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The Dangers of Sleep Deprived College Students

Posted by Benafsha Irani, D.O. on Mar 5, 2018, 7:58:00 AM

As a college student, it can seem as if there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done, including studying for midterm and final exams. You may think taking advantage of those late night hours to study will be worth it in the end, but over time, nothing could be further from the truth.

Staying up late to study the night before for an exam is what many college students often resort to. But the dangers associated with this needs to be taken seriously.

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What Are the Dangers?

  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment
  • Addictive behavior
  • Impaired attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving
  • Greater chance of getting sick and staying sick longer
  • Weight gain and in extreme cases, obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hindered fine motor skills
  • Drowsiness, which causes fatal accidents
  • Irregular heartbeat, heart disease, heart failure and fatal heart attacks

The majority of college students need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep, but some may need less and others may need more. Waiting until the last minute to study is never a good idea. The problem with late-night studying a day before test day is it results in a decrease in your ability to retain the information needed for your exam. You might think you know the material inside and out at 2 a.m., but by morning you will have forgotten a lot of it because sleep is crucial to your brain’s ability to learn and remember. While you’re sleeping, your brain is busy processing the information from the day and creating memories. What’s worse is that on test day, the lack of sleep will impair your ability to focus on the task at hand: your exam.

It’s important to understand that there is such a thing as sleep debt. Think of it like being overdrawn in your bank account. If you stay up late, even if it’s on the weekend, that time will need to come from somewhere. This can explain why many students and adults feel sluggish going into class or work on Monday morning. So you could be sleep deprived and not even realize it.

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Signs of Sleep Deprivation

  • Having trouble staying awake
  • Continuous yawning
  • Daydreaming and having wandering thoughts
  • Having a hard time holding up your head

If you are driving, a definite way to tell if you are sleep deprived is not being able to recall how many miles you have driven. You may even drift in and out of lanes. If this is the case, pull over immediately and rest. This can have a deadly outcome. It has actually been confirmed that sleep-deprived drivers who were tested for hand-eye coordination performed as badly, if not worse, than someone driving drunk.

How to Avoid Sleep Deprivation

To keep it simple, get some rest. Don’t procrastinate. The best plan to avoid sleep deprivation is to make a plan at the beginning of the semester with all of your exam dates and start studying as early as possible. Also, you need to go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.

So is it worth it to pull an all-nighter? No, unless it’s every once in a while, but even then you must be careful to not make it a habit. Especially in your college years. A better sleep hygiene regime results in better health. Your grades and your health will thank you for it. 


Dr. Benafsha Irani is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Clear Lake Clinic. Her interests include adult medicine, children’s health, women’s health and preventive medicine.



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