Maybe you've been focused on your side hustle, or your new puppy has an adorable snoring habit, or you've just discovered all 9 seasons of
Ru Paul's Drag Race — but now you've been staying up late for a full month. What happens to your body after throwing your sleep schedule for a 180-degree loop can be surprising, to say the least. Well-known side effects of exhaustion include memory issues, motor control problems and a constant need to nap, but there are other issues that get a bit less attention, but are no less real for people who've been burning the midnight oil for a full four weeks.
People who are night owls by habit may adjust to these conditions far faster than those who tend to get up early and go for a healthy jog (which allows them to feel smug all day). Night owlism, or the tendency to be most comfortable going to sleep in the wee hours and getting up late,
seems to be partially genetic, according to research in 2017. Human body clocks take a while to adjust, as jet lag demonstrates — but if you're more of a late riser by nature, staying up beyond your normal bedtime may be less of an issue. However, a month-long period of staying up late can have some very intriguing effects on your body and your brain.
Your Body Will Probably Readjust
According to researchers, the amount of sleep you get isn't the only important factor. There's also another element you may not have realized: consistency. If you've been going to sleep and waking up at the same times for a month, provided that the sleep you're getting is of sufficiently good quality and length, you likely won't suffer too many ill effects, because
your body will have readjusted to this schedule. If you want to be a night owl, researchers recommend, be a consistent night owl; don't just stay up late on weekends and commit to a sunset bedtime during the week, because it'll mess with your circadian rhythm, aka the hormonal cycle in which the body determines sleep and wakefulness. Staying up late for a month is, interestingly enough, better for you than staying up for a stray weekend here and there, because your body enjoys consistency.
But The Area Of "Acceptable" Sleep Hours Is Bigger Than You Think
The time in which humans should aim to get their nightly sleep is broader than you might have imagined. Though you were told to go to sleep at an early hour as a kid, adults, according to researchers, should
aim to get their rest at a point between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. — which leaves rather a lot of wriggle room, depending on how much sleep you need. If you only need seven hours to function properly, for instance, sleeping from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. is seen as a perfectly healthy and normal schedule provided (and here's the magic word again) that it's consistent. So staying up later than usual for a month may not be the great act of rebellion you think it is. "Late" is all relative.
Sleep Deprivation Will Make You Dizzy
Let's assume that you haven't been getting enough shuteye, and that your month-long journey into the night hours, whether you're catching up on TV, Skyping an overseas love or simply enjoying the quiet, still ends with a horrendous 6 a.m. wakeup call. One weird thing that can happen? Your body's core ability to balance will be negatively affected. Scientists have noted that
after a small period of intense sleep deprivation, people get dizzy, because the brain is attempting to get some rest and parts of it are shutting down to compensate. Result: you fall over things.
It'll Affect Your Mood, But In Confusing Ways
Sleep deprivation makes some of us grumpy, but for others, it seems to be a mood-lifter. That's the conclusion of a very intriguing meta-analysis from 2017 that
looked at years of studies on sleep deprivation and mood, and found that 40 to 60 percent of the patients in the studies reported an antidepressant effect. And that response held whether it was a short sharp dose of sleep deprivation or consistent over a longer period. The boost doesn't last long, but it has now been quantifiably proven. However, other people who suffer from depression may also find that sleep disturbances, inconsistent sleep and a smaller amount of rest over time increase their depressive episodes, and we don't know as yet why this difference exists.
It May Make You Insulin-Sensitive
Scientists in 2015 looking for a positive link between sleep deprivation and insulin function in the body did an experiment using dogs, and found that, for canines, one night of sleep deprivation has the
same impact on insulin sensitivity as six months on a high-fat diet. The less sensitive you are to insulin, the more insulin your body requires and the higher risk you are for diabetes. For the dogs in the study, getting less sleep lowered their sensitivity considerably, which isn't great for energy levels or for the body's internal production of glucose.
It'll Put You At Risk Of Getting Ill
Research in 2017 found that people who believe they get sick more easily when they're tired aren't making it up: there is indeed a relationship between
long-term sleep deprivation and a suppressed immune system. The researchers looked at 11 pairs of twins, and found that the twin who slept less was more likely to get viruses and experience other symptoms of a lowered immune system. A long-term sleep deficiency means your body is too tired to protect itself properly from infections and invaders, and your immune system can't operate at high efficiency. So you'll likely get to the end of your month-long sleep deprivation with a cold.
You Won't Be Able To Recognize Expressions As Quickly
This is one of the most interesting consequences of sleep deprivation and it's only been recently discovered: when you've been going without the right amount of sleep for a while, you'll stop being able to
accurately read facial expressions. It's a fascinating issue that was uncovered by research in 2017, and found that people who'd been deprived of proper sleep for a while couldn't "read" the subtle expression on faces in photographs. They could identify extremely visible emotions, like fear and anger, and big obvious grins or pouts were OK, but when it came to more muted smiles or frowns, the participants flunked out. So you may find yourself getting into more arguments when you're sleep-deprived because your brain isn't capable of reading emotional signals with such facility.