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Why The Infamous All-Nighter is a Terrible Idea


So you're procrastinator...

The good news, so are millions of high school and college students across the country. By all accounts, you're not unique in your inability to get ahead on assignments and more often than not, you'll be "forced" to stay up late either cramming for an exam or attempting to complete a six page paper you were assigned more than a month ago.

Despite the fact it's widely known that all-nighters are inherently bad for us (both mentally and physically), we continue with them. I am without a doubt guilty of pulling countless all-nighters throughout my years in college. In hindsight, I would argue that the number of all-nighters I pulled actually benefited my studies overall, but took a short-term toll on me both mentally and physically. With that said, all-nighters come with a bevy consequences and I highly encourage you to think twice before staying up all night.

 If it's possible to remain ahead on your school work, do so. The two or four times each year (depending on whether you're on the quarter or semester system) I understand the need to pull an all-nighter is during finals week. The notion of a final exam is overwhelming just to think about. No matter how well you're doing in a class, being tested on EVERYTHING you've covered in prior weeks and months is no easy feat and requires a boat load of preparation.

All-Nighter Consequences:

  1. There is clear evidence that sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system and impairs one's ability to heal. If you're feeling under the weather, an all-nighter will increase the severity of your illness as well as extend the length of time it takes to properly and effectively heal. This becomes increasingly important during finals week when it's essential you maintain peak performance for lengthier periods of time.
  2. You will become an emotional nightmare. Sleep deprivation impedes on your prefrontal lobes ability to regulate turning you into an emotional roller coaster. In addition, sleep deprivation boosts parts of the brain that are associated with depression and causes individuals to become drastically more stressed. Post all-nighter, it's important to be mindful of your emotional inconsistencies insofar as they can affect your relationships with friends and family.
  3. The US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health conducted a study confirming the effects sleep deprivation have on one's inability to concentrate. While you may feel more prepared the next morning, preparation in this case does not necessarily translate to increased productivity, focus and overall concentration.
  4. If you're actively watching your weight and/or trying to maintain a healthy diet, an all-nighter will surely impede on any progress you've made. While studying, your brain relies on glucose to function. When your stomach starts to growl, you're more likely than not going to have the urge for something that's greasy and loaded with carbs. My go-to was Mix Bowl Cafe, a Thai restaurant located in Claremont, CA that delivered late into the night. During my repeated cramming sessions, nothing made me happier than a large order of Pad Thai, that is until Domino's launched the 555 deal...
  5. The Zombie Effect. Without adequate sleep, your mind and body go into what I refer to as "Zombie Mode." Your reflexes are slower, you tend to slur your words, you lack patience, have a difficult time hearing and processing what others say, are unable to efficiently multi-task and experience difficulty walking in a straight line. Many studies reveal that drowsy-driving is comparable to drunk driving and in certain cases, can be worse. Following an all-nighter, I urge you to head to bed as quickly as possible. Operating a motor vehicle or participating in an activity where you are responsible for the well being of others would be a very poor decision on your part.

Following your all-nighter, be mindful of that fact that the list of consequences above prolong themselves for days, sometimes even weeks depending on your regular sleep habits, stress levels and ability to maintain a healthy diet. It's important to give your mind/body ample time to recover.

Sleep is essential for success. Although the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends that each of us get between seven and eight hours of sleep per night, students will typically get much less, especially when averaging total sleep over the period of any given week. If you're not getting enough sleep, your physical and mental health will suffer. While I don't condone the consequences attributed to all-nighters, I understand the role they play in student life.

Daniel Black graduated from Claremont McKenna College in May of 2011. Considered by many to be a thought leader in the education space, Daniel is a regular contributor to a number of sites and blogs and enjoys providing advice, suggestions and recommendations to both students and recent college graduates.

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