Whether you’re a college student, graduate student, doctoral student, self proclaimed “late night partyer” manager, or CEO, chances are you’ve stayed awake all night at least once in your life. Maybe you’ve only done this once or maybe not at all. But what really happens when we stay awake all night?
If staying awake all night is something you do frequently, then this blog post is something you’ve got to read.
First, here is a little background so that you understand the thought process behind this post …
In Buddhism and yoga, being mindfully aware is what counts. In other words, as long as you are aware of what is happening in the present, then you are being mindful. It is one of the most powerful tools to utilize in your life. When you are mindful, you get to decide whether or not this moment is something you’d like to repeat. When you are mindful, you can watch situations unfold, without judgement. When you watch without judgement you carefully decide what will happen next. You avoid the panic, worry, potentially harmful consequences, and sorrow when you are mindful. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. I’ve written more about mindfulness in other posts (see them by clicking the following links, Mindfulness ,and Settling a Wandering Mind) but I mention it again because this post is about tuning into your body. Your body is asking you to be mindful of how you treat it. If you stay awake all night regularly, you’ve got to be mindful of what this really does to your body.
First here is a list of everything that occurs after 10 PM, and through the night. Many of these important functions do not happen is you are not asleep.
- Hormone Release: Hormones regulate our emotions. Waking up irritable, drowsy, angry, moody, and depressed are all causes of lack of sleep. Hormones are not released until the next time you go to sleep. For example, when 24 hours have gone by, and proper hormone release has not occurred, due to lack of sleep, your body functions like a hungry stomach. Eventually you get so hungry that many things don’t function properly. Imagine skipping a meal for an entire day even though there was a fully stocked kitchen just a few feet away, it just wouldn’t make sense. And, the next time you did eat, you had the option of eating either, one saltine cracker, or your most favorite home cooked meal, and you chose the saltine cracker. None of this makes sense. Yet, this is the same illogical behavior that happens when you skip on sleep. Your body becomes confused, and things go haywire, starting with your hormones.
- Cell Repair – If your goal is to look older before your time, then don’t go to sleep. That also means feeling older by aging your organs more quickly than they would, had you been committing to sleep. If you value the youth you have, both inside and out, then I cannot encourage you enough to get rest every night at a reasonable time. Every cell in your body is repairing itself when you are sleeping, but it cannot do this when you are awake. That means repairing cells to help prevent cancer, and disease, healing wounds, helping sore muscles to recover, letting your skin rejuvenate, etc. Keep in mind that going to bed at a reasonable time is also important. The most optimal hours to sleep for working persons is 10 PM – 6 AM . Here is one reason why these hours are critical …Growth Hormone (GH) is released during the earlier hours of the night.
Don’t think Growth Hormone is that important? Think again. GH helps to helps in muscle recovery, muscle building, decrease the amount of fat produced in the body, and helps with a overall body fat reduction.
All you have to do is sleep!
- Weakened Immune System – your immune is less likely to fight off bacterial infections, virus’s, parasites, and any other foreign invaders. This can lead to time needed to be taken off from work, school, sports, your family, and other physical activities you enjoy.
Other reasons why sleep is important:
- Better Grades – Students, this one is for you! There is absolutely no benefit to staying awake all night to study. More sleep is correlated with higher grades. Less sleep = lower grades.
- Social Skills – your social skills decline with lack of sleep. In other words it becomes more difficult to read others. If you have a full-time job, go to school, or interact with people on a daily basis, a lack of sleep will greatly affect your social skills.
- Long term Health Effects: lack of sleep place the body in a greater risk for:
-High blood pressure
-Being less likely to exercise
You have the ability to combat every one of these harmful side effects, and promote healthier living just by going to sleep. I realize it is not easy for everyone to get to sleep at the recommended time. However, your health and life depend on rejuvenating the daily damage that is done to it. With a little adjustment, and commitment you can work on getting to bed during earlier hours and for a longer period of time. I recommend winding down from the day no later than 10:00 PM, and settling into sleep by 11:30 PM. Optimally, if you close your eyes to go to sleep by 10:00 PM you are giving your body the gift it deserves. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night.
(Side Note: If you meditate regularly and practice yoga than there is a great chance you can thrive on less sleep, but this is a whole other topic which I would gladly answer personal questions to individually).
Next week we’ll continue discussing the topic of sleep. We’ll find out why a lack of sleep also affects our body, even if we aren’t staying awake through the entire night. We’ll also discuss helpful techniques to help you get the best nights rest you’ve ever had.
Until then, get some sleep.