The Truth About Your All-Nighter

To any student that relies on all-nighters to pass exams, Valley has some bad news for you. You hear stories about students who use caffeine to stay up all night in order to study. You hear rumors that you only need three hours to consolidate newly learned information in your brain.

According to Dr. Frederick Brown, an associate professor of psychology, information consolidation actually occurs in the last half of a full night sleep, which for college-aged students is a whole eight hours. And female students need an extra hour than male students, says Dr. Brown.

“But we know that upwards of 70 percent of Americans are chronically partially sleep deprived which means by their own admissions they think they are not getting as much sleep as they need,” said Brown.

Valley knows that probably a lot more than 70 percent of Penn State students are not receiving the amount of sleep they need.

Dr. Brown says that with sleep deprivation comes decreased declarative and procedural memory. As a direct result, says Brown, academic performance is negatively affected.

“It’s in the last half of the night that more of the rapid eye movement (REM) occurs and dreaming occurs,” says Brown. “And it is this part of the night where you get consolidation of information that you have obtained the day before.”

In the first half of the night, not much REM sleep occurs, according to Dr. Brown. So if information consolidation occurs in REM, students must be sleeping the full second half of the night to reap the benefits that sleep has to offer.

The area of the brain that is responsible for information retention, complex planning and mental judgements is highly affected by sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep also reduces creativity and novel thinking. “What that means is if you’re trying to solve a problem you can’t do as well because your brain is not functioning well,” says Dr. Brown.

Not only does sleep deprivation negatively impact academic performance, but it also is hurtful to personal health in regards to the body’s immune system and weight regulation ability.

Dr. Brown recommends receiving enough sleep so that your body clock wakes you up before your alarm clock. To do this, he recommends finding your bed time by deciding what time you need to be awake and counting back eight hours from that time.

“It’s actually healthier to awaken before the clock,” says Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown is of the Sleep Research Society of the Association for Professional Sleep Societies and a charter member of the International Chronobiology Society.