Pulling All-Nighters May Actually Give You Brain Damage, Sleeping in Isn’t Lazy, It’s for Your Health
As you suspected, your alarm clock is evil and trying to destroy you.
If you’re thinking about pushing everything until the last minute and then pulling an all-nighter to cram for that midterm and eating chocolate covered espresso beans all day to stay awake for the test (don’t question my delicious methods), you might want to come up with an alternate plan that doesn’t cause brain damage.
Yes, the irony is thick with one of the most notorious studying methods for overworked students being one of the worst things you can do to your brain. Next, they’re going to tell us that drinking coffee all the time makes you need more coffee to feel awake and eating just makes us want more food. Oh, wait.
In a recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, Sigrid Veasey, MD and her collaborators studied sleep loss patterns in mice and found that lack of sleep could permanently damage and cause loss of locus coeruleus neurons, which are the ones necessary to be alert and achieve maximum cognition. The damage wasn’t reversed by getting more sleep later, either.
“In general, we’ve always assumed full recovery of cognition following short- and long-term sleep loss,” Veasey said in a Penn Medicine news release. “But some of the research in humans has shown that attention span and several other aspects of cognition may not normalize even with three days of recovery sleep, raising the question of lasting injury in the brain. We wanted to figure out exactly whether chronic sleep loss injures neurons, whether the injury is reversible, and which neurons are involved.”
“This is the first report that sleep loss can actually result in a loss of neurons,” Veasey added.
While it’s pretty common knowledge that cramming in an all-nighter is much better for remembering that information for the test the next day and then promptly forgetting most of it, evidence that a lack of sleep has permanent effects on your brain is a little disturbing.
So, if your parents ever seem a little crazy; your need to constantly eat, poop, and cry probably destroyed their minds.