Pulling All-Nighters to pass your ACLS, BLS, and PALS Certification Exam? 5 ways they Actually Harm your Chances

Pulling All-Nighters to pass your ACLS, BLS, and PALS Certification Exam? 5 ways they Actually Harm your Chances

Lauren Diffendarfer

by Lauren Diffendarfer

Medical Educator

posted on Apr 8, 2015, at 9:43 pm


THEY MAY SEEM UNAVOIDABLE when preparing for a big test: the “all nighter”. You most likely pulled one or two all-nighters during your life, whether during college, medical schooling, or other training. While you know sleep is an absolute essential part of academic success, sometimes it seems like intensive studying for 8 hours the night before the big test just seems to make more sense than a good night’s sleep. We challenge you, however, to pass your

medical student doing all nighter to study for test

ACLS, BLS, and PALS certification exam with a solid 8 hours of pillow-time. Here’s why pulling all-nighters harm both your health and your academics.

1. You’re dumbing yourself down
If you have a medical certification exam to cram for, it might seem to make sense to skip the sleep and utilize that time to study, but sleep is necessary for effective studying. If you are sleep-deprived, you are more likely to be distracted and spacey, reaching for stimulants like coffee and sugar, to just keep your eyelids from closing. According to a study by Pamela Thatcher reported by
Science Daily, college students who regularly pull all-nighters had worse GPAs than those who received adequate sleep. Short-term academic reactions to sleep deprivation include a greater tendency to make mistakes and delayed reactions.

2. You’re emotional

It’s inevitable: inadequate sleep results in uncontrollable emotions, but just imagine if you got no sleep at all. All-nighters can cause depression, anger, and frustration, which can all result in carelessness during exam performance. According to an article by the
Harvard Crimson, “normal events” create exaggerated emotional reactions in sleep-deprived students.

3. You’re gaining weight
Reaching for that extra late-night meal? Looking for a distraction due to weariness or sleepiness via some greasy or sugary foods? All-nighters are to blame. An unhealthy diet can significantly affect academic performance. According to “Sleep and Weight Gain” by Denise Mann, the two hormones involved in hunger, ghrelin and leptin, are the components of how sleeplessness and hunger are related. Ghrelin tells our bodies when it is time to eat, while leptin signals fullness. When we are pulling all-nighters our ghrelin continues to remain high, while leptin remains low, thus creating a desire to eat even when we are not hungry. Ever felt like ordering pizza at midnight? Ghrelin is to blame.

4. You’re getting sicker
Feeling unequipped to take your ACLS certification exam the next day after a long night of constant cramming? You’re immune system suffers without sleep, and you are actually prone to sickness.
All-nighters can raise blood pressure, cause headaches, heartburn, etc. Therefore, the pros of sleeping entirely outweigh the pros of studying without sleep.

5. You’re having trouble remembering
Studied BLS algorithms for 2 hours, but can’t remember a thing? Without sleep, this is bound to occur. According to Yoo, et al., sleep both before and after learning is critical in preparing the brain for new memories and retaining these memories long-term. So, if you have a BLS, PALS or ACLS certification exam coming up, it is crucial to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep both before and after studying.

We want to know: What are your favorite ways of studying for your medical certification exams? Comment down below!


Mann, Denise. “Sleep and Weight Gain.” Will better sleep help you avoid extra pounds (2013).

Yoo, Seung-Schik, et al. “A deficit in the ability to form new human memories without sleep.” Nature neuroscience 10.3 (2007): 385-392.

About Lauren

Lauren works as the Medical Educator for the Disque Foundation and has worked closely with us since 2014. She is a full-time student pursuing a BS in Biology at Indiana University as a recipient of the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship and hopes to attend medical school to become a physician in the future. She is certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and she is also a certified Basic Life Support Instructor for the American Heart Association. She stays heavily involved with health care in and out of her local community, helping plan and coordinate Disque Foundation events, teaching lifesaving skills to the communities and organizations that we serve and volunteering at her hometown hospital in the Birthing Unit.

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