For those who’ve become nocturnal

Author name
Isabella Kwai, '16

You know that feeling where you’re walking around campus but the world seems slightly hazy? Focusing on people’s faces hurts your head and you keep getting the sudden urge to shout words like ‘Pineapples!’ and ‘Jimmy Fallon!’

Don’t worry, you’re not drunk – or maybe you are, if you decided to kick off early tailgate. No, if you’re like me and you’re finding yourself doing the above on a daily basis, you’re just permanently sleep-deprived.

Let me tell you about my sleeping habits freshmen year – if anything it’ll probably make you feel better about yours. “Sleep is important, don’t skip out on it!’ I remember my professor declaring in my first ever class. I nodded solemnly and then immediately ignored her advice by pulling an all-nighter. I stayed up late learning new ways of cooking ramen with my roommate. Who knew adding a pinch of salt would intensify the flavor? I stayed up late developing the seductive dance moves I am now infamous for. (Bet you regret cutting this sexy body now, don’t you Sabrosura?) I stayed up late drugged up on coffee and desperately writing papers in Perkins the hour before they were due. And even when there was nothing due, I stayed up well, just because. Over the year, I averaged about four hours of sleep a night. Everything in life seemed so much more fun when done at midnight.

I have no regrets (except that time I stayed up to watch those cat videos - that was dumb). There were a lot of sweet memories created in those early hours of morning that defined my Duke experience. But as with all things, there was a tradeoff, and the one I made was bigger than I ever imagined. No matter how many mocha fraps I drank and post-class naps I took, the feeling of exhaustion was always there, waiting to overwhelm at any moment. Waking up in the mornings involved snoozing my alarm ten times before throwing it across the room and crawling laboriously to an ice cold shower. My grades were suddenly falling, I had a constant, hacking cough and people began to irritate me hugely. I was always late: late to class, meetings, even breakfast with friends. It was if my grip on everything was slipping slowly but surely away. I began seriously freaking out, afraid that I wasn’t good enough to at Duke. Why couldn’t I wake up on time? Why did I keep letting people down?

Why couldn’t I do anything right?  

For a long time I believed that I was a mess up and I truly didn’t belong at Duke. I accepted that I was inadequate in every way that counted. And then summer came, glorious summer with its eight recommended hours and optional early mornings. I realized that I could trace most of the mistakes I’d taken so deeply to heart simply to a lack of sleep. I found that everything is easier when that force of exhaustion isn’t threatening to collapse on you. That it isn’t normal to walk through everyday feeling like a zombie and hating anyone that’s chirpy. That while staying up has its advantages, sleep deprivation can and will seriously ruin your well-being and mental health to the point where your self-esteem hits rock bottom. No cute cat video is worth being at that place.

I don’t want to be that dreary parent that tells no you can’t get a tattoo, eating candy  rots your teeth, stop having any fun in life and while you’re at it, could you start sleeping at ten? Heck no - some of my late nights have been some of the best damn nights in the world. At the same time making sleep a priority this semester has solved many of my shortcomings. I’m so much more productive, positive and mostly stopped shouting weird things in public. Sleep is a wonderful thing: regenerative, refreshing and completely necessary to not go insane.

But if you’re considering pulling an all-nighter in Perks for the fourth time, it might be time to ask yourself these questions. Is it really, truly worth it? And if you find the answer is no, don’t feel guilty about climbing into your dorm room, wrapping the blanket around you and catching some serious zzz’s. Because sleep isn’t for the weak – it’s for people who’ll need their strength in the morning.