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All-nighters can be more harmful than helpful


A popular trend on Facebook says: social life, good grades, sleep — you can choose two. While many college students choose to sacrifice sleep, studies show that all-nighters can be detrimental to a GPA.

Emilie Street, an international studies and public policy leadership freshman, said she pulls all-nighters pretty frequently.

“I don’t think I’ll pull one this week, but I pull one at least every other week,” Street said.

Street, who is an orientation leader and is involved in other campus activities, credits a busy schedule as well as procrastination as her reasons for staying up all night. She said this week she is trying to get ahead on schoolwork to avoid the loss of sleep next week.

“Sometimes (all-nighters) work best for me,” she said. “But when I do them too often, I feel they’re bad for my thought process. I work better under pressure, so it’s difficult whenever I have a lot of time to sit down because I can’t really concentrate.”

University of Mississippi Psychology Department Chair Michael Allen said there have been several studies focusing on the effects of sleep deprivation.

“We’re all different people, but for the most part it’s a bad idea,” he said. 

“You’re depriving yourself of sleep, which is restorative of the brain, and you’re not at your best.”

Biology instructor Ann Phillippi recommends her students study two weeks in advance before an exam. She also recommends that students go to bed before 1 a.m. the night before an exam and sleep no later than 8 a.m.

“I see immediate, negative consequences for my students that insist on pulling all-nighters,” Phillippi said. 

She said students who have stayed up all night studying have sometimes fallen asleep during exams or class. Phillippi added that there is also an associated temptation to use prescription medicine such as Adderall to assist in staying up.

The university provides several resources that can help students improve their study skills.  

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning offers workshops on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m. in Hill Hall 201 that address different study tactics like note-taking and goal setting.

Nancy Wiggins, who leads the sessions, recommends that students study as much as possible during the day so they can enjoy free time in the evenings.

“The biggest problem with students doing all-nighters is that they only get one or two hours of high-quality study time,” said Kenneth Sufka, psychology instructor and author of “The A Game,” a book on how to improve grades.

“Why would you spend eight hours studying when maybe only two hours of it is high-quality study time?” he said.  

Sufka recommends the method of what he refers to as “spaced-out” study, which would break down the eight hours into two hours for four days.