Late-night study sessions, partying into the early hours, taking care of a sick relative, or going down a Netflix rabbit hole…these plus many others are common reasons why you may not get your much-desired full night of sleep. Unfortunately, though, you do still have responsibilities tomorrow – work, school, life. None of it stops just because you didn’t get eight hours of rest.
When you’re having that internal battle of toughing it out and just staying awake or debating whether you should at least get one hour of sleep, you might start to wonder which one is actually better for your health and mental stability. Ultimately, you should always opt for sleep, rather than pushing through an all-nighter, even if the rest is brief.
Sleep is critical for the regeneration of cells, retaining and storing information, brain function, and emotions. When you stay up all night, you lose out on essential processes that your body and brain go through in order to keep you healthy and functioning correctly.
Below we will have a look at what makes a nap vital during those long nights, what can happen without sleep, and what the long-term effects can be when you miss out on the rest that you need.
What Does An Hour Do?
The reality is that you probably shouldn’t sleep for an hour, either. Most studies will recommend either taking a power nap for 20-30 minutes or trying to push it to the 90-minute mark. The reason for doing either a shorter or longer sleep spell has to do with our circadian rhythms.
It generally takes about an hour and a half for your body to complete the sleep cycle, which includes four different stages of sleep – two stages of light sleep, one deep sleep stage, and REM sleep. The problem is that when you attempt to get a quick rest in for an hour, at that point, your body will just be reaching the deep sleep stage, and then it’s time for you to wake up.
During the phase of deep sleep is when your body does most of its restoration, including combating tiredness, boosting your immune system, and delivering nutrients to the muscles that worked overtime throughout the day. This is a critical phase that you want your body to be able to complete. Not only that but waking up during deep sleep is incredibly difficult for most people and can leave you feeling groggy or worse than you would without sleep at all. (Source)
If you know that you don’t have the time for a full hour and a half rest, try taking a catnap for about 20-30 minutes. Like with the suggestion for 90 minutes, taking a shorter nap goes better with the flow of your sleep cycle than an hour would. In the first 30 minutes, you are still in the light sleep stages, meaning that if you wake up during this time, you will have gotten a small break, but won’t be trying to pull your body out of the grasp of deep sleep.
Why You Should Skip Staying Awake
We have all been in this sleep dilemma at some point or another – when it feels like it would just be easier to stay awake, rather than attempt to get to sleep and be disappointed when you have to get up minutes later. But even the smallest amount of sleep can have a significant impact on you. Not only that but your effectiveness the next day as well. Let’s look at some common problems that a lack of sleep can cause.
Moodiness and Lack of Attention
As we know, sleeping helps to reset many bodily functions. One of those functions is your emotions and how you process them. Without giving your brain the chance to shut down and reboot, your chances of irritability are higher. Things that typically shouldn’t affect you can suddenly become points of aggravation or sadness.
The worst part is that you’ll never know which emotion is going to overcome you, or when. If you have ever been around a small child who cries or gets cranky when it’s past their bedtime, you know what kind of day you’re in for.
Inability To Process and Retain Information
Remember the deep sleep stage that we discussed? That’s also the time when your brain processes, builds and stores its memories. So, if you’re pulling an all-nighter because you are cramming for an exam, the chances are that you won’t retain the information needed, making the study session ineffective.
Allowing yourself to complete even one sleep cycle increases your chances of consolidating memories and preparing the brain to learn and retain new ones.
Insufficient Ability to Make Good Judgments and Decreased Reaction Time
There are times when forgoing sleep completely can actually be dangerous for your wellbeing, and even those around you. The simple truth of the question is that your brain needs a break. That’s how our bodies work. When you don’t allow that break, you run into issues such as your brain not being able to keep up with events that are happening around you.
Driving a car or operating heavy machinery are prime examples of when you would not want to have impaired reaction time. There are countless news stories and driver cautionary tales that explain one possible outcome of sleep deprivation – accidents that result in injury or death.
You never know what reasons you will have that require you to be alert and prepared, but it’s nearly impossible to be ready to face the day if you are nodding off at the worst of times.
The consequences may not seem very bad if staying up all night happens once in a blue moon. But you should also consider what can happen from long-term sleep deprivation. Some top concerns for not getting enough sleep over an extended period of time include:
- Weight gain – Sleep deprivation suppresses the hormone leptin, which helps to regulate your appetite.
- Heart disease – Increased heart rate and blood pressure can put added stress on the heart.
- Depression – Extended moodiness can create more sleep problems, turning into a cycle of sleep deprivation and distress.
- High blood pressure – Not getting enough sleep affects your stress hormones, making the hormones challenging to regulate, leading to high blood pressure. (Source)
- Diabetes – Poor sleep affects the way that the body processes insulin, leading the body to react in the same way that it would if there was a resistance to insulin.
Keep in mind that these issues can arise from any length of time when the body does not achieve the needed amount of sleep, so while a nap is better, it shouldn’t be a go-to solution.
If this is a long-term habit or a short-term nuisance I highly recommend getting a sleep tracker that can help you to understand how much (or how little) sleep you’re getting. Using a sleep tracker is a vital tool that I use every night to help keep track of my sleeping patterns, and lengths of sleep cycles. I personally use a Withings Sleep Tracking Pad (Link to Amazon) as my go to sleep tracker. I’ve been using it for months, and have since learned that I have a slightly longer sleep cycles than average. I’ve since adjusted alarm according and found that I actually feel more rested upon waking up!
As the hours tick on, it’s completely understandable why one would consider holding out and pushing through the tiredness. For some people, the hour of sleep might seem like a waste. However, getting a small amount of sleep is better for your health and safety than staying awake all night.
When you are deciding which option is better, always go for any amount of sleep that you can get – your mind and body will thank you for it.