From College Student to Zombie: How Pulling All-Nighters Affects Your Health

By Rebecca Torchia

Graaaaades. Staying awake through the night and into the early hours of the morning is enough to turn any college student into a zombie functioning solely on caffeine.

While staying up all night adds hours to the day that can be useful for studying, it also takes away valuable sleeping time.

Sleep is a necessity, and staying up all night has many detrimental effects on your body.

“Sleep is imperative to our overall health and wellbeing,” Sarah Wilson, coordinator of health and wellness at the University Health Center, said in an email. “Not only can it contribute to longevity and memory, sleep is also correlated to our academic success.”

Sophomore biology major Matt Griffin has felt the effects of a lack of sleep on his cognitive abilities and on his body.

“It would impact my attention span and problem solving ability in my other classes,” he said. “I’d feel physically drained for about a day or two, assuming I got eight or more hours of sleep on those days. If not, I’d sometimes feel worn down for three or four [days].”

While staying up all night might give you the extra hours needed to complete one project and study for one test, it can impact your performance in the rest of your classes.

It can also add to the stress already felt by a college student loaded with work. Most people feel enough stress in their classes and other activities, and sleeping is one of the best ways to reduce it.

Losing sleep by staying up all night can cause stress in other ways too.

Sophomore mechanical engineering major Zachery Hopkins stayed up all night studying for an art history final last year. Or at least, he tried to.

Around 6 a.m. “I just happened to fall asleep at my desk,” he said. As a result, he slept through the first 30 minutes of his exam.

“If our body is telling us we need sleep, we should honor that,” Wilson said.

Sleep is important, and pulling an all-nighter can ultimately do more harm than good, especially if you end up sleeping through your test.

Unfortunately, there’s no good way to stay up all night or deprive your body from sleep. Instead, there are ways to avoid staying up through the night all together.

“They are a sign that you haven’t been keeping up because they should only happen as an act of desperation,” Griffin said.

Keeping up with assignments and readings as well as organizing your study time efficiently can allow you to get the sleep needed to be ready and focused on an exam.


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