19 December 2005

On Being Nocturnal

Posted in Life at 7:44 AM by Greg

An extremely long night at a friend’s house on Saturday, and my failed attempts to adjust for it, have thrown off my sleep schedule by around 10 hours and have given me some interesting things to think about in the past two days. I figured I would give this journal a boost by posting them here. (A condensed version of this weekend’s events is that I woke up at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, went to bed at 8 a.m. on Sunday, woke up at 1 p.m., went back to bed at 5:30 p.m., and woke up again at 12:30 a.m. Monday.)

The first observation I have to make is that the sun is really important in maintaining the regular cycle of going to bed and waking up again. It’s 7:15 a.m. right now, so given when I woke up I should theoretically feel like it’s mid-afternoon. But I don’t. I’ve been taking care of various things around my apartment, eating meals, messing around on my computer, etc. for almost seven hours, but I find I don’t have a good sense of how much time has passed. I’m starting to feel hungry (for the third time today), and the only way I can figure out if it makes sense to eat or not is by making mental calculations of what time it would be if I’d gotten up on schedule. To get back to the point of the paragraph, I think this is because the sun is just now rising. I’ve been living in the dark and have therefore been deprived of a system of subconscious time-cues (i.e. changing light levels) that usually provide a sort of informal hourglass to measure the day with.

I wonder what it would be like to consistently work a night shift and have your mental paradigm permanently shifted from everyone around you. The streets, even here in the city, are really quiet at 2 a.m., and this morning I had to keep ruling out any activity, like washing dishes or doing laundry, that might be considered semi-noisy by the people in the apartments above and below me. Not being able to carry out these normal morning activities, I suppose, only reinforced the odd sense of being in chronological limbo that I was talking about before.

It must be clear from everything I’ve written so far that pulling all-nighters is not my thing. Throughout my entire college career I probably averaged more than seven hours of sleep per night. It may be interesting to note that school work has never kept me awake for more than 21 hours straight, even as so many people here this week are describing 40- or 50-hour marathon programming or paper-writing sessions. (Apparently that’s the point at which the hallucinations start.) Even including the times I’ve stayed out late having fun with friends, I still have not found it necessary to surpass 24 hours.

So I have some work to do in getting back to normality as soon as possible; I can start by going downstairs to get the newspaper, which should be here by now, and then heading to the kitchen for an “afternoon” snack!


  1. Mark said,

    While I have been known to pull all-nighters and get myself up into the 30-something-hour range, that’s generally when I start making really stupid mistakes without a clue that I’m doing it, particularly as regards programming.

  2. Greg said,

    Yeah… for me that starts to happen around 3 a.m. if I’m still working on school stuff. Finite state machines start making a lot less sense at that time of the morning!

  3. Speckle said,

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Speckle!

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