The exam is tomorrow. The party was last night. And another party was the night before that. And maybe there were a few dozen other events, gigs, dates, and/or all other manner of campus distractions going on for a run of nights before that, too. No sweat— tonight, you’ll stay up and slam-pack your caffeine-cranked brain with everything you need to know to sit down tomorrow morning and knock that test out of the quadrangle. Or not.
Cramming. Everybody’s done it and sometimes, we’re told, it works. In our experience, though, cramming usually results in exhaustion, confusion, and varying degrees of panic. In fact, cramming kind of feels like it hurts. Now a new Swedish study published in the scientific journal Sleep indicates that cramming does, in fact, hurt—like a concussion.
These studious Swedes measured the blood protein levels of a group of healthy young men first as they slept for eight hours and then after keeping the guys awake and actively occupied from darkness to dawn. The result showed that, after pulling the all-nighter, the subjects’ protein levels rose to the highs of patients who had just suffered acute brain injuries. In addition, the lack of sleep was shown to damage the brain’s ability to remember. In the short term, that plainly defeats the purpose of marathon cramming and, in the long term, it scarily ups your chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Much is made these days regarding head injuries in college sports. Now we see that overzealous academic work packs its own perils to the noggin. It would be a shame if the one juncture where jocks and nerds end up peaceably coming together turns out to be the brain trauma ward.