Tags: irregular | sleep | patterns | risk | health | all | nighter

Are Irregular Sleeping Patterns Healthy?

By    |   Wednesday, 23 April 2014 12:25 PM

Question: My 20-year-old son often stays up until 3 or 4 in the morning, studying for his college classes (so he says), but then will sleep late into the afternoon several times a week, when he doesn't have work or school. He also doesn't keep a regular schedule because he has morning classes two days a week and has to get up at 9. Is this healthy?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
You know my answer here. Sleep is the time when our brains refresh. Late-night study sessions are rarely worth the loss of sleep. Deductive reasoning is not as efficient at the end of the day, and you are usually far better to go to sleep earlier and rise earlier than try to cram study into late night sessions.
In addition, erratic sleep patterns and extended sessions to 3 or 4 in the morning are physically stressful to our bodies. Our immune system takes care of protecting us against disease, so we need to take care of our immune systems with adequate diet, rest, and exercise. A 20-year-old may be able to get by with this for short periods, but the older you get, the less likely you will be able to manage well with this sort of stress on your body and mind.
Your son would be far wiser to adjust his work/sleep schedule to a more consistent, less stressful pattern than this. Erratic sleep/rest cycles will increase our immune stress, and that definitely plays a role in increased symptomatic infections as well as difficulties with maintenance of any underlying medical conditions.
Late study after midnight is not nearly as productive as many young students believe, and may actually be harmful to some. Try to complete studies before midnight, especially if classes are expected the next day. Aim for 8 hours of non-interrupted sleep. If you feel the need to study late, the healthiest choice would be to go to bed earlier and awaken earlier to study instead of trying to pull an all-nighter.

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Erratic sleeping patterns are indeed linked to many health problems.
irregular, sleep, patterns, risk, health, all, nighter
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 12:25 PM
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