Staying Up Past Midnight? This Is What Science Says Is Happening To You

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Sleep is vital. It regulates our system and restores rest so we can take on the next day. Without it, we have no energy or clarity of mind or are even in the mood to tackle whatever we need to do in the day ahead to move forward. As soon as sleep is disrupted, its domino effect trickles down into all aspects of our lives, affecting our relationships, careers, and emotional well-being.

With only so many hours of the day, it’s tempting to stay up late. This is the only time it’s quiet enough for us to be with our thoughts again. It can seem harmless to push our bedtime just for a little more time of solitude and peace. But, this may be more harmful than we think. Here is what science says happens when we stay up past midnight, keeping in mind that it’s not medical advice.

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Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

First of all, if you’re staying up late, we don’t blame you and you’re not alone. Amidst the chaos of our everyday lives, our never-ending chores list, responsibilities, and stressful jobs, it’s hard not to want to hold on to the only hours of quiet and solitude that we have every night.

David Cassolato / Pexels
David Cassolato / Pexels

This is a phenomenon known as revenge bedtime procrastination. It means that you’re subconsciously getting “revenge” for your busy daytime schedule by fitting in relaxing time at the expense of sleep.

You may think you’re emotionally recovering by taking this time to relax but staying up past midnight is impacting your brain functioning. Studies show that the brain isn’t designed to function that way, so staying can cause issues that the brain doesn’t know how to handle. This starts affecting overall health.

Why You’re Always In A Bad Mood

Do you find that you’re easily irritable, and no matter how many guided meditations you do on your way to work, you just can’t seem to come down for your bad mood? Experts say that it has to do with your sleep history. How how much time you spend awake can affect your brain function and mood because your neurons work harder instead of taking time to recover.

SHVETS production / Pexels
SHVETS production / Pexels

Biologically, the circadian rhythm pushes for cognition during the day and reduces how awake you feel at night. If you stay up late and don’t allow your body to recover and go through the cycle, it starts alerting you. Your body asks for what it needs through your negative feelings and thoughts. If staying up becomes chronic it can start increasing the risk of more serious addictions and conditions.

Anxious Thoughts And Dwelling

Studies show that people who sleep later are more likely to have negative thoughts. This gets you stuck in a rumination cycle that makes you alert and feel like you’re about to face a threat.

woman-with-red-hair- look stressed, holding her cheeks
Photo by Alexander Stemplewski:
Photo by Alexander Stemplewski:

It makes you dwell on minor issues and can put you at a higher risk of anxiety and depression. You’re unable to think clearly and logically to eliminate what is a threat and what is just your mind racing and making assumptions.

Do You Keep Forgetting Simple Things?

Did you know that studies show that staying up late can also affect your long-term memory? While it’s normal to want to check if you locked the door or turned the stove off, you shouldn’t need to trip check just in case.

woman-with-blue-flower-on-ear and eyes closed
Cottonbro studio / Pexels
Cottonbro studio / Pexels

Lack of sleep impairs the memory consolidation process by throwing off the REM sleep that builds and retains memory. Studies found that lower-time sleep deprivation can go as far as forming false memories. Basically, you’ll burn out.

The Days Are Short As It Is

When You stay up late, melatonin production is affected. Melatonin is produced by the body when it gets dark outside. It’s a hormone released by a part of the brain at night and is associated with control of the sleep-wake cycle. Even animals have this process. This is especially important in the winter months when the daylight hours are numbered.

woman-holding-a-moon on the beach at sunset
Ruvim / Pexels
Ruvim / Pexels

Staying up past midnight starts interfering with melatonin production, especially if you stay up using technology like TV or the phone. These devices emit a blue that restrains melatonin production and makes it even more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day.

Increasing Risk Of Sleep Disorders

Sometimes staying up late can increase the risk of developing a sleep disorder. Chronically staying up late messes up your whole system, you might start to find yourself having more nightmares, sleepwalking, and over time falling asleep will itself become harder.

woman-sleeping in bed at night
Ivan Oboleninov / Pexels
Ivan Oboleninov / Pexels

People who stay up past midnight are more at risk for insomnia, and the list of the effects of that is long. Ongoing insomnia is associated with hypertension, heart attacks and strokes, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, decreased brain function, weakened immune system, lower fertility rate, etc…you get the point.

Weakening The Immune System

Staying up past midnight can weaken your immune system and put you more at risk of getting sick. It’ll make it harder for you to fight off germs and can lead to more frequent colds or even speed up cancer growth.

man wrapped in blanket looking miserable
Cottonbro studio / Pexels
Cottonbro studio / Pexels

That’s because the body uses sleep to strengthen its immune system and heal, so staying up late can negatively impact your ability to fight off any sickness.

Affecting Eating Habits

When you stay up past midnight, you become more likely to develop bad eating habits and can be more at risk of weight gain. The more hours you’re awake, the more likely you are to feel hungry. Except at midnight, you’re not likely to crave healthy food. Poor sleep has long been known to make people crave higher-calorie foods. Plus being tired the next day and low on energy makes you less likely to want to cook healthy meals.

Adrienn / Pexels
Adrienn / Pexels

Research found that people who go to bed late tend to eat more calories and fast food than others. They found that increase in calories can cause about two pounds of weight gain per month.

Not Enough Sleep

It’s a vicious cycle but staying up late and waking up early means not getting enough sleep. The recommendation for adults is for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night for optimal functioning. The fewer hours, the less mental focus, emotional regulation, and energy.

old school clock on black background shows 11:55
Anne Nygard / Unsplash
Anne Nygard / Unsplash

Chronically staying late will take a toll on your body, reducing reaction time and increasin stress. If you know you have to wake up early the next day, set a bedtime. Over time this will fix your internal body clock and adapt you to a healthy sleep schedule.

Your Body, Your Mind

Your body and your mind are connected. If one is affected, so is the other. Staying up late affects both, but only you can take control of your body and unleash the full potential of your mind.

closeup of woman with blue eyes and yellow specle
Erik Mclean / Unsplash
Erik Mclean / Unsplash

Keep in mind that, at times, there are benefits to staying late. Some people feel more creative late at night, so staying up can help them think of ideas. It’s up to you to find that balance and still get enough sleep to reach your highest potential and fulfill your purpose.

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Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]