Sleeping and partying are not a dreamcouple, but it is something to think about. There’s a reason we sleep and there are consequences if we skip sleep. But what are these consequences? And what is sleep? What does sleep deprivation do to us, and how does it go together with druguse?

From an evolutionary point of view is sleeping a very unpractical habit; we do not eat or drink, we are not reproducing and when we are sleeping we are very vulnerable to predators. But we still spend around a third of our lifetime sleeping. Even though it’s not quite clear why we sleep, there are some things we know for sure about the consequences of pulling an all-nighter and what happens when we sleep.

Sleep is beneficial for storing memories in our brains

Studies show that sleep helps with remembering and storing memories in our unconsciousness. When we experience things in our day to day life, a memory is created that is stored in our long-term memory. This ‘saving process’ is called memory recall. Studies show that sleep enhances this process for all kinds of memories for both humans and animals. This works best after 8 hours of sleep, but also shorter amount of times like 1 to 2 hours show improvements, and even a couple of minutes can help with your memory.

Sleep prevents you from getting sick

Sleep indirectly prevents us from getting sick. It makes sure that the balance between anti- and pro-inflammatory cytokines is correct. You could regard cytokines as the messagers from the immune system that can either prevent or make an infection happen.

Pro-inflammatory cytokines, like IL-1 and TNF, cause disease symptoms; our temperature rises and we feel weak and exhausted.

Anti-inflammatory cytokines on the other hand help make these symptoms disappear. The perfect balance between these two types of cytokines is needed for our health. When we are sick IL-1 and TNF levels rise in our body, but studies show that sleep deprivation helps these cytokines rise. This creates an imbalance between anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines.

The right amount of sleep thus helps prevent disease symptoms and can be seen as a protective factor

We charge ourselves when we sleep

Studies show that during sleep our body temperature and metabolism goes down. Perhaps this is to save energy. We use a lot of energy during the day and with sleep we charge ourselves to do it all again the day after. However this is just a theory, since it is hard to scientifically proof.

Disposal of wasteful chemicals in the brain

In addition to that there is something called the glymphatic system, which ensures that wasteful chemicals in our body that are produced throughout the day, are disposed from the brain. In this video it is explained how that works:

Metabolites, chemicals that are formed during our metabolism (like amino acids and certain proteins), can build up. When these cannot be disposed of it can lead to cognitive decline (processes in our brain like attention, processing of information, thinking and learning) and other neurological problems. Research has shown that the glymphatic system works better at night. This way sleep plays a big part in the disposal of these chemicals.

So research shows that we do not sleep for nothing and every extra hour of sleep is better than no sleep.

How does sleep work?

When we sleep we go through a couple of phases. Each of them accompanied by certain brainwaves. To understand the consequences of sleep deprivation a bit better we discuss a couple of different sleep-phases.



REM sleep

REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and owes its name to the fast movements of the eyes that we make during this phase of sleeping. The cerebral cortex (the most outer layer of the brain where information is analyzed and interpreted) is very active during REM sleep, comparable to the activity level of when we are awake. The REM sleep phase is the phase in which we dream. It’s been unclear for a long time what the functionality of this phase is, but recent studies have suggested that this phase is important for processing emotional memories.

Non-REM sleep

The non-REM sleep can be subdivided into phase 1 to 4, of which phase 3 and 4 are considered the deep, slow wave sleep. Sleeping phase 1 is only a couple of minutes and people are often not aware of the fact that they are already sleeping. The second sleeping phase has a duration of around 30 to 40 minutes, in which you slowly fall into a deeper and deeper sleep. The third and fourth sleeping phase are considered as deep sleep and are accompanied by slow brainwaves, hence the nickname ‘slow wave sleep’. The deep sleep is especially important for recovery of the body and is sometimes called the recovery sleep.

We go through this sleep cycle multiple times a night, on average around seven times. The first three cycles are called the coresleep and can take up to 4 to 5 hours. We call this the core sleep because in the first sleep cycles the deepsleep takes the longest time and thus happens the most recovery.

Certain drugs influence the sleep cycles. For example the recovery sleep is shortened or maybe prolonged, and therefore the REM sleep cannot happen. The coming weeks we will publish an article each week in which we explain this per drug.

Sleep vs. Resting

Humans encounter different types of sleep- and wake states, all accompanied with different brainwaves. For example sleeping is accompanied by slow brainwaves. In addition to sleeping we can also be awake or resting. Resting is some sort of in between state that shares similarities with both sleeping and being awake. For this reason it is plausible that resting is healthier than skipping sleep all together.

