Whether for work, a party, or a binge-worthy boxset, we’ve all done it. But what impact does staying up all night have on your wellbeing?
We should all be aiming for a good night’s sleep every night. That’s not news to anyone. But whether by choice or not, sometimes an early night and a solid 8 hours’ sleep simply isn’t on the cards. Catching little to no sleep for 24 hours is something many of us have done at one time or another, but the impact this can have on both your physical and mental health is not to be taken lightly.
So what are the effects of an all-nighter? And how can you recover quickly when sleep escapes you?
Physical functioning may suffer
If you’ve ever suffered through a night of no sleep, you probably noticed that your body struggles to function at its best the next day. Restlessness, fatigue, dizziness, poor alertness and low endurance are all common side effects of an all-nighter.
Studies also show that lack of sleep increases your sensitivity to pain, and can make you more likely to fall ill due to the importance of rest for the immune system. One study by the CDC also found that sleep deprivation had a similar impact to alcohol when it comes to body function. Avoiding sleep for 24 hours can cause similar symptoms to someone with a 0.10% blood alcohol content – over the legal limit for driving.
Cognitive function can suffer too
The impact of an all-nighter isn’t just physical. It can also slow your cognitive performance with regards to response time, working memory, decision making, alertness, divergent thinking, learning, concentration and attention.
This causes productivity levels to fall, and you’re also more likely to make mistakes while working after a night of little to no sleep. In fact, a study by Texas A&M University found that the brain loses efficiency with each hour of sleep deprivation.
Stress and anxiety levels may increase
Your brain isn’t just less productive after losing sleep, it’s also more likely to suffer in terms of your mental health. Stress and anxiety become much more common when you don’t get the sleep you need in a 24-hour period.
When you stay awake, your cortisol levels increase. This stress hormone can result in you feeling more anxious, resulting in feeling harassed and overstretched throughout the day. This was affirmed in a 2016 review by Sleep Medicine, which found that sleep deprivation significantly increased stress and anxiety levels.
Your mood might drop
Losing sleep may also lead to poor mood, making you more likely to feel overwhelmed, angry, lonely, aggressive and generally unpredictable in your reactions. When you don’t sleep, you’re less able to regulate your emotions and are therefore more likely to overact to situations. Minor inconveniences which you would otherwise have brushed off may impact you more intensely, and the more sleep you lose, the worse these feelings become.
How do you recover from an all-nighter?
Of course, in an ideal world we should all be doing our best to avoid a restless or restricted night’s sleep. But if you find yourself facing one, there are certain steps you can take to look after your health the next day. Staying hydrated is vital, so be sure to drink plenty of water. Caffeine in moderate amounts can also perk you up, staying active through short walks, stretches or light exercise can support your body’s wakefulness. If possible, try to squeeze in a nap in the afternoon. This can give you the burst of energy you need to make it through to night time.
When bedtime finally rolls around again, be sure to practice optimum sleep hygiene. Avoiding using your phone in the run-up to sleep, instead winding down in the hour before bed with meditation, reading or a bath. Make sure your bedroom is cool and dark, and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the 7-9 hours of high quality sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation.