Beware the All-Nighter!
It’s almost winter break which means only one thing – finals! This is the time of the year when many of us stay up in a desperate attempt to finish our twenty page papers while simultaneously cramming in last minute studying. Staying up until four a.m. or pulling an all-nighter often seems like the obvious thing to do when you need to get your work done. But scientific research shows that sleep deprivation is, in fact, counterproductive if you are looking to ace your assignments. Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on cognitive performance. In one 2003 study, a University of Pennsylvania researcher assigned dozens of people in a major sleep study to three different groups. One group would sleep four hours a night, others six, and others eight. Every two hours during the day, the researchers would test the subjects’ level of alertness through a psychomotor vigilance task in which they would sit in front of a computer and press the space bar if they saw a flash of numbers. Delayed responses would suggest a lapse into sleepiness.
Both the four and the six hour subjects’ performances quickly declined over the two weeks. In fact, by the end of two weeks, the subjects who slept six hours per night were just as impaired as subjects who had been sleep deprived for 24 hours straight. This is the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk!
In addition to impaired cognitive performance, sleep deprivation has been linked to a slew of other health problems including health attacks, diabetes, increased blood pressure, depression, and obesity. And, according to three large population-based studies in the journals Sleep and the Archives of General Psychiatry, people who get five or less hours of sleep per night have a 15 percent greater risk of dying [prematurely]! Clearly, getting eight hours of sleep per night is your best bet both for succeeding in school and for living a healthy life!