Pulling an all-nighter leaves your brain unable to think straight

sleep deprived brainHave you ever stayed up all night studying ? Or worked through the night, to complete a big project ?

On one level, it makes sense to maximize what you stuff into your brain or to finish that all important report, but your brain doesn’t work that way.

Pulling an all-nighter will leave your brain unable to think straight. So this week’s Neurotechnology Tip warns that decisions taken after a sleepless night, could land you in hot water.

Brain tripping out

Intuitively you’d expect to feel like death warmed up (and you usually do a little later), but initially you can feel euphoric, supercharged and on fire follow a night without sleep.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkley, peeked inside sleep deprived brains, to understand why a sleepless night can temporarily produce a high.

The team carried out Magnetic Resonance Imaging on young healthy adults, half of which had a good night’s rest and rest had not gone to bed.

Sleep deprived brains are extremely positive

Whilst their brain activities were monitored, the participants in the study, were shown a variety images. They were required to categorize each image as either being positive or neutral.

Sleep deprived brains tended to see EVERYTHING as positive. Brains that had experienced a good night’s sleep, were a little bit more discerning, restricting positives to things like ice cream sundaes and relegating bunnies to neutral.

The brain “waves” showed that the exceptional positive feelings, were related to heightened activity of the dopamine neurotransmitter in the mesolimbic pathways of the brain.

NOTE: These are the same circuits that are stimulated by drugs of addiction.

Overtly positive perceptions potentially problematic

Being positive should be a good think, BUT…too much positivity can bite you in the backside.

Good decisions require you to be able to way up the pros and cons of a situation. Not noticing the potential downside of a decision, can produce a dicey decision.

Dicey decisions can damage your exam performance, your project proposal or you.

The all-nighter folly

The human brain and body are designed to get regularly bouts of sleep – pulling an all-nighter is counterproductive, even if it feels quite good.

Avoid doing it yourself, and avoid others who are running on a sleep induced high – they’re potentially dangerous.

Sleep Deprivation Amplifies Reactivity of Brain Reward Networks, Biasing the Appraisal of Positive Emotional Experiences. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011; 31 (12): 4466. N. Gujar, S.-S. Yoo, P. Hu, M. P. Walker.


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Further reading

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 For big decisions bringing in the bladder to “help” the brain is best Why rats commit suicide by jumping in front of hungry cats Smoking pot makes you potty 

The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.

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Balance Eicosanoids Rein in insulin Dial down stress Sleep ! Increase Vit D Culivate microflora Think champion


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  1. [...] Pulling an all-nighter leaves your brain unable to think straight [...]

  2. By » Blog Archive » Round up 28 Nov – 2 Dec on December 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm

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