all nighters


All-nighters are the quintessential package under the exam season fuss, but are it good for your health? We unravel this mystery.

All-nighters are something which has been an integral part of each and every college student’s life. The night revolving around cozy blankets or sturdy chairs and rounds of coffee to keep you alive, all in the shivers of the exam. All-nighters are usually something which students pull off before an exam, usually as a result of a vast syllabus which is to be covered. However, research shows that pulling an all-nighter before an exam, may not be the best option.

Pulling an all-nighter has a serious effect on your health. Past studies have shown that all-nighters affect the cognitive abilities majorly. It can cause distortion to your memory. And majorly impair the concentration and problem-solving abilities.  Besides, once the effect of the caffeine wears off, it leaves one very weary. Writing a three-hour examination requires the brain and the body to be susceptible to the pressure. Majority of those who tend to study all night have a probability of scoring lesser GPAs in comparison to their peers. So staying up all night may simply not be the best option!

Recent studies from a Swedish based research term also suggests that even one night of missed ‘snoozing’ or sleep may have a long-lasting effect on your genes. The study was reported back in 2015 by the group. It targeted studying the ‘clock’ genes, an integral part of the circadian rhythm which is found throughout the body. They act like tiny clocks which control and coordinate the internal body clock, in the muscle and adipose tissues. Every cell in your body contains its own circadian clock, and your hypothalamus acts as a master clock that keeps them all running in sync. When you stay up all day and all night, though, your signaling gets completely out of whack . That throws your cells’ circadian clocks out of sync, thereby making you feel a vague sense of nausea, fatigue, lassitude, sleepiness. The study suggests that a missed night of sleep is enough to throw our metabolism in a loop, risking us to prone obesity and diabetes.

Heena Garg, a second-year Literature student of Maitreyi College feels, “all-nighters leave you exhausted very often. But it is the exam blues which keep you awake, unable to sleep. You’re always wondering how much more of the syllabus is left to be covered, as there is just so much of it!”

Many experts also state that all-nighters affect the brain’s efficiency, which keeps reducing, each hour we deprive our body of sleep. One of the biggest tolls an all-nighter has is on our working memory. When we cram, our brain uses only short-term memory. To retain that information for a lengthier tie, we need to utilize our long-term memory. It is as simple as it is ‘information that comes in quick leaves just as quickly’. A heavy dosage of information in a short amount of time doesn’t allow the information to assimilate. Sleeping helps in the assimilation and memory consolidation. Our capacity to learn and memorize anything is the most effective in the morning time. This is when the peak cognitive efficiency is present. As you stay awake for longer hours, the brain’s efficiency reduces. The brain uses molecules called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which help it in burning fuels. The linger one stays awake, the more ATP is used; hence there is less to help metabolize energy.

Nikki Chaudhary, a second-year Literature student of Maitreyi College says, “Working or studying all night is something which is seen as quite an adventure to most of the young adults these days. Coffee and books go hand in hand for such individuals, who are unaware of the health deteriorating repercussions of this habit causing an imbalance in their routine cycle.”

The long-term dangers of all-nighters include the reduced learning and cognitive ability and increased likelihood of developing anxiety disorders. Other hazards include weight gain, an increased risk of diabetes, and potential brain damage. Despite the hazards attached to it, all-nighters became a choice which many time-crunched people make!

Hersh Dhillon, a second-year Computer Science student at IIT Ropar comments “I mainly pull all-nighters in or around exam time and sometimes on Fridays. Well, in retrospect I feel the exams in which I slept for a decent 5 hours are the ones I scored more at. Quite possibly because the exams I stayed up all night for were tougher. But yeah, this could well be a reason”

According to caffeineinformer.com, “Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance on the planet.” Almost 80% of the world uses caffeine. While being metabolized by the body caffeine has several well-documented positive effects on the body and its processes. Caffeine ensures alertness or wakefulness. This is achieved by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine signals the brain that it’s time for the body to slow down and sleep.

In order to ensure they are well awake, students are prone to abuse energy drinks, or at least regularly consume them, thereby affecting the sleep quality. Caffeine intake should be moderate and works best after a regular sleep routine. Drinks like coffee and energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, Tzinga etc. may provide instant energy, but have deteriorating effects in the long run. Prolonged or improper use of these energy drinks may lead to headaches, palpitations, dizziness, gastrointestinal upset etc. A continuous streak of staying awake can lead to strokes or even loss of short-term memory.

Make a study schedule on what all you will cover before the exam day. It is always good to keep a mental note of it as well! Second, invest in short naps. If you plan to stay awake for really late, take a nap for at least 30 minutes so as to freshen up and then you can cover up what is left. In this manner, your brain can relax and assimilate the knowledge you just went through and you are ready for learning whatever is left to, without forgetting the previous one. When you sleep, the hippocampus replays what you’ve learned while you were awake.Dr. Charles Czeisler, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital says, “No sleep, no long-term memory of those lessons.” Invest in eating dry fruits and baked snacks or roasted chana to keep the iron levels up and you energized throughout.

Hence, ensure you sleep nicely in between the exam season and have brain rich foods to ensure you pass with flying colours.

 For more information check out the link to this Youtube Video by Claudia Aguirre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqONk48l5vY


Feature Image credits: Medium

 Avnika Chhikara
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