Almost everyone has pulled an all nighter at some point in their lives—whether it was to get a college essay written last minute, to nurse a cranky crying baby, or to accommodate travel plans. Though staying up all night on rare occasions isn’t likely to do any permanent harm to your health, it can cause you to feel run down the next day, and it can put you at risk for some unique hazards. If staying up all night is a persistent problem in your life, you may face more serious problems, because your body needs sleep to stay healthy, no matter your age. Let’s take a closer look at what happens when you don’t get the sleep you need.
Sleep deprivation slows down your brain.
Your brain works through electrical activity, which facilitates communication between brain cells and the brain and the nervous system that “talks” to the rest of the body. When you lose sleep—either due to staying up through the night or cutting your nightly sleep short by a few hours—the electrical activity in your brain slows down, meaning that you may feel foggy, sluggish, and slow throughout the following day. It isn’t fully known what happens to the brain during sleep, but it is clear that the brain requires sleep to rest and recharge. Without proper sleep, you may have slower reaction times, which could be a real danger if you are getting behind the wheel for your daily commute.
A lack of sleep can lead to poor decisions the next day.
In addition to reduced reaction times, you might experience difficulty reasoning through problems as well as higher temptation from certain vices. Overeating after losing sleep is common, because your body will be trying to compensate for the energy that it’s lacking. You may also be more likely to reach for a cigarette or alcoholic beverage, as impulsive behaviors are less under control in drowsy individuals.
Chronic insomnia may have lasting effects.
Unfortunately, you cannot catch up on lost sleep, but it’s a common misconception that this strategy works. If you spend weeknights getting by on 4-5 hours of sleep and plan to sleep more on the weekends to compensate, you’re doing damage to your body. Your heart, lung, brain, and circulatory health all depend on nightly sleep to function well, and they won’t be repaired if you get 10 hours of sleep on Saturday but return to sleepless nights when the workweek begins. In fact, the best sleep pattern is a consistent one, so you should strive for quality sleep each night and aim to get up at about the same time every morning.
If you are having trouble sleeping at night, the medical team at MeMD is here to help. With medical consultations available online around the clock, you’ll never have to lose a wink of sleep worrying about your family’s health.