In August 2007, I went three days without sleeping. I was frantically trying to finish a film project before leaving for college, and with time running out, my friends and I shut ourselves inside a windowless room and edited digital video for 60 hours straight. “This shot is overexposed and jittery,” I remember complaining to a friend. “It’s perfectly fine,” he responded. I then realized that my friend too was overexposed and jittery. As I looked around the room, the walls and desk were having similar problems. “It’s been a long night,” I sighed. “It’s 5 p.m.,” said my friend, his soft face flickering like a scented candle.
Now, I reflect on that memory with a tired nostalgia. This semester, I’ve essentially stopped sleeping. Sure, I get a good four hours every few nights, but for the most part, all-nighters have become all-righters. I feel like sleep and I have recently had a dramatic but amicable break-up; we spend less and less time together, I’m increasingly jealous of others who get sleep, and, deep down, I miss it, especially late at night.
This was not an intentional choice. Back in January, I was still going to bed before 4 a.m. But extracurriculars pushed Internet surfing back, and Internet surfing pushed schoolwork back, and finally, schoolwork pushed sleep back. My To-Do list steadily grew, not unlike an expanding down comforter. Books sat before me, waiting to be read, their faded covers soft like fluffy, fluffy pillows. Papers needed to be written, my blank Word document open and white as a linen sheet, my keyboard warm as that toasty spot in the middle of my mattress, empty coffee cups scattered over my desk like several small empty coffee-cup shaped beds.
As my brain began to feel the effects of this new lifestyle, I simultaneously began to love this new lifestyle. Doctors say eight hours of sleep is essential, but I’ll ask you this: How do you think doctors are so smart? If you said that they don’t sleep either and use that extra time to study, you have the same nagging paranoia as me. And I’m no mathematician, but it’s not hard to see that those extra eight hours a night increase your life-span by a third! Also, everything seems brighter and faster the more consecutive days you remain awake. And there’s nothing quite like the joy of finishing that last chapter of a book as your suitemate is leaving for breakfast. I tell you, that groggy expression screams jealousy! What’s more, the luminous, blurry people who work at A1 put a little extra love in the chicken Parmesan subs at 5 a.m. Another great thing is the sense of camaraderie I feel with other souls who are also up at ungodly hours. “Working late too?” I exclaim to a friendly stranger as I walk home from A1. “Give me your wallet,” he responds quietly, but with surprising force. And have I mentioned things are brighter and faster?
I will have to warn you: It takes a lot of practice to get good at hardly ever sleeping. For example, waking up after only a few hours of sleep becomes quite the feat. I now require a Three Phase alarm system to make sure I get to class on time. At 8:30, my cell phone alarm clock goes off. The sound is a high-pitched warble, as if an ostrich a cappella group was rhythmically shrieking. Unfortunately, these ostriches have become a common motif in my dreams and no longer suffice to wake me. But minutes after my arm involuntarily snoozes my cell phone alarm, Phase Two is initiated: my actual alarm clock goes off. This one sounds kind of like a plane crashing onto an island of out-of-tune violins, played by a symphony of those same ostriches, who are also singing along. I continue to senselessly bargain with the Snooze Gods until both alarm clocks hit that sweet spot where they emit one continuous drone. This initiates Phase Three: my roommate Marco, who aggressively throws a pillow at my face. It is now nearing 9:30: perfect! I take a quick bagel and scarf down a shower, and my day has begun!
Unfortunately, it can’t all be good. Like a 95-pound bench press, the negative effects of this lifestyle weigh down on me heavily. I’m finding it harder to stay focused. My roommate Marco is always mad about something. It’s getting difficult to blink without my eye-lids scratching my eyes. And my writing has become lazier than something else that is lazy.
“Will, I need to start getting more sleep,” I declared at dinner last night to my friend Will Stephen. “I’m Matthew,” he responded. “Will left 20 minutes ago.” I told him to stop joking around, that I was trying to be serious, but by that point he wouldn’t stop speaking gibberish and being blurry. So Will!
In conclusion, though there are many benefits to rarely sleeping, there are also many drawbacks. I’d elucidate my points further, but it’s almost time for breakfast, and I need to wrap this up.