Research shows staying up late harms memory

College students are no strangers to putting off an assignment until the last minute, then pulling an all-nighter to get it done. Sometimes it seems like college comes with an unwanted helping of sleep-deprivation.

However, even with this prevalent college culture, some students have trained their bodies to always wake up early in the morning.

Nathan Liang, sophomore in Engineering and ROTC member, said he tries not to pull all-nighters to finish assignments. When he has ROTC training, he needs to be awake by 4:30 a.m., and he has 8 a.m. classes on regular school days.

“Since my schedule goes till 4 p.m. along with ROTC (training), time management is definitely a must,” Liang said. “I try not to pull all-nighters to finish assignments by starting early and managing my time.”

Gregory Lambeth, psychologist at the Counseling Center, advises against staying up late to finish school work. According to Lambeth, research has concluded that staying up late affects memory and, therefore, learning. Because of that, he said there is some benefit to going to bed early so the information you did learn stays engraved in your mind.

However, sometimes because of students’ hectic schedules and heavy workload, staying up late to finish an assignment or study for a big exam becomes unavoidable. The traditional approach is downing a considerable amount of coffee or energy drinks.

“(I would advise) people not to take too many stimulants because those can stay in your system for many hours,” Lambeth said. “They may try to go to sleep, but then they can’t because they’ve taken too many stimulants.”

However, if an all-nighter is necessary, students can listen to upbeat music or take regular breaks throughout the night to avoid feeling fatigued from sitting passively. Lambeth also recommended walking around frequently or talking to someone you’re studying with.

If students fall into an abnormal sleep schedule, they can correct the problem. Lambeth said the amount of effort it takes to correct bad sleeping habits depends on how consistently a student has been keeping these habits.

“If the student has turned their sleep schedule completely around so that they’re sleeping during much of the day and not sleeping at night, then that involves a more significant form of adjustment that needs to be made,” Lambeth said.

To change your current irregular sleeping pattern to a more typical sleeping pattern, you would have to stay up all night and day to be tired enough to fall asleep at night, he said.

It can be easier said than done to sleep at a reasonable time or to wake up bright and early the next day.

“What usually I recommend for a behavioral type of strategy is putting the alarm across the room so you actually have to physically get up and walk over to turn it off,” he said. “(And) setting a backup alarm — things like that.”

Although Liang tries not to stay up all night, he sometimes has to because of homework. To make up for his lack of sleep, he takes plenty of naps throughout the day, which allows him to feel refreshed for school work.

Lambeth said the most effective strategy to wake up on time is to get a good amount of sleep in the first place.

“Students who are sleeping through their alarm are likely sleep-deprived,” he said. “And so focusing more on getting an adequate amount of sleep over the long term is going to be the most effective strategy.”

Students who want to learn more about how to get back to a normal sleep routine can attend an upcoming workshop called “Clean Snoring? It’s Not Boring!: A Guide to Sleep Hygiene” hosted by the Counseling Center. The workshop will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 in the Wilson Chaplain Room at the YMCA.

While staying up late to finish that philosophy paper can be tempting, undesirable side effects can come from a night without sleep.

_Melissa can be reached at [email protected]_