Carpe Noctem


This article was first published in Echo, IEEE DTU’s Annual Magazine.

8AM. Eat breakfast. Concentrate on the food. It’s 8.20. Time to leave. Grab the bag. Walk down the stairs. Remember about forgotten keys. Run back. Get them. Get in the car. Turn on the ignition. Drive down empty roads. Try to block the sun out. Fail. Curse luck. Continue driving. Red light. 70 seconds. Contemplate sleeping for a minute. Decide against it. Good judgement. Green light. Continue driving. Straight roads. Car beside takes dangerous turn. Shout at her. Realise it won’t make a difference because the windows are rolled up. Reach college. Find parking space. It’s 9.05. It’s late. Run to class. Try to pay attention. Fail. Drift into sleep. Get jolted awake. Three hours pass. It’s 10. Nothing wrong with the watch. Run out for coffee. Run back to class. Survive. 1PM. Lunch. Talk. Laugh. Eat. Coffee again. Consciousness returns slowly. Drowsiness recedes. Eyes open completely for the first time. 2PM. Lab. Try to do practicals seriously. Fail. Laugh about it. 5PM. Another coffee run. Get back to car. Drive home happy. It’s 6. Watch TV. Eat fruits. Laze around. 8.30. Time for dinner. 9.30. Get to room. Open books. Try to study. Realise it’s boring. Close books. Open computer. New Game of Thrones episode. Start watching. More WhatsApp messages. Reply. Await reply. Converse. Facebook. Friends’ party album. 176 photos. See them all. Realise life is boring. 12AM. Headphones. Music. Full of energy. Feel alive. 1.30. Football. 2.30. Hungry. New Hide ‘n’ Seek packet. Empty in ten minutes. 3.30. Discuss football. Wish slow death upon referee and his family. 4. “Is there a movie to watch?” There is. There always is. 5. Tired. Want to sleep. Only fifteen minutes of movie left! 5.15. Progress with novel. 5.45. What’s that light? It’s the sun. Awake all night. No sleep. Force sleep. Fail. Manage a little sleep. 7. Alarm rings. Snooze. 7.10. Alarm rings again. Snooze again. Repeat. 7.45. Jolt awake. Rush to get ready. 8. Eat breakfast.

This has been my life since college began. Admittedly, some of these habits already existed in the final year of school, and they’ve only amplified since joining DTU. It’s unhealthy. I should be getting more sleep. My lethargy during college hours is evidence enough. It sounds easy, and it probably is. Falling asleep is the easiest thing in the world right? Hit the sack and count sheep, or make up implausible scenarios in your mind. Not for us nocturnes, or zombies as many of you prefer to call us. It’s not because we can’t sleep. Rather, we choose not to. Mostly because there’s so much to do, and it’s not just studies. There’s a reason I’m able to watch so many movies, watch football, listen to music, read books, catch up on TV shows and write useless articles like these despite spending half the day at college. The reason is sleep, or the lack of it.

Now, I’m not recommending this sleep cycle to anyone. I’m also not saying I’m unique in this respect. There are many who sleep only much lesser than we are told to and still function normally. The fact that you need 6-8 hours of sleep is actually a myth. Your brain needs two hours of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep (which looks exactly as spooky as it sounds), which it finds in those six hours. If you force it to, it will find those two hours in four hours of sleep, too. There’s just a smaller window now. I won’t bore you with details, though. You came here for reading an insightful article with life-changing advice (sure), not a scientific paper (wait for IOTA!).

You can adopt this cycle if you want to. Be forewarned! The initial stage is the toughest. Your brain will protest this sudden departure from schedule. You may not sleep for a week or two. You may also feel that the system isn’t right for and you’d be correct – it doesn’t suit everyone. You’ll certainly have bags under your eyes. Soon your brain will realise you’re serious about this and give in. Congratulations, you’re one of us. Have a cookie.

I would be lying if I said there weren’t any disadvantages. The weariness is an obvious one. You’ll also feel hungrier than usual, especially at night, and your cravings for chocolate and other delicious snacks will rival that of pregnant women. In short, you’ll gain weight unless you remain physically active during the day. You’ll also find sudden affection to coffee, and might spiral into caffeine addiction. Don’t. Caffeine is the most addictive substance in the world, so you might get hooked to it before you realise it. Drink coffee, but drink in moderation.

Till now, all you’ve seen is negativity. You find no discernible reason to stay awake unnecessarily. You probably hate sports, don’t even like TV shows (or watch them on weekends) and you want your beauty sleep. You probably detest coffee. All these are valid reasons (apart from hating coffee, that’s just plain wrong), until you realise that the advantages heavily outweigh the disadvantages.

When you find that you sleep less, you’ll realise you have loads of time. In today’s world, time is money. You don’t need special preparation to pull all-nighters anymore, because you pull all-nighters every day. When exam time approaches, you’ll find yourself with a lot of time to complete your syllabus, so you can stay awake all night on the day before the exam (because you study last minute anyway), managing to stay remarkably sharp because night time is your most productive period. You’re also tuned to stay awake during the day, so you can study in those times too. In short, you’ll find yourselves with many more hours than you believe you had.

It’s not just studies – it extends beyond that. As you progress through college life, you’ll get involved in societies and participate in projects that demand time. With great responsibilities, come many deadlines. And to meet them all, you have to work longer, harder and efficiently. Lower sleeping hours enable you to do all that. Sure you’ll feel physically exhausted, but mentally, you’ll be ready for any challenge.

When you begin to miss your long sleeping hours (you’ll know when you begin to day-dream about sleeping), there’s always the weekend to catch up! On Saturdays and Sundays, I sleep long hours and wake up late in the morning. Of course, this in no way makes up for the sleep lost during weekdays, but it provides the mental satisfaction of having achieved that good, long sleep twice a week and relaxes your mind. Two days of lazing around will do wonders to prepare you for the challenges that lie in the week ahead.

So go ahead, carpe noctem! Seize the night!

–Aditya Salapaka is known for not sleeping. That is literally the only reason people know him.

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