A couple of weeks ago I promised to myself that I would stay awake until my I.T. coursework was finished. I ended up working from 6 p.m. , way past midnight, had a break for some munchies about 4 a.m., ran a final spell-check at about 9.30 a.m., printed it, and was in college for 10.30 a.m. I had a 10 minute nap during a free in the afternoon, was rudely awakened by the head of year, and remained awake until 9.30 p.m. All in all I was awake for around 38 hours. Why wasn’t I tired?
I figured that the longer you are awake, logically the more tired you must become. At 12 I’d be groggy, 1.30 lethargic and 3.30 a practical zombie. But actually, as the night progressed I felt less and less tired and more productive.
The little taskbar clock reads 00:57. I told my girlfriend I would have to leave lest I inadvertently drop off on the keyboard and write a 125,000 character thesis on sleep deprivation consisting mostly of the letters G, F and J (again), but actually I feel perfectly alert. Turns out that, according to this excellent article on sleep, your body doesn’t actually make itself feel tired because you need to rest. In reality, you feel drowsy because your circadian rhythm (read: body-clock) wants you off in order to perform some mental housekeeping.
You could, in fact, get by on just 3 hours of sleep per night. Your capacity for learning and remembering will be reduced to something akin to Bernard, my adopted moth who has been attempting to immolate himself on my ceiling light for 20 or 30 minutes now, but it’s possible. But your body won’t thank you for it.
(Cartoon thoughtfully borrowed from pbs.org)