The Effects of All-Nighters

Effects of Pulling All-Nighters


We’ve all been there. It’s Thursday night and you have a big exam early Friday morning. You’re not quite prepared for it so you stock up on energy drinks and coffee. “Well, time to crank out another all-nighter”, you reluctantly say to yourself as you crack open your notes while huddled in the corner of the library. Your eyes are drowsy. Your mind is racing. How did you get yourself into this situation? Seconds turn to minutes, minutes turn to hours, and

Your eyes are drowsy. Your mind is racing. How did you get yourself into this situation? Seconds turn to minutes, minutes turn to hours, and

Your mind is racing. How did you get yourself into this situation? Seconds turn to minutes, minutes turn to hours, and

How did you get yourself into this situation? Seconds turn to minutes, minutes turn to hours, and

Seconds turn to minutes, minutes turn to hours, and finally, those hours bring you to the next day with about an hour or two to spare before your exam. Relieved, you feel a bit more confident in this test. You put in the time and the effort. You got this!

A week later and you get your exam back. While you at least expected a C, you’ve managed to score a pitiful D-. What went wrong? You stayed up all night and studied for literally 9 hours prior to your exam!!

Unfortunately, therein lies the problem.

What Happens When you Pull an All-Nighter

It’s no secret that all-nighters are common practice on college campuses nationwide. Many believe that you can either be sleep deprived, socially inept, or academically suffering. As I discussed in a recent article Craft the Perfect Deadline, that’s simply not the case.

In fact, while you think you are being ultra-productive with that all-nighter, you’re having the opposite effect. I thought you wanted to pass that test?

The National Institute of Health notes that sleep deprivation is an epidemic within adults in general but especially amongst college students. In a 2007 survey taken by Harvard University, about 73% of students admitted to having issues related to a lack of sleep. Daily, the NIoH recommends students sleep about 7-8 hours a night for optimal levels of cognitive functioning.

Now, I’m sure you think you’re one of the rare individuals that believe they don’t require a ton of sleep.

“I can function on 4-5 hours of sleep, no problem”. Sound familiar?

Well, you’re wrong. How do I know? I know because I was one of these individuals and I was as wrong as you and everyone else that believes that lie is.

Typically, it appears as though all-nighters tend to be a byproduct of trying to cram enough productivity within the day or, even more likely, trying to study for a rapidly approaching exam or possibly a project/paper.

Stop this now!

Pulling an all-nighter for these reasons are proven to be highly ineffective.

Granted, if you’re trying to do something such as craft a PowerPoint that’s essentially completed or finish a paper that you bullshitted your way through, fair enough (although I still don’t recommend it).

Rest more often. It’s not wasted time, it’s actually extremely productive.

However, if studying is your intent, your efforts are wasted. While you sleep, your brain recovers and your glymphatic system flushes toxic byproducts out of the brain. Meanwhile, during the phases of sleep NREM and REM (non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement respectively), your brain replenishes and is wiring itself to retain recently acquired information during this period.

When you don’t sleep, you prevent your brain from making those connections and from allowing itself to form lasting memories. Inevitably, your long-term memory will be affected and your short-term memory will be forced to take the wheel, making your recollection abilities as effective as Dory’s from Finding Nemo.

Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want to be Dory while taking a test, would you?

Overall, by foregoing simply sleeping in order to wake up early to study, you’re essentially wasting time as your brain will take one step forward and two steps back.

Beyond diminished returns when it comes to studying, sleep deprivation also has a slew of other negative health consequences. I won’t get into them all here (because there are tons and likely many more than that that I could’ve missed while doing research) but I’ll list a few that will typically affect you.

Some Noticeable Effects of Sleep Deprivation


  • Depression and Anxiety: Students who sleep less have shown a correlation to exhibit more problems with anxiety and depression. Overall, not sleeping can take a negative toll on the neurotransmitters in your brain which can lead to a devastating blow to your mood and mental state.


  • Brain Fog: Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has the same effects as being legally drunk. While the idea of being drunk in class might sound awesome on paper, you’ll end up being unable to comprehend or focus on what the professor is teaching. This will lead to you being required to study longer and harder, which not only results in you losing valuable time but can easily lead to you pulling ANOTHER all-nighter which will only compound upon the problem. You’ll be stuck in a sleepless, productive-less loop.


  • Freshman 15: Nope, this doesn’t just apply to freshman. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an overall increase in bodyweight. Part of this likely stems from your brain’s inability to make rational decisions (because you’re essentially drunk) and a lack of care that results from all-nighters. Those that pull all-nighters overall tend to care less about their overall well-being and besides gaining weight also have a disheveled appearance as a result. Look at it this way, when you’re drunk you typically eat junk, right? Same applies when you’re sleep-deprived. Those calories can quickly add up if not accounted for.


  • False sense of Optimism: Not sleeping causes your dopamine regulators to receive quite the boost. Now, while feeling good might sound like a benefit, keep in mind that you feeling good overrides the negative feelings that should exist from not sleeping. As mentioned earlier, this leads to higher confidence (the sensation that your studying paid off) but typically results in a negative outcome (lower grades, bad eating habits, lower social/cognitive functioning, etc.). Have you ever not slept for so long that everything seems comical, no matter what? Exactly.


  • Lower GPA: I’ve basically alluded to this but I’ll be super blunt about it now. Sleeping less equals lower grades. It’s really that simple. The purpose of you even going to class is to learn which is reflected in the tests you take. You want to shoot for a relatively good grade, right?


  • Death: No, you probably won’t die personally….maybe. I’m just trying to persuade you to not pull all-nighters. Don’t get me wrong, people can die from not sleeping enough but the chances of you, as a college student, being affected by this isn’t very high. But then again, why chance it?

To reiterate, go to bed! Go to bed on time! Develop a consistent routine and especially don’t cram the night before. It’s a waste of your time, a waste of your efforts, and a waste of a good night’s rest. If you have trouble with developing a solid routine, I highly recommend you check out this article: The Power of a Planner.


Hopefully, you got some good information out of this article. If you enjoyed the article and think someone else could benefit from it, please share it with a friend OR share using one of the social media buttons on the left side of the screen. As usual, thanks for taking the time to read this article and remember, stay positive!


Texas A&M University. “Studying: Is it bad for your health to pull an all-nighter?” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2016. <>.