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Consequences of an all-nighter

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 03, 2012 at 12:16 PM

What are the physical/psychological implications of missing a nights worth of sleep?

Paleohackers always talk about IF, missing one meal, etc etc...but what about sleep? I've read bad things about "uber-sleep" (continuous napping only when tired), but never heard of any benefits of missing a night here and there.

I'm sitting here at 4:30 in the morning, since I accidentally drank some oolong tea at 1:00 A.M. (Fail.) After two hours of tossing and turning. I gave up, and decided to ask this question. Morning to everyone, and hopefully I don't screw up my ghrelin levels. Whoopee.

7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on February 15, 2012
at 03:20 PM

Sarah, I'm sorry for your loss.

88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

(425)

on February 15, 2012
at 02:56 PM

I agree that the situation has something to do with it. I pulled two all-nighters in the hospital last fall when my dad was dying and maybe it was the adrenalin, but the next day I was okay with a big can of Monster Zero and sunlight. No nap but the next night I slept 10+ hours. Sometimes you do what you have to do and your body will go along with it.

7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:58 PM

I love that phrase: "death warmed up".

87b7d250ea30415ed4c1afd809f4053f

(968)

on February 03, 2012
at 02:34 PM

Me too. If I stay up all night working and accomplish something huge, I feel fantastic all the next day. If I stay up and only half finish something, or mess up a job I'm doing I feel like death warmed up. Mind you I am working at stopping staying up late working.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on February 03, 2012
at 02:32 PM

Being really tired. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to hallucinations.

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4 Answers

best answer

0
Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

on February 03, 2012
at 12:47 PM

I don't think there's any evidence of proposed theory of a benefit of missing sleep. However there is something to be said for sleeping according to natural cues rather than culture and there may not be much point trying to force yourself to sleep. Part of the problem is that we typically don't have the freedom to sleep whenever we choose so any missed sleep rarely gets caught up and we move towards chronic lack of sleep.

My belief, such as my opinion is, is that our true strength is in our adaptability. We should be able to cope without sleep on occasion, and if we allow ourselves to go the other way sometimes as well we allow our bodies to find their own balance amidst a chaotic environment. Much the same philosophical approach as I take with eating, though the result is quite different. There's science to suggest that periods of fasting are used physiologically, and I'm not aware of anything supporting lack of sleep in the same way. However evolution is not about perfection, it's about survival. Fasting was enforced by food availability. If there was a benefit to survival it would be a side-effect that would grow in the population. Lack of sleep would have been necessary sometimes, and I believe we would have evolved to be able to cope without it being too detrimental to our health, but that doesn't mean we should reenact it. The main advantage would have been in being able to survive the immediate danger simply by being awake. In our modern lives, we can gain short-term advantages by being awake for more hours of the day. But we already push this to the limit (or beyond) anyway. Ideally, we should want to be in a position where sleep (or at least rest) comes to us easily every night. We can manufacture enough random 'stresses' to keep ourselves sharp.

1
7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on February 03, 2012
at 02:19 PM

For me it really depends on why I didn't get sleep. First of all, I should say that I consider an all-nighter to be 2-4 hours of sleep. (I've never been able to pull a true all-nighter.) If I stay up all night because I had some tea or chocolate near bedtime and can't sleep, or if I'm up late at a party, or if I'm gunning for a deadline, then I feel terrible the next day and it takes me a couple days to recover. However, if I'm up all night because I'm "in the zone" with my work-- maybe I'm really close to getting all the bugs out of my code, or I'm writing a paper-- then I feel great the next day (again, on about 2-4 hours of sleep, assuming a good baseline of sleep prior). I wonder then if that makes the difference in high or low cortisol levels, leading to a different outcome.

There's also the theory that less sleep helps alleviate depressive symptoms (maybe for just a day, maybe for longer?). I haven't exactly noticed that correlation in myself, though, except for the "in the zone" cases above.

7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:58 PM

I love that phrase: "death warmed up".

87b7d250ea30415ed4c1afd809f4053f

(968)

on February 03, 2012
at 02:34 PM

Me too. If I stay up all night working and accomplish something huge, I feel fantastic all the next day. If I stay up and only half finish something, or mess up a job I'm doing I feel like death warmed up. Mind you I am working at stopping staying up late working.

88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

(425)

on February 15, 2012
at 02:56 PM

I agree that the situation has something to do with it. I pulled two all-nighters in the hospital last fall when my dad was dying and maybe it was the adrenalin, but the next day I was okay with a big can of Monster Zero and sunlight. No nap but the next night I slept 10+ hours. Sometimes you do what you have to do and your body will go along with it.

7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on February 15, 2012
at 03:20 PM

Sarah, I'm sorry for your loss.

0
B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 03, 2012
at 01:19 PM

I don't think you can compare IF (= doing less work) with less sleep (= doing more work).

That being said, I didn't sleep before my last exam. My skin texture got worse, I didn't tolerate cold as well as I used to, I felt a bit sick for a couple of hours for the first time in 8 months, ... Everything disappeared extremely quick by resting afterwards.

0
912ec069b5bd84af1b6ef7545b950908

on February 03, 2012
at 12:39 PM

I'm 34. Missing a night of sleep for me = back pain, reduced physical capacity (weight or aerobic), and confusion akin to being on mildly drunk. These problems were not as pronounced when I was younger.

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