We all know that staying awake all night isn’t healthy, but it turns out it could actually be doing some pretty serious damage to our brains.
This is because when we pull an all-nighter it actually alters the type of sleep our brains get, reports the Business Insider.
Traditionally, sleep starts with a period of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that consists of three ‘stages’.
Stage three – known as slow-wave – is the most important for recovering and feeling rejuvenated and it’s also involved in dreaming and storing memories.
This makes it important for learning new skills or remembering what you did the night before.
However it’s also the phase that’s most affected by all-nighters. Partying into the next day deprives your brain of this critical sleep stage and puts you in what experts call ‘sleep debt’.
Timothy Morgenthaler, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told Business Insider:
[With] an acute sleep debt there’s different ‘bankers’ you’re going to have to pay back.Advertisement
The first one you have to pay back is the slow wave sleep banker.
Normally, slow-wave sleep makes up around a quarter of your normal sleep – but it’s a very different story following an all-nighter.
People with a high sleep debt tend to get more slow wave sleep and according to Morgenthaler:
The result is that when you [have] an all night shift and fall asleep on the couch, and then you wake up to go to bed [you] have no clue where you are.
This confusion is a consequence of what experts call ‘sleep inertia’, which is also responsible for the grogginess you feel when you wake up.
Normally it only lasts for around 30 minutes after – but people who wake up out of slow-wave sleep have more sleep inertia, which can take a few hours to fade.
That’s why the effects of an all-nighter stick with you even after you’ve gotten some well-needed rest – it probably won’t stop us though will it.