February 20, 2024

Dangers of sleep deprivation: how pulling an all-nighter affects your physical and mental health

Most people have sacrificed sleep at some point, but those extra hours can come at a price.

While it may be tempting to burn the midnight oil—whether it’s to get some work done, tackle a house project, or care for a loved one—forgoing rest can wreak havoc. Cheers.

Fox News Digital spoke to experts about the short- and long-term effects of sleeping through the night – and how to recover after a period of missed sleep.

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Here’s a deep dive.

What does staying up all night do to the body?

Pulling an all-nighter can have several effects on the body, both physically and mentally, according to Dr. Leah Joseph, a primary care physician at New York-based Teladoc Health.

Working all night can have various consequences for the body, both physically and mentally, doctors warned. (iStock)

“The physical effects include weakening your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease,” she told Fox News Digital.

“Your body may also release higher levels of cortisol, leading to increased levels of cortisol stress levels.”

Additionally, sleep deprivation can result in decreased memory, concentration and overall cognitive function, Joseph noted.

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“The mental effects include mood changes, which can contribute to irritability, anxiety or depression,” she said.

“It also affects your decision-making because your judgment can be negatively affected.”

Alex Dimitriu, MD, double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine in California, also warned about side effects.

“Even one night of insufficient sleep leads to a build-up of toxins in the brain, similar to those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“There is evidence that even one night of insufficient – ​​or worse, absent – ​​sleep leads to a build-up of toxins in the brain, similar to that seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease,” he told Fox News Digital.

“As with Alzheimer’s disease, even one night of lost sleep can cause fatigue, impaired impulse control, mood instability, impaired attention and memory – all symptoms similar to ADHD.”

Man with insomnia

Staying up all night can significantly disrupt your sleep schedule and circadian rhythm, a doctor has warned. (iStock)

People who are ‘under-slept’ are more likely to develop various conditions psychiatric disordersDimitriu said.

These include depression, anxiety, substance use, memory disorders and possibly an increased risk of dementia.

“The brain needs sleep to clean up and reset,” he said.

Physically, lost sleep causes increased carbohydrate cravings, decreased immunity and increased stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, he added.

“The brain needs sleep to clean up and reset.”

“The increased stress hormones can in turn increase heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.”

Is an occasional overnight stay safe?

While pulling can include an occasional all-nighter include fatigueirritability, decreased cognitive function and a temporary disruption of the sleep-wake cycle, Joseph said it cannot cause significant long-term damage on its own.

Man sits on bed

Consistently skipping sleep for an extended period of time can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which can have serious consequences in the long term. (iStock)

“An occasional overnight sleep may not cause significant long-term damage if it is followed by adequate restorative sleep,” she said. “The human body is resilient and can generally recover from short-term sleep deprivation.”

However, consistently skipping sleep for an extended period of time can lead to chronic sleep deprivation, which can have more serious consequences over time.

These consequences may include increased risk cardiovascular diseasediabetes, obesity, decreased immune function and mental health problems, Joseph said.

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Sleep deprivation will affect different people in different ways, she noted, because individual factors and resilience come into play.

“An all-nighter has never killed anyone,” Dimitriu agreed. “But they add up and you’ll still be miserable after a night without sleep, and you won’t perform at your best.”

woman blowing nose

The physical effects of nighttime activities include a weakening of the immune system, making people more susceptible to illness. (iStock)

What to do after spending the night?

Staying up all night can significantly disrupt your sleep schedule and circadian rhythm, Joseph said.

“The circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats approximately every 24 hours,” the doctor said.

“If you stay awake all night, you throw off this cycle, which can lead to several potential effects on your sleep schedule.”

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After an all-nighter, it can take some time for the body to adjust, and this can lead to temporary insomnia or difficulty falling asleep at your usual time, according to Joseph.

“Some possible effects a person may experience include delayed sleep onset, irregular sleep patterns, increased sleep debt and difficulty returning to normal,” she said.

Morning sunshine

Exposure to morning sunlight can help regulate circadian rhythm and return to a normal sleep schedule, experts say. (iStock)

To soften the impact on your sleep schedule, make sure you get back on track as quickly as possible, Joseph said.

Some strategies include shifting to an earlier bedtime, spending time outdoors during the day to help regulate your circadian rhythm, and establishing a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, Joseph says.

“Personally, I also like to limit caffeine right before bed and stay hydrated,” she said. “If I need a nap, I limit it to 20 to 30 minutes.”

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Dimitriu also recommended getting some sun exposure in the morning to reset your rhythm.

“Morning light is very important to get you to bed at night,” he said.

To go outside fysical activity During the day, eating a light dinner and going to bed a little earlier than usual can also help regulate sleep cycles, the doctor advised.

woman sleeps in bed

“Prioritizing regular, adequate sleep is essential for your overall well-being,” one doctor advised. (iStock)

Both experts agreed that the best strategy is to schedule healthy sleep and avoid late-night naps.

“Your performance after a night of no sleep can be significantly reduced,” Dimitiu said. “Working all nights is often the result of poor planning, so try to plan ahead and avoid nights of lost sleep.”

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Joseph added, “While the occasional all-nighter may not have serious long-term consequences, making it a habit can contribute to health problems over time.”

“Prioritizing regular, adequate sleep is essential for your overall health welfare.”

For more health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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