Toronto Mike

How All-Nighters Hurt Your Brain

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Pulling an all-nighter is the most extreme way to cram and, well, no, you shouldn’t pull them—not unless you have no choice. But even if you have no choice, it’s better to get at least a bit of sleep; even twenty minutes will make a difference. Yes, it might be incredibly difficult to wake up at 4 am after falling asleep an hour earlier, but it’ll be worth it. Your body will thank you, and so will your brain.

Students who take Ontario online high school courses at online high schools that promote flexible and self-paced learning are less likely to need to pull all-nighters because they have more control over their schedules.

But students at traditional brick-and-mortar high schools sometimes may have no choice. These students might think pulling a true all-nighter is the best available option. However, it may actually be better for them not to study. That’s because all-nighters are bad for your brain.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Brain

Though you probably won’t die after pulling one all-nighter, your brain probably will suffer. Sleep deprivation may:

  1. Disrupt the normal functioning of your brain
  2. Impair your memory

#1 Disrupt the Normal Functioning of Your Brain

How sleep deprivation disrupts the normal function of the brain is a complicated matter, and there’s still a lot that scientists—among them neuroscientists, neurobiologists, psychiatrists, etc.—need to learn. But one thing they have learned so far is that lack of sleep hinders the brain’s glymphatic symptom.

The brain’s glymphatic system is a macroscopic waste clearance system: a network of vessels responsible for clearing the central nervous system of waste. The glymphatic system clears brain waste most effectively when you’re asleep. When you’re awake, it remains mostly disengaged. Essentially, when you don’t sleep, you don’t clean out your brain trash.

After pulling an all-nighter, your brain won’t smell, but it won’t work as well as it usually does.

#2 Impair Your Memory

Though the reason humans sleep remains somewhat mysterious, research has shown that sleep helps us learn and remember information. This includes the information you may need to retain to perform well on exams.

Pulling an all-nighter may cause you to forget information, meaning that you could go into an exam, after pulling an all-nighter, remembering less than you would had you not studied at all!

How to Pull an All-Nighter

If for whatever reason you have no choice but to pull an all-nighter, there are, rest assured (pun intended), ways to do it:

  • Drink coffee or tea (the recommended maximum caffeine dose is 600 milligrams, which is just under 3 shots of espresso)
  • Don’t drink energy drinks or take caffeine pills
  • Take a cold shower
  • Exercise (even a few push-ups can go a long way)
  • Eat well and hydrate

The Bottom Line

You shouldn’t pull an all-nighter unless you absolutely have to. It won’t help you as much as studying in advance will, and it can damage your brain. But, if you must pull an all-nighter, there are good and bad ways to do it. Don’t drink alcohol; do drink coffee or tea.

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