel at 3:50 am, did you feel the impulse to text your ex? Yeah. That's because a lack of sleep impairs your ability to make decisions. Your tired, confused brain is just trying to keep you alive, so it drugs you up with natural painkillers like dopamine. That's why you feel all chill and loopy and make terrible decisions (like finishing that book instead of sleeping).

4. Your brain is full of garbage

Your poor brain. It usually spends the night diligently detoxing and taking out the trash. Your brain uses a LOT of energy during the day (if you're using it), and by bedtime it's full of metabolic waste. It gets rid of this waste while you sleep. But when you force your brain to go with you on a magical journey through Westeros instead of sleeping, you don't let it go through it's trash removal. Instead, you make a whole lot more brain trash that you'll have to deal with tomorrow night.

5. Your brain is also basically drunk

If you've been awake for 24 hours straight, you're drunk. In a spiritual sense, at least. Your performance is impaired in the same way as being legally drunk, and you definitely shouldn't drive. It's no wonder, then, that you got really emotional over that final chapter. And it's no wonder that you drunkenly hurled your book across the room at the one really shocking twist.

6. Your body doesn’t know what time it is

Your hypothalamus is pretty good at keeping track of what time it is. Light out? Cool, let's stay awake! Dark? Sweet, time for sleep. But when you screw up your circadian clock, your body basically starts screaming WHAT TIME IS IT? You didn't go to sleep at the normal time, and now your body doesn't know whether to be asleep or awake or WHAT. But you're only interested in finding out what happens to the Raven Boys, so you just keep reading.

7. You look like a sleepy monster

Missing sleep will make you look run down. Bags under the eyes from dilated blood vessels, the whole thing. If you regularly read the night away, you might want to invest in some heavy-duty napping to avoid looking (and acting) like a zombie. Alternatively, just date someone bookish who doesn't care too much about looks (it's what's inside your very tired head that counts, after all).

8. It's so bright outside.

Well, your ability to process sensory information will be all messed up, at least. It won't really be brighter outside. But it might seem that way to your sleepless brain. I hope for your sake that it was a good book you gave up your sleep for.

9. You’ll be MOODY

A lack of sleep leads to a lack of emotional stability. After not sleeping you'll be far more irritable and stressed. More factors affect the emotional centers of your brain. You'll start to get upset over things that wouldn't normally upset you. Like how maybe we don't want quite this many Pottermore extras. Maybe we want to leave a few things about the Wizarding World up to our own imaginations, J.K. Did you ever think of that??

10. Everyone will hate you

Ok, everyone won't hate you. But not sleeping takes the edge off your social skills. It screws with the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which helps us make sense of social signals. So after staying up all night to read you might not understand that your friends are hinting at you to put that book down and actually talk to them. (All things considered, though, it's probably better to ignore your friends and read than to miss a full night's sleep and read. Your brain will thank you.)

Images: Fox; Giphy (11)