There are endless reasons to pull an all-nighter when you are a college student. While researchers found this may have positive side-effects, health professionals disagree.
In a recent study, researchers found participants who went without sleep experienced short-lived bouts of euphoria and heightened positive feelings.
“Sleep deprivation causes changes in the center of the brain that increase reactivity in the pleasure center,” Dr. Teresa D. Valerio, assistant professor, family nurse practitioner and sleep specialist from Student Health Services, said.
“This causes the brain to temporarily interpret this increased emotional stimulation as pleasurable.”
Valerio explained this phenomenon is not positive for the body because the brain is misinterpreting stimulus resulting in impaired judgment.
Some of the many negative effects of sleep deprivation include fatigue, decreased alertness, memory, concentration, learning, mood and excessive sleepiness, Valerio said.
“Over time chronic sleep loss is associated with anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, weight gain, increased motor vehicle crashes and death,” she added.
An increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that acts on the brains pleasure center, is speculated to be the reason behind the short-term euphoria associated with sleep deprivation.
“If someone is lacking sleep their judgment is impaired which can lead to risky behaviors,” Valerio added.
The euphoric feeling from sleep loss occurs in only some people and when it does occur, it lasts minutes to hours, she said.
“The feeling is gone once a person sleeps even for a short time such as a nap,” she added.
Valerio said there are no pros of sleep deprivation from a health standpoint.
“Judgment is impaired so sleep-deprived people think they are accomplishing more but reaction time and accuracy is significantly less so much more errors occur,” she said.
Valerio said she has never had patients tell her they purposely missed out on sleep to seek euphoria. And she said most patients that have not had adequate sleep report negative side-effects.
“Research studies have shown that sleep deprivation temporarily improves mood of some depressed patients,” she said.
“However, this does not last long enough to be an effective treatment. Anti-depressant medications provide a longer more constant improvement in mood.”
Traci Kreml, senior and elementary education major, said she occasionally feels sleep deprived.
“I don’t enjoy the feeling. I can’t think straight and feel less alert and focused,” Kreml said. “I would never purposely miss sleep in hopes for a euphoric feeling.”
For optimal functioning of 18- to 26-year-olds, eight to nine hours of sleep is recommended every night, Valerio said.
If you are having trouble sleeping contact Student Health Services at (309) 438-APPT to schedule an appointment.
“Good sleep is as important as healthy eating and physical activity to an individual’s health,” Valerio added.