Q: My friend says I'm ruining my health by pulling all-nighters, but I say it's no big deal. Who's right?
A: You're kidding, right? People do vary slightly in their sleep needs, but the idea that a person can exist on three or four -- or no -- hours of sleep a night is FALSE. In fact, you're in the crowd of college students who are chronically sleep-deprived -- which research links to a variety of health problems.
"Lack of sleep impairs your ability to learn, remember, and process new facts,"...
The amount of sleep a person needs also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt," which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that the debt be repaid. We don't seem to adapt to getting less sleep than we need, while we may get used to a sleep-depriving schedule, our judgment, reaction time, and other functions are still impaired.
A weakening of your immune system, increasing your chance of becoming sick
Increase in perception of pain
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Many studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. Sleep-deprived people who are tested by using a driving simulator or by performing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than those who are intoxicated.
Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol's effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well rested.
Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,550 deaths each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since drowsiness is the brain's last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can -- and often does -- lead to disaster. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.
The National Sleep Foundation says you are probably too drowsy to drive safely if you: