You Need To Get Some Sleep

The exam period is right around the corner and it’s time to ask yourself: to sleep or to pull another all-nighter.

You Need To Get Some Sleep

Never ending group projects, deadlines, assignments, exams and just this feeling of never having enough time to do anything – those are some of the problems university students have to deal with. It might be quite challenging sometimes to keep up with the workload and, unfortunately, in such cases students often prefer to stay up all night and write their written assignments in one sitting. Even though this might actually work, such ‘all-nighters’ can cause some serious health problems especially if one is sleep deprived for a long period of time.

Some of the health problems that might be caused by the lack of sleep include:

  • Memory loss, trouble with thinking and concentration

During sleep one of the three stages of memory creation is believed to take place – consolidation. Hippocampus and neocortex are actively involved in the process of memory creation and some particular memories are believed to be processed and become stable during the deep sleep phases which people who sleep for less than 6 hours might simply not fall into. There is a lot more to explore in terms of which effect sleep deprivation has on the work of one’s brain, but what is clear is that lack of sleep results in one’s brain simply not being able to work at its full capacity. This includes lower alertness and concentration, inability to make decisions and work on those tasks that require logical reasoning or complex thought.

  • Mood changes

It is common knowledge that people who don’t get enough sleep are quite often stressed, easily irritated, angry and mentally exhausted. Sleep deprived individuals are also often diagnosed with chronic depression. What was found by the research in the area is that sleep deprivation has an effect on amygdala activity, increasing it, and making one more likely to get angry or irritated.

Because of the sleepiness and both mental and physical exhaustion sleep deprived people are also less likely to participate in various activities, go out and exercise which, in turn, also might contribute to their mood swings.

  • Accidents

Sleep deprivation makes one’s reaction time slower and makes it harder to keep the balance. In addition to that, people who struggle with chronic sleep diseases or are extremely sleep deprived often simply cannot control their bodies and might fall asleep for short periods of time without even realizing it. Needless to mention, all of the mentioned points make the risk of getting into an accident a lot higher.

  • Weakened immune system

During sleep your body is set to the recovering mode and one of the proteins that is released then is called cytokines. Those are needed to help one to get through stressful situations and, as one can guess, are under-produced when one doesn’t get enough sleep. Production of some of the infection-fighting antibodies is also reduced in such cases and can make one’s immune system, in general, weaker.

  • Cardiovascular health

According to previous research, those people who get insufficient amount of sleep have higher risk of developing various heart diseases due to the increased blood pressure (which is often a result of a combination of sleep deprivation and stress). Even though the link between sleep deprivation and high blood pressure is still being investigated, this phenomenon is a major problem that deserves attention as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a leading cause of death both in US and globally.

  • Risk of diabetes and weight gain due to the hormonal changes

Bodies of people who are sleep deprived tend to increase the production of cortisol which makes cells less resistant to insulin, a blood sugar controlling hormone. At the same time, levels of two other hormones, leptin and ghrelin, also change. Leptin levels, which main function is to signal the brain that one has eaten enough and is now full, decrease while the body keeps producing more ghrelin – which makes one feel hungry.

But if sleep deprivation might lead to such serious health problems, why people are still willing to sacrifice their health in order to complete yet another assignment or just to hang out with their friends? Is there any scientific explanation to why people might even enjoy staying up late?

The amount of dopamine (which is quite often known as the hormone associated with happiness) that is produced by one’s body after a sleepless night increases to compensate for the desire to sleep which is why it might feel like that one sleepless night you spent finalizing your project was definitely worth it. As we already know, that is a mere illusion and even one sleepless night might cause some health-related problems.

Another explanation also has to deal with the dopamine level and is based on the idea that being sleep deprived or just going to sleep very late at night is, in fact, addictive. That simply happens due to the habit of treating oneself (with food, movies, etc.) late at night which can be seen as the result of not getting enough pleasure (and dopamine) from the activities performed at the daytime.

Overall, getting the right amount of sleep is just as essential as drinking enough water, eating and breathing since a lot of processes in our body only take place while we are asleep. In case of sleep disorders, it is extremely important to know, what causes you to not be able to fall asleep or having a good quality sleep, and, sometimes, even sign up for a medical consultation to get a medicine prescription. However, even simple life-style changes such as sticking to a particular sleeping schedule, avoiding drinking too much coffee, avoiding eating and using your phone right before going to sleep, exercising etc. can help one to improve the quality of sleep.

After all, what is more important: this written assignment, or your health?



Text by
Nadezhda Bykova