All-nighters: examining effects, health concern

All-nighters seem to serve as a rite of passage for many college students.

With balancing time between the demands of academics, extracurricular activities and work, many students find it hard to accomplish everything in a 24-hour period.

According to a study conducted by St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., two-thirds of college students pull at least one all-nighter per semester.

Mackenzie Schmitt, junior from Ridgway, Ill., said she has had her fair share of sleepless nights in college.

“Even when I’m not staying up all night I usually only get about four or five hours of sleep a night,” Schmitt said. “I use my weekends to catch up on the sleep I missed during the week.”

According to The University of Georgia Health Center, the average college student gets only 6 to 6.9 hours of sleep per night, and needs at least eight hours.

Schmitt said she finds it hard to balance school with work and the extracurricular activities she is involved in, which can affect the amount of sleep she receives.

According to the latest U.S. Census report, 71 percent of the nation’s 19.7 million college undergraduates work a job in addition to school. Of them, one in five work at least 35 hours per week.

Judy Lyle, interim associate director of Health Services, said the lack of sleep which results from staying up all night to get everything done can be damaging to a student’s overall health.

“The immune system goes down when the body is deprived of sleep, making it more likely to pick up infections that the body would not ordinarily pick up,” Lyle said.

She said a student’s academic performance can also suffer along with the overall health of the student.

“When a student stays up all night it can affect their overall ability to concentrate,” Lyle said. “All of the studying the student is putting in during an all-nighter ends up not being as effective.”

According to the St. Lawrence study, students who had never resorted to pulling an all-nighter had an average GPA of 3.1.

Students who continuously relied on staying up all night to study had an average GPA of 2.9.

Weight gain can be another side effect students can experience from repeated all-nighters.

This is due to the two important hormones which are altered when the body does not receive the sleep it needs: ghrelin and leptin.

Ghrelin is the hormone that alerts the body when to eat, and leptin tells the body when to stop eating, according to the study.

When the body suffers from sleep deprivation, it produces more ghrelin and less leptin, which can lead to weight gain.

According to a study done by the University of Texas, college students can overestimate their ability to concentrate and perform academically when lacking sleep.

The study supports the conclusion that students can avoid the effects of sleep deprivation by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day – including weekends.

It recommends students exercise regularly and avoid it close to bed time, which makes it harder for the body to fall asleep.

Lyle said students should not use medicines to stay awake, or use sleep aides to fall asleep.

According to the University of Texas study, students should also avoid stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes late at night due to the sleepiness they could possibly cause.

Lyle said students the main way students can avoid staying up all night is to not procrastinate.

Said Lyle: “(Students) have to plan out their time and have a consistent routine and stick with it.”


Story by Rebecca Walter, Staff Writer