Even though there is not a lot of research done in this field, research does show that people who rested perform better in a memory related task than people who did not rest. This effect was already seen after only 15 minutes of resting.

When it comes to brainwaves resting is also similar to sleep, since the brainwaves are slowing down during resting, compared to brainwaves when being awake. There is also a decrease in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh, a ‘messager’ between braincells) during sleep, but also during resting. This was shown in a research in which the concentration of the level of Ach in the cerebral cortex was higher during a state of being awake than during resting or REM sleep. So there is overlap between sleeping and resting.

Despite this overlap, sleeping and resting are not the same. Important benefits from sleep, some have been mentioned above, are dependent on processes that only happen during sleeping and not during resting.

Resting is probably better than not sleeping it all, but it will never compare to a good night of sleep.

Day sleeping vs. Night sleeping

Sleeping during the day after pulling an all-nighter is not uncommon when it comes to partying. But is day sleeping just as effective as sleeping during the night?

At night our body temperature goes down and our body makes the hormone melatonin. The human body is programmed in a 24-hour rhythm, we call this the circadian rhythm.

This video explains what that is

Some cells, like white blood cells, also have a 24 hour rhythm; the activity of these cells is dependent on the time of the day.

Studies show that nocturnal sleep represses the amount of toxic cells since T-cells peak at night. T-cells are a type of white blood cells, they are important to our immune system. When these cells recognize a virus, they start making an protein named integrin, which they use to stick themselves to an infected cell and then subsequently destroy. During the state of being awake there are chemicals that interfere with the creation of integrin, which makes that T-cells cannot stick to infected cells and these cells stay alive. Therefore T-cells are more effective during sleep and at nighttime the amount of T-cells peaks. So sleeping during the night is more effective than sleeping during the day.

What happens when you disrupt the circadian rhythm?

Research in which people work at night show that it is very difficult to break through or reverse the circadian rhythm. Furthermore is not only difficult, it is also unhealthy to do this time after time after time. Skipping a night can lead to a disrupted circadian rhythm, which can lead to several sleep issues and sleep disorders. These problems are there for the long run, since it is not easy to reverse the circadian rhythm back to normal once it has been disrupted. Therefore it is important that the normal rhythm is implemented as fast as possible after a night of partying. Sleeping during the day can lead to bad sleep the following night, which can then lead to an even more disrupted sleep rhythm.

Studies show that day sleeping is not unhealthy per se, but it is very likely it is less effective than nocturnal sleep since your body is programmed to a 24-hour rhythm. In addition to that day sleeping can also disrupt the circadian rhythm even more, which can have prolonged effects on your sleep. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you get back to your normal sleeping pattern as soon as possible to prevent any further harm and consequences.

Sleeping is different for everybody

Why does one person need more sleep than the other? And why does one person suffer more from the consequences of sleep deprivation than the other?

There seems to be a genetic predisposition toward vulnerability for sleep deprivation. This means that there are individual differences when it comes to performance decline after sleep deprivation. Furthermore studies have shown that the personality trait called extroversion is associated with attentional lapses (later more about this) and a more rapid decline in response time after one night of skipping sleep. Extroverted people are quicker to experience the negative effects of sleep deprivation than introverted people. This is something to be conscious about when it comes to your own need for sleep. Even though everbody is different, the following consequences of sleep deprivation are seen as the general consequences.

The consequences of sleep deprivation

It makes sense there is a connection between the functionality of sleep and the consequences of lack of sleep. Where sleep is beneficial for memory recall, can sleep deprivation negatively affect our memory. A good night of sleep can help the brain take in new information quicker and more efficient, this leads to positively effective memory recall. When sleep is skipped, memories are taken in less effectively which can lead to memory problems. Sleep is beneficial for the glymphatic system and lack of sleep ensures consequently that metabolites and certain proteins are not correctly disposed of. Recent research has shown that when the glymphatic system is not functioning well, this goes together with several neurological diseases; there is a connection between a not functioning well glymphatic system and Alzheimer’s disease.

Cognitive abilities worsen

Sleep deprivation also brings other consequences. Research shows that cognitive abilities (processes like attention, processing of information, thinking and learning) show a strong decline because of sleep deprivation.

