Late nights are par for the course of student life, whether directed towards the conquest of one’s workload or the procrastination thereof. Likewise is this sleeplessness accompanied by mentions of caffeine addiction, half in jest, the manifold obligations and pursuits of college life found nestled between banks resisting the physical demand of sleep.
It is easy for whatever rhythm in which you have been regimented for so long to disintegrate upon entrance into college, when in such defiance of our body’s natural tendencies towards this habitual unconsciousness, in such casual disregard for its sustenance via occupying labour or oversized cups of coffee. This is particularly the case as the charges of classes intensify towards the mid and end points of the semesters, where exams and studying take precedence in lordship over the mind, whether raking over the thoughts consciously or slinking in the background. Between the nights of cramming, the schedules of the subsequent days, and the general reign of anxiety upon all those concerned with their respective preparations, sleep eludes, and always at an inconvenient time.
I have pulled all-nighters before. I have spent days in nervous fervor, in uninterrupted and studious hours, trying to fit all I can into the spanse of time I had planned and replanned to allot myself to the given task. And often do I find it not enough for any measure of comfort and ease to be found in the work. I have spent eight straight hours writing final papers in one sitting, read whole books between the sun’s setting and its next rise, and even now are writing the draft of this article as it approaches 1:00 AM - sluggish in urging myself to stare the monster in its face, in confronting the deadline at reasonable, expectant hours. I throw myself into such work, an active and frightened shade of myself, pushed to such extremes of intellectual fecundity by the looming dread of failure. Obviously, on hectic days such as these, I did not sleep well, by any conception of a ‘healthy pattern’.
But what does it matter? Am I made any less successful when my well-graded papers are edited in the little hours? Am I to be reprimanded for finishing an article as the sun claws its way atop the horizon, when it has been observed to be the most-read on the website next week? I make a vampire out of myself through procrastination, through wanting to ink out time for myself not dedicated to either academia or slumber - I need more than this in my life, and so carve pieces out of the latter to drive recreation into my waking time. I do not sleep ‘well’, and yet I consistently perform well at my university - my unorthodox nocturnalism is neither a hindrance nor the unnaturality it is made out to be. My own schedule suffices for me.
Of the freedoms found in adulthood’s embrace, of the independence which is an intrinsic element within the college experience, this one is found understated. The idea that one’s hours can be set without regard for the sun is recoiled from, this instinct a relict of times where we were dependent upon natural light to see, antiquity which remains ingrained within culture at large, as pointless a construct as Daylight Saving Time. Classes can be taken at night, assignments submitted at three in the morning, and the world doesn’t upend itself, nor the body cave-in on its own flesh. What difference does it make when I sleep, when I eat, when I do my work - so long as I do all these things with some measure of consistency? Despite the aforementioned jokes of caffeine addiction and sleep deprivation which perpetuate themselves to a point of numbness within student bodies, what does it matter if the obligations of college enrollment are met?
And yet have I been always told a person needs eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. And yet the world is dead silent, grave pitch, in the little hours. I make these concessions yet find myself alone in my waking, alone in my industrious acts when everything else, everyone else, sleeps and dreams and escapes the gnawing demands that line up in a life. What rage a parent will show when their child is rowdy still long after whatever time they designate to be for rest, and here I am years later defiant still, as if I were unpunished when my body takes the brunt for the rest of my being. There isn’t a lack of logic to what we consider normalcy, there isn’t a lack of study to arouse concern around my habits, and I am not so ignorant and blind as to not concede some.
Ultimately, what I cannot disparage is that as a functioning adult, I need to be responsible for myself. All people are culpable for their own maintenance (or its lack thereof), in weighing their own decisions and risking their own selves to their own benefit, to their own downfall. It is easy to make arguments that college is my preeminent concern in my life for the moment, and thereby justify every small sacrifice I make along this pursuit towards a degree, towards actually starting the ‘full’ experience of a grown person, beyond education. But I need to recognize the consequences of such devotion, or my tendencies to use such as an excuse for spending my time poorly. If I don’t ensure I’m not falling apart, patching my physique and mind where it needs the cushion, the care, no one will.