Pulling an all-nighter to catch up on your work is something many of us have done as students and in the workplace. While it’s often something that’s bragged about, staying awake overnight is harmful to your functioning as a person.
Loopiness is a common result of pulling an all-nighter. Being sleep deprived can impair your short term cognitive skills as severely as alcohol, making a tired driver as groggy as a drunk driver. You can experience false memories or forgetfulness. While all-nighters are often pulled for school, it leads to degradation of white matter in your brain that ironically hurts your ability to learn.
Not getting to bed on time, or at all, also throws off your circadian rhythm. This negatively impacts your alertness, hormones, body temperature, and blood pressure. A disrupted 24-hour internal clock can make the next night’s sleep more difficult, and the night after that - resulting in a snowball effect that could be a challenge to reverse back to a healthy state.
It’s no secret that not getting enough sleep makes you irritable. However, an all-nighter can give you wild mood swings. Sleep loss shuts down the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making. This heightens activity in the pleasure center of the brain, creating short-term feelings of euphoria. The result is your judgment is impaired while impulsive behavior is encouraged. This sensation feels like always needing another glass of wine.
Finally, all-nighters can negatively affect your metabolism by triggering leptin and ghrelin, hormones reserved for regulation of feelings of hunger and fullness. This leads to greater craving for carbohydrates and sugary foods than otherwise, increasing your risk of weight gain. Sleep deprivation also throws other hormones like insulin and cortisol out of whack, increasing your risk for diabetes as well.