To use complex cognitive processes, like planning and evaluating, we need to make sure we can control the basic processes, like being conscious and staying focused. When we pull an all-nighter, this mostly affects our basic cognitive processes. The general alertness begins to decline in performance after 16 hours with no sleep and becomes attentional lapses from that point onwards, these are moments your response time is delayed by at least 0.5 seconds.

The tendency to sleep is dependent on 2 processes: the sleep homeostasis, which allows the tendency to sleep to grow the longer we are awake, and the circadian rhythm, which makes sure that we are least alert in the morning and most alert early evening. The state of these 2 processes combined determines the probability of a so-called attentional lapse.

The most simple form of attention is being able to detect a stimulus, and is affected the most by sleep deprivation out of all the cognitive processes. Not being able to detect a stimulus can be problematic; think of being in traffic and being unable to notice other people too late or at all. Also your motor control is affected by sleep deprivation, this is shown in a research in which participants showed they were less able in hand-eye coordination tasks after having pulled an all-nighter. After lack of sleep the performance did not only get worse but also instable, this we call wake-state instability. This can be very misleading: one moment the individual seems to alert and the next moment he or she does not seem to respond at all.

Effect on decision-making

Lack of sleep also has a big effect on decision-making. Because of sleep deprivation we are easily distracted and we show less appreciation for complex situations.

In addition to that we are not able to think of alternative strategies to come to a successful decision. We are also absolutely not innovative when we have not slept and make decisions based off of the success of the previous decision we made, even though the current situation might be completely different.

So after lack of sleep we are not capable to act accordingly to unfamiliar situations.

In research that uses gamble tasks and traffic simulation tasks it shows that when we suffer from sleep deprivation we are unable to evaluate the risks. Furthermore are we bad at assessing ourselves and often have too much confidence when it comes to reacting correctly in uncertain situations.

Effect on our senses

In addition to cognitive processes which are affected as a consequence of sleep deprivation, our senses are also affected by it. Studies show that our eyesight gets worse, even after one night of skipping sleep. A decline in activity in the visual cerebral cortex (part of the brain that processes visual information) and this decline is most obvious during an attentional lapse. This means that when we skip a night of sleep, we will encounter moments in which we won’t be able to succeed in observing a visual stimulus. Research has also shown that our hearing gets worse after lack of sleep as well. This can also be due to the fact that our attention span has worsened, this remains uncertain.

Effect on emotions

Sleep deprivation also affects how we experience and cope with our emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation makes us react more intensely to negative and threatening stimuli, but not to positive or neutral stimuli. Humor is also perceived as more negative after sleep deprivation and the expression in our voice weakens.

These are mainly short term consequences after skipping one night of sleep. The long term consequences are obviously not unimportant. When skipping one night, the circadian rhythm is

disrupted and if we do not turn this back in time this can lead to long term sleeping problems, thus making the earlier mentioned problems chronic. It is of great importance that we are kind to our circadian rhythm and pick up our normal rhythm as soon as possible once it has been disrupted. Furthermore are there specific consequences when combined with drug use. Even though there is still a lot unclear in this field, we do know the following.

Lack of sleep and drug use

Lack of sleep is definitely a big part of the complaints that people experience when they have used drugs. Lack of sleep contributes to experiencing a bad trip and long term complaints like depersonalization- or derealization disorder and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), which can show itself as visual snow and palinopsia. It is known that the risk of a bad trip is smallest when you are in a good setting and set. A good setting is a good and safe environment and with set we mean your physical and mental well-being. That personal set worsens after a bad night of sleep and so increases the risk of a bad trip. Although there is still no scientific research in this field, it can be seen that people who experience these complaints often also suffer from sleep deprivation. Also very specific sleep disorders can be seen after the use of XTC, like sleep paralysis. This has not yet been scientifically proven but it does seem to show a connection. That would not be strange since it is known that serotonin plays a big part when it comes to sleep. You can imagine that if you take XTC or MDMA you interfere with your serotonin levels and thus that it has effect on your sleep. How? You can read that soon.

#inpakkenisslaappakken! A good night’s sleep is essential for your health, but sometimes not top priority when you are using drugs.

That’s why Unity is giving extra attention to sleep this festival season. Both online as offline. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date!

We are very curious wat sleeping schedule people have when they are going to a party or festival. That’s why this fifth round of the party panel is about sleep. Would you like to share opinion on the subject, fill out the online questionnaire at Next we can take the results of the pary panel research to improve our education about sleep. Also please share this research with our party people!