Why pulling an all-nighter can have unexpected consequences. The effects of Sleep Deprivation.

14 November, 2011

sleep deprivation effects

sleep deprivation effects

Sleep deprivation and other sleep disorders can have a serious effect on health, going beyond just making us cranky and moody the following day.

More of us could be pulling an all-nighter than any generation before us.  Whether it is working on a presentation, writing a paper for school, or going on a bender for a friend’s birthday, we may be ignoring one of our body’s fundamental needs – sleep.

A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that there could be another, lesser-known side-effect.

The researchers studied the brains of healthy young adults and found that they experience short-term euphoria after a missed night of sleep.  But the study suggests that same neural pathway that stimulates feelings of euphoria, reward and motivation after a sleepless night may also lead to risky behavior.

Apparently, the brain experiences massive mood swings when deprived of sleep making it much harder to make sound, well thought-out decisions.  This can obviously have serious consequences on those whose jobs depend on making important decisions and even judgments on which people’s lives may depend.

This finding underscores the need for those in high-stakes professions, such as doctors and air traffic controllers, to take their sleep more seriously.

According to Science Daily, “the findings build upon previous research … that shows sleep deprivation shuts down the brain’s key planning and decision-making regions — namely the prefrontal cortex — while activating more primal neural functions such as the fight-or-flight reflex in the amygdala region of the brain”.

 7 other effects of pulling an all-nighter:

  1. Sheer exhaustion – you just don’t have the energy to address even the simplest tasks
  2. Impaired performance – if you do attempt to perform normal tasks, you won’t do them as well.  Reaction time slows down, hand-to-eye coordination suffers and memory can be affected.
  3. Loss of mental acuity.  You will feel dumbed-down, impairing problem-solving, attention, alertness and concentration.
  4. Blurred vision, which could further impact performance.
  5. Loss of interest in sex and loss of libido.
  6. You feel stressed and less able to cope.
  7. You will tend to doze off unintentionally when not active for a while (often called microsleep) – in front of the TV or even while stopped at traffic lights

So next time you are considering an all-nighter, do consider the consequences.  If you do it regularly, there may be long-term and potentially serious repercussions, particularly on your health.  But even the short-term sleep deprivation effects can significantly affect your performance, reducing work efficiency and impacting relationships.

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