At some point of our lives, we may have had to pull an all-nighter. It may be because we want to have some fun, or it could be to do tackle an important and urgent task. When we are younger, it seems doable, but as we get older, it becomes more difficult.
In this mini-guide, we will take a closer look at:
- Why we need sleep in the first place
- What happens to us when we miss an entire night of sleep
- How we can make up for it
- What you can do to ensure you never have to put yourself in a place of needing to pull an all-nighter
Why Bother With Sleep At All?
Sleep is a complex biological process our body undergoes each night. Based off our circadian rhythm, when the daylight begins to dim and the sun starts to set, we begin to produce chemicals that cause drowsiness. In preparation for sleep, we begin to feel tired and our minds begin to slow down, readying us for bed.
Although a lot more research is needed to understand sleep entirely, there are a few things we know it does for us:
- Promotes muscle strength recovery
- Reduce stress and maintain cortisol regulation
- Encourages motor skill development
- Memory gets consolidated
- Our mood and impulsiveness regulators gets restored
- We rid ourselves of toxins and other waste products build up
It becomes obvious very quickly when we miss a night of sleep how much it affects the way we feel overall. Sleeping does so much for us, and getting much-needed rest after a long day can help us restore our best self so we can continue doing what we do best the next day.
What Are The Consequences Of Missing A Full Night Of Sleep?
Missing a night of sleep won’t be the end of the world. It will however make our lives a little more difficult. Sleep is such an essential part of our biological process that missing even an hour of sleep (say, during the daylight savings time changes), can throw our daily life into chaos. Here are a few side effects of being sleep deprived:
- Increased risk of injury and reduced pain threshold
- Greater susceptibility to sickness and poor health
- Motivation and drive is reduced
- A healthy brain aging becomes impaired, increasing risk to brain-related diseases and other neurological disorders
- Reduced performance physically and psychologically
- Learning and memory is impaired
- Anxiety, irritability, and making mistakes increase
- Negatively alters your body’s ability to metabolize and store carbohydrates for later use
- Body fat percentage increases, along with impulsive eating
- Judgement becomes poor in general, including judging for distance, speed, and/or timing (beware drivers!)
- Increased sleep debt means longer sleep time in the near future, extending bed time to recover
… And the list can go on. If you try an all-nighter once, you’ll feel the effects in no time. You might eat more, become more irritated, have problems making decisions, lack the energy to get things done, become less attentive to details, and driving becomes dangerous to you, your passengers, and other drivers on the shared road.
Can We Make Up For Lost Sleep?
Our body and minds are very forgiving, especially when we are young. Just as smokers who stop can see their lungs improve, our overall well-being can bounce right back once we catch up on our sleep debt.
Sleep debt is the accumulation of missing time for sleep. Everyone is different, so sleep requirements differ between person to person. The average amount of sleep time required each night is between 7 to 9 hours. Some might need 10 hours or more, while others can do with 6 hours or less. What doesn’t change is when we lose time during our sleep. Over time, our body adapts to the lack of sleep in other ways, but the need to repay the sleep debt and catch up on our sleep never goes away.
Often times, sleep deprived individuals make it up during time off (say, during the weekends) by sleeping in. Although this might help, the effects of sleep deprivation, especially for an entire night, is evident until we catch up on our sleep.
In other words, if you neglect to sleep for more than 24 hours, then you become impaired and your health begins to deteriorate. No amount of sleep at a later day will make up for the struggles you go through from missing sleep the night before. If you can find the time to sleep once more, you can feel better in no time.
How You Can Ensure You Never Need To Pull An All-Nighter
Although there isn’t a perfect recipe for avoiding a sleepless night, there are some times we can offer to ensure you stay ahead of life’s demands. Keep in mind everyone is different, so you will need to work out the nuances specific to what keeps you up at night. Here are five tips on preventing all-nighters:
- Know that you can’t get to everything every night. For those living a stressful life, it can be difficult to let things remain incomplete. If you truly believe in making the most out of your day-to-day, then finding a way to prioritize sleep above all else is essential. Another way to think of this is whether it’s truly worth giving up tonight’s sleep and the performance of your next day for this all-nighter. We understand this isn’t always possible, but beginning to question whether tasks can wait or not might be the stepping stone to important change you need.
- Use a calendar and schedule everything. Often times, we miss sleep because something slipped out of our radar. A deadline for work, a school exam the next day, an important task that needs to be done tonight and simply can’t wait the next day. Using a calendar and schedule will help improve managing your life, and help keep you ahead of any important appointments, deadlines, and activities. Making a habit out of using your calendar might give you less things to lose sleep over.
- Draw the line for when your day ends, before bedtime. It’s easy to keep working and doing things late into the night. Sometimes we forget to set boundaries for things we need to do and lose track of taking care of ourselves first. Although it might not be possible 100% of the time, deciding then committing to a time when you call it a day is important. If not for your health, do it for your sanity and well-being. Once you reach that time of the day to stop doing things, practice calling it quits. Close that laptop, put away your phone, and do a little something for yourself. Having an evening-to-bedtime routine can work wonders.
- Get into the habit of sleeping at the same time everyday. This idea goes along with the 3rd point, so the decision and commitment to consistency is important. If you find yourself doing all-nighters because you have trouble sleeping, then maintaining a consistent sleep schedule might help. We are creatures of habit, and practicing the same sleep time over and over again helps train our body and mind to adapt to sleeping at the same time each night. Although this might not solve all problems, it’s often one of the common reasons for missing sleep entirely.
- Make sure your sleep hygiene is at its best each night. Sleep hygiene is known as the best practices for inducing quality sleep. There are three keys to a healthy sleep environment: it’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s quiet. You should also avoid devices that emit blue light near bedtime, which inhibits your natural drowsiness. Getting rid of laptops and smartphones from your bedroom is ideal. And making sure you sleep in a cool, no-lights environment that is silent will induce a better quality of sleep. You should also sleep on the best mattress possible. Often times, we neglect upgrading or replacing their beds which might cause problems to our sleep. If a quiet environment is impossible for you (say, living at an apartment complex), a white noise machine might help.
Our Final Thoughts
Pulling an all-nighter is never a great idea. Not because you can’t do it, but rather how it affects you during the time you are sleep deprived. You lose out on so much physically, mentally, and emotionally by staying up an entire night. You might also put yourself and others in danger by losing sleep.
Although it’s difficult at times to avoid losing sleep, understanding why sleep is so important, what it can do to you when you lose it, and how you can stay on top of your sleep is essential. We sleep one-third of our lives, and knowing how to guarantee we do it properly and consistently might make the other two-thirds of our wakeful lives worth enjoying.