Most people probably understand, at a base level, that the amount of sleep we get can impact our health. We’re just not at our best when we’re tired. For those who don’t get proper sleep, because of issues like insomnia, or because they purposely put off sleeping in order to accomplish a goal, sleep deprivation can cause cognitive and physical issues, such as shortened attention span, inability to focus, impaired memory and learning, reduced reaction time, decreased motor functions, and increased irritability or elevated emotional reactions.
People who routinely miss sleep may also develop mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, and may also suffer from paranoia and hallucinations. Long-term lack of sleep can even increase the risk of other health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and hypertension.
Getting adequate sleep can help to reduce these issues. It can also help to improve metabolism and immune system function, reduce pain, promote muscle healing, improve strength, and speed reaction time.
If you must pull an all-nighter, or if you occasionally have insomnia, there are a few things you can do to reduce the overall effects of sleep deprivation. A nap can be a good way to recover. Caffeine, in moderation, can also help; so can a so-called “coffee nap”, where a cup of coffee is followed by a 20-minute nap – which gives the caffeine a chance to work. Getting some exercise can help improve alertness. So can chewing gum. Printing reading materials, rather than reading them on a screen, can reduce eye strain.
If you have insomnia, good sleep hygiene might help you sleep better. Develop an evening routine, which you follow even on weekends; set a bed time, create a relaxing pre-sleep routine, and try to wake up the same time every day. Avoid bright lights, and especially the blue light produced by many electronic devices, to prevent disruption of your circadian cycle, the natural cycle of awake and asleep we all go through every day, as well as interfere with melatonin production, which is the hormone that makes us ready for sleep. Watch the caffeine consumption, especially in the late afternoon or evening; some experts suggest not consuming caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.
For more information about healthy sleep, how lack of sleep impacts us, and how to get better sleep, check out Sleep.org.
Much of the information above was taken from an article titled, “Are All-Nighters Bad for Your Health”, by Rebecca Levi. You can find that article on Sleep.org.