Sunday, July 5, 2009

So it's 3 am right now...

Sleep deprivation. It's an important topic. Just go to the Wikipedia page on the topic and you'll find some supposed effects of it that are frightening enough to keep you awake for a while.

Yet sleep deprivation is basically a fact of life for university students. For some, it's a point of honor to stay up late (this usually goes with the mantra "sleep is for the weak"). Others are pressured into staying up to finish assignments, cram for tests, or play World of Warcraft. But the fact remains, you cannot function well when tired. In fact, I don't think I can finish this blog post right now. Seriously, I can't do it... come back in ten hours and this post will be jaw-droppingly good. I'm going to bed.

<------- Nine and a Half Hours Pass ------->

Okay, so what did we just learn here? Other than I've lost the ability to stay up late in my old age?

Things become harder when you're tired. Assignments that should take two hours under normal conditions can suddenly take fourteen hours to complete (I have fairly reliable sources that indicate that this has really happened, but not to me personally... my record is about eight hours).

Can sleep deprivation ever help get things done? I think that most students have experienced a late-night essay writing binge at one point that felt remarkably productive. This is usually attributed to last-minute pressure providing motivation to work. You'll note though, that you only get that feeling with projects that have subjective marking schemes: math assignments never get easier with "last minute pressure."

I'm going to throw a wild conjecture out there: when you're able to write an essay quickly at three in the morning, it's not because of last minute pressure. No, it's simply a case of your standards dropping to the point where you become more focused on finishing the essay that doing it well.

"But," you say, "I got really good marks on all the essays I wrote at 4 a.m. the day before they were due!"

I don't doubt that this is possible, because I've also done remarkably well with essays written in the witching hour. There are times when you need to stop overthinking everything and just start writing, and if too much thinking is the problem, sleep deprivation can certainly cure that.


  1. Hey there,

    Are these your drawings? Very cool!

  2. Hey Taryn,

    Thanks for commenting! Yeah, the drawings used to be my way of livening up the blog without photographs (I was young and paranoid about internet privacy... and my photos really aren't that exciting anyway). They've kind of taken on a life of their own now.