We have all been there. Maybe it's insomnia, or maybe you're on the verge of finally reaching Prestige on Call of Duty. Whatever your reason, you haven't fallen asleep yet and you just realized you have to get up in 1 hour.
Should you try to sleep 1 hour or should you just stay up all night? If you've found yourself pondering the dilemma of this night owl classic, chances are tomorrow you'll be a zombie by being sleep-deprived no matter what you do, but if you manage to sleep, you'll be better off.
You can feel and function better with a few hours of sleep than with none at all. In fact, many people find that they can get through one night with a few hours of sleep and feel great the next day.
It also gives your brain an hour to reset, which is better than nothing. Our brains are like computers. You will find your computer and even your smartphone needs to be restarted from time to time.
The brain uses sleep as a time to store data as well as a time to rest and repair itself. So the next time you're faced with 1 hour of sleep or voluntary sleep deprivation, here are some thoughts to help you make the best decision.
If you wake up at the right time in your sleep cycle, you'll feel less tired.
We naturally sleep in cycles. This means that if you wake up during a deep sleep phase, you will probably feel worse than if you hadn't slept at all.
A 15 to 20 minute nap can give you some rest and should wake you up before entering deep sleep. If you have more time to sleep, waking up after 1 or 30 hours of sleep should generally leave you more rested than if you slept for 3 or 1 hours.
This is because you take advantage of your natural sleep cycle and wake up during what is called your REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) cycle, the same cycle in which you dream. Sleeping for 1-2 hours will usually cause you to wake up from a deep sleep and therefore feel groggy and tired.
So set your alarm clock and try to get some sleep already. There are even smartphone apps that claim to be able to wake you up at the right time during your sleep cycle. However, everyone is a little different and sleep cycles change with age, so you need to find what works for you.
You can try an electro-sleep device.
An Electrical-Brain Stimulation (CES) device is said to help you function well with very little sleep. It works by sending an electrical current through your brain.
It puts you into a deep sleep, much more restorative than light sleep, by affecting your delta waves. This device can make a few hours of sleep feel like a full eight hours.
Unfortunately, these are usually at least a few hundred dollars and they're not for everyone. As with anything that could affect your health and well-being, you should consult a medical professional before trying one.
Maybe you're a mutant and really don't need a lot of sleep.
While it's not necessarily something you can choose, some people have an actual genetic mutation that allows them to function properly on less sleep than the average person (this, of course, is great for fighting crime at night while holding this day job).
It is estimated that 5% of the population has this genetic mutation. (And no, it's not the same as having adrenal fatigue - a serious problem with the adrenal gland that you can develop due to lack of sleep and your body's regular production of adrenaline. .)
Sleeping all night comes with a lot of things you don't want.
If you're staying up to finish that important project that's due tomorrow, then an all-nighter may be your only option (perhaps time management is something you should work on to avoid that next time?) If you're aiming to finally reach Prestige on Call of Duty, you'd probably better catch some zzz's.
Most normal people (aka non-mutants) need 8 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. If you sleep 6 hours or less, you will start feeling the negative impact after a few days. You can also develop long-term health problems if you sleep less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis.
Realistically, there aren't really any benefits to having an all-nighter. If you do, your emotions and decision-making abilities will be severely impaired until you can get some sleep.
Bad decisions after a lack of sleep are thought to have played a part in everything from oil spills to nuclear reactor disasters. What if you don't have an important job like that? Well, you'd like to at least get to work the next day, wouldn't you? If you plan on having an all-nighter and then driving, don't. Driving tired can be just as dangerous as driving drunk.
On a smaller scale, this could translate into risky behaviors like gambling or abusing alcohol. You might get mad because the barista got the wrong coffee (or maybe you ordered it wrong because you were so tired?), or you might end up telling your boss what you think of him. .
Admittedly, this one has an upside - at least you'll have enough time to sleep when you're unemployed. A sleepless night can also make it very difficult to memorize things. That could be a good thing, depending on what you spent the night doing. It could also cause problems when you forget that important meeting you had at work - possibly the very reason for your all-nighter in the first place.
Are you having trouble losing weight? This may be due to a lack of sleep. Sleeping all night can cause you to gain weight. When you're sleep deprived, your body produces more of a hormone that makes you hungry. You may also find yourself snacking in an effort to stay awake. Even a sleepless night can increase your BMI.
While not technically a positive thing, going a night without sleep can also get you high. Your brain's pleasure circuits rev up after a sleepless night, just as they would when you're on a drug. This produces a feeling of euphoria which can be very pleasant. You might hate yourself in the middle of the next day for staying up so late, but at least you will have enjoyed doing it.