Pulling an all-nighter to study then forgetting everything studied is one the biggest fears that many students have.
In this article I’ll explain whether sleeping after studying all night is the right thing to do.
So should you sleep after studying all night?
It’s important to sleep after studying all night to reverse the effects of sleep deprivation and allow your brain to consolidate what you have learnt.
A study carried out by Teffen Gais, Brian Lucas, and Jan Born found that students that sleep after studying have better memory recall than students that are sleep-deprived after learning; because lack of sleep slows down cognitive performance while increasing stress and anxiety.
With that said, let’s get into what happens when you stay up studying all night and whether you should sleep after doing so.
Sleep and memory
It’s important to understand the link between memory and studying.
For this I’ll reference an amazing article titled “All-Nighters? No, Head to Bed!” by Amber Zander and Melissa Gannon.
According to this article that references McClelland; memory starts by being encoded in the hippocampus after which it gradually moves to the neocortex for long-term storage.
However these memories that are stored in the hippocampus are unstable and vulnerable to retroactive interference.
Therefore sleep is how we take our body’s offline, away from interference and anything that could disrupt the memory trace.
In other words; sleep reduces the amount of “forgetting” that can occur.
Sleep after studying
If you have pulled an all-nighter of studying, it’s ideal to make up for the lost sleep by allowing yourself to sleep for a sufficient period of time.
It is generally recommended to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep to restore your energy levels, consolidate your learning, and promote your overall well-being.
Staying up all night to study should be followed up with recovery sleep because there are a lot of negative effects of sleep deprivation such as restlessness, diminished endurance, fatigue etc.
Ensure that you establish a healthy sleep schedule as soon as you can to allow your body to recover and allow you to have reliable retention of what you studied.
You should sleep somewhere quiet to avoid any disturbances that could hinder deep sleep.
After staying up all night you need as much deep sleep as you can get because during deep sleep, your body releases growth hormones and works to build and repair muscles, bones and tissue.
Sleep is essentially how the body works on itself (many processes occur during sleep such as moderation of temperature, blood pressure, heart rate etc.) this is why not getting enough rest could lead to negative health conditions like heart disease.
So ensure that you find a calm and quiet place to sleep after pulling an all-nighter.
You should not worry about forgetting what you studied after sleeping because one of the core benefits of sleep is that glycolysis occurs during deep sleep and it is an essential process that supports the consolidation of short-term and long-term memory.
Recovering from an all-nighter
Eat a good breakfast
A good breakfast is an essential after an all-nighter.
Most dieticians’ advise that foods like dairy, soy beans, sardines and leafy grains can be great in providing you with a much needed energy boost after an all-nighter.
Other kinds of food that you can consider are foods rich in iron like kale and spinach, eggs can another great addition to help you get your energy levels up.
You can also add food with high water content to your breakfast such as cucumber, watermelon and soups.
Caffeine can be actually beneficial in moderation because it can help with alertness and energy.
However, if it is used improperly it could make it harder for your body to crash.
The most important thing to do after an entire night of studying is sleep and taking anything that could get in the way of you resting is not a wise thing to do.
You could have some fruit juice in place of the coffee that you usually have with your breakfast.
Rest as much as you can
In the beginning of this post I emphasized the importance of sleep after an all-nighter because the principle is really simple.
The best and quickest way to reverse the effects of an all-nighter is to sleep and rest.
After waking up, try not to engage in any big projects.
Some light revision after studying can be a harmless way to be productive but don’t overdo it.
Try not to overload yourself with activities or tasks immediately after an all-nighter.
Give yourself some time to recover and then gradually ease back into your regular routine.
The stress that comes with staying up all night should not be under-estimated or overlooked. Resting is a way to help you recover physiologically.
Drink plenty of water to rehydrate your body and brain. Staying hydrated can help you feel more refreshed and focused.
One of the effects of pulling an all-nighter is that, prolonged wakefulness can lead to dehydration.
This is why water is essential in helping you restore fluid levels within your body.
In addition to this, you also need water’s ability to detoxify your body.
One of the essential roles that water plays is that it helps in removing waste and toxins from the body through urination and sweating.
If you ever have to force yourself to study all night always include water into your pre and post plans for the all-nighter.
It’s important that you spend some time outdoors after an all-nighter.
Take in some natural light because it can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and improve your mood and energy levels.
Being cooped up in the house all night studying is not something to take lightly.
You should ensure that you stretch and take a walk as soon as you can.
Of course you have to prioritize sleep so maybe take a walk after waking up to get the blood flowing.
Don’t make all-nighters a habit because sleep is too important to routinely go without it.
All-nighters should be a last resort and not some re-occurring thing that you engage in.
Pushing the body beyond its natural limit is not only difficult but dangerous.
Your body follows circadian rhythm which is like a time table of what processes happen during the course of a day.
For example, as night time comes, the body begins to release melatonin as a way to prepare your body for rest.
Your temperature and blood pressure also start getting high.
Staying up all night can throw off your circadian rhythm and it could take 4 to 7 days for your body to fully recover from the effects of the all-nighter.
Additionally it’s better to avoid rush studying because it can make it hard for that information to stick for the long-term if it isn’t revised.