This column feels a little like I'm immortalising my failures in print for all perpetuity, but there's an important lesson I learned last week that I thought I should possibly share.
It might seem like a no-brainer for most of you (OK, probably all of you), but it turns out, sleep is actually quite important for cognitive function.
Last week, I had a law assignment due at midnight on Friday. But I also work full-time and have a family - not to mention it is school holidays, so hello perpetual noise and interruptions.
I found myself in a pattern of staying up 'til the wee hours of the morning just to take advantage of the quiet in a sleeping household.
So, I was already sleep deprived when Thursday rolled around and I was still struggling with putting my ideas together for the assignment. So in my infinite wisdom, I decided to pull an undergrad move and do an all-nighter.
Sleep deprivation has literally been used as a torture device during interrogations for centuries and for good reason: exhaustion does crazy things to a person.
It sends you to war with yourself: you are literally fighting your body's natural drive sleep, according to Roy Raymann, VP of Sleep Science at California's SleepScore Labs (via Huffpost). It means your body misses its recovery phase from being active all day, which has effects beyond just leaving you feeling unrefreshed.
Perhaps the effect I felt most keenly was significantly impaired cognitive function. I spent an hour trying to transition between sentences in a paragraph - a paragraph I'd written no less - to process the information in it and edit it into my argument.
An argument I was struggling to piece together because sleep deprivation also impairs memory function - working memory in particular - and I couldn't retain the complex concepts I was grappling with long enough to connect the dots between them.
It was honestly one of the most confronting experiences I've had: I literally could not understand. I didn't have time to sleep, but not sleeping meant it was taking 10 times as long to perform simple cognitive activities. The stress was real.
Turns out, sleep isn't just about "rest". It allows your body to repair cells and tissues, remove toxins from your brain, deal with memories and emotions, and resolve the stored fatigue that's been built up throughout the day.
Unsurprisingly, stress hormones then spike. You start to run purely on adrenaline and cortisol, leading to an intensification of the flight/fight response, with Terry Cralle, from the Better Sleep Council in Washington DC finding that sleeplessness can boost anxiety levels by up to 30 per cent.
And I'd been anxious about my assignment before my lightbulb moment of working through Thursday night. Imagine how I was feeling come dinner time on Friday ... it was not pretty.
On top of all that, sleep deprivation affects the prefrontal cortex area of your brain - this is why my cognitive abilities were in the toilet. "Brain fog" is a vast understatement of what I experienced last week.
Everything took longer, took way more effort and I honestly felt like I was drunk.
All-nighters can also make you hungrier than normal, your body feel less full and unable to metabolise glucose (like being in a pre-diabetic state) ... so apparently they even make you fatter.
Long-term, repeated sleep deprivation can actually lead to diabetes, obesity, strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, high blood pressure and depression.
Dr Janette Nesheiwat, medical director at CityMD (US) said that it can "take weeks for the body to recover from the circadian rhythm disturbance that occurs with sleep deprivation."
The day after can feel like a hangover, and your law assignment won't meet expectations - either yours or the lecturer's.
The irony of my experience is that I was so exhausted that I fell asleep while I was uploading the damned thing on Friday night.
I literally woke up fully clothed in bed at lunch time on Saturday with my laptop open and dead beside me, my glasses all skew-whiff on my face and the discovery that after all that pain, late penalties were to be applied to my assignment anyway.
So. Not. Worth. It.
Note to self: all-nighters don't solve problems. For those of you who know me, don't tell Mum she was right. This week's been painful enough!
- Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocate at impressability.com.au, and a regular columnist for ACM.