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All-nighters bad for health- and grades
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DARLINGTON - Pulling an "all-nighter" - staying up all night studying for exams or doing school work - is considered a rite of passage for many college students. But new research shows that relying on all-nighters too often can adversely affect students' grades and overall health.

Getting less than six hours of sleep per night can lead to deficits in attention, concentration, memory and critical thinking, along with increased depression, irritability and anxiety.

"A student might feel sick, fatigued, anxious or unable to concentrate, but they will rarely complain about lack of sleep as the reason," Mary Knellwolf, University of Wisconsin-Extension family living educator in Lafayette County, said. That's because, for many students, late nights are an accepted part of college culture. On campus, it's not uncommon for school-related events, such as meetings, to begin at 10 p.m. or later.

"Biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence," says Knellwolf. "But noisy dorms, the stress of classes and lots of extracurricular activities are making sleep deprivation a real concern on college campuses."

Academics aren't the only area affected by students' lack of sleep. A recent Stanford University study showed that college basketball players ran faster and made more shots after they had slept at least 10 hours the night before. Researchers concluded that athletes who want to improve their performance should focus on getting enough sleep, in addition to eating well and exercising.

So how much sleep do college students need to stay healthy? "Current research shows that the bran is still developing into the early 20s and that teens should get nine hours of sleep each night. This is the time when the brain processes what you've learned during the day and when it refreshes itself for the next day's learning and activities," explains Knellwolf.

Tips that can help college students - and adults - get a good night's sleep.

• Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. Alcohol can prevent you from sleeping well; you'll wake up groggy and find it difficult to concentrate.

• Stay away from exercise close to bedtime. Give yourself at least three hours between a workout and bed.

• Establish a nighttime ritual. Give your brain the signal to sleep. Leave time to relax and unwind with the lights turned low.

• Sit back from the TV and computer screens because their light can confuse the body's day-night rhythms.

• If you can't fall asleep after 30 minutes, don't toss and turn worrying about it. Instead, get up and do something relaxing, such as listening to music or reading. When you start to feel tired, go back to bed.

For more information, contact Mary Knellwolf at or (608) 776-4820.