Who Needs Sleep?

“Yeah, man. I put it off to long. Nah, nah, it’s cool. I’ll just pull an all-nighter. Hand it in in the morning. Yeah.”

This is a phone conversation conversation I overheard during breakfast the other day. Everyone knows the university/college all-nighter: Red-bull cans lining the edges of your desk the spectators at some tragic car accident – horrified but unable to look away as you laboriously pound your fingertips into weary keys. The longer you type, the more typos there are, and the later you stay up, the less you notice them. The letters swim before your eyes, and soon you’re spending more time stretching and cracking your back than are actually spent typing.

The sun, grey and cold, slowly slithers in through the blinds and you try to bite back a jaw-aching yawn. It’s taken you all night and half of that weeks food money in energy drinks and coffee, but you did it. There will be no late penalties for you. No sir. You print it off, at this point too exhausted and fed up to bother with checking for more typos and grammatical errors.

Handing it in feel like an enormous weight has just fallen from you shoulders – it’s glorious – and it lasts until someone mentions the other assignment you have that is due tomorrow and suddenly that huge weight hits the floor, smashing straight through and down into the dark abyss from whence it came, dragging you down along with it.

And the worst bit is, once you get into this cycle, it is very difficult to get out of it again.

I myself have been able to get all my assignments in on time, but I won’t lie and say it was easy. I lost many a night’s sleep, gruelling over a paper with my little tin-can spectators and emergency espresso team on standby. It happens, and sometimes, even if you manage your time well, there is no avoiding an all-nighter or two. And the first couple of times, it’s kinda fun – just for the sheer novelty of it.

They aren’t so bad really. But then… then…

I got used to the late nights. And so soon I was staying up all night every night. At first it didn’t seem so bad. I got all kinds of stuff done, I was never late for class, and I wasn’t tired or anything. By the fourth day straight that I had been awake, I realized there was a problem. I wasn’t drinking any coffee, I wasn’t having any energy drinks – no caffeine or sugar of any kind, really. I couldn’t figure out what was happening.

Suddenly I was queasy all the time, distant and only semi-conscious during classes. At night I would lay in bed, feeling more awake than during the day, unable to fall asleep at all. It was… (pause for dramatic effect) INSOMNIA.

My sleep patterns got totally disrupted from all the late nights, and I couldn’t get one lick of sleep. In total, I was away for eight days straight, with one night in the middle where I’d gotten maybe three hours of sleep.

I finally went to a clinic, and the doctor recommended melatonin supplements. Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical in your body that regulates sleep. So now I’m back to a healthy sleep schedule, and let me tell you – I feel SO MUCH BETTER. SLEEP IS AMAZING.

The moral of this little story is that, while getting assignments in on time is important, and sometimes an all-nighter is unavoidable (and considered part of the “university experience”), you can’t get into the habit of staying up late every night. It’s not healthy, and you will feel and look like death itself.

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