Sleep PCP – Counterpoint

Posted on: October 10, 2019

Every university student seems to find themselves at the crossroads between studying further into the night (or early hours of the morning), and shoving their stack of notes aside to dive under their warm and inviting Ikea comforter. It may happen at 10:30 p.m., or midnight, or even 3 a.m. You may arrive at this fork in the path once during your career as a student, or every finals season, or perhaps even several times each night.

You might ask yourself: is it really worth it? Is that 50% of your grade that the linear algebra final counts for really going to matter in the end? Should you just succumb to slumber and resolve to switch programs after you hibernate for a solid 48 hours?

While that pillow may look, in the moment, like the gates of heaven, sleeping cannot solve your problems (not even your calculus ones!). It can’t do your design project for you, or help you to learn the steps to solve a physics problem, how only a grueling set of practice questions can.

No one can argue that sleep is not important. It is a basic human survival function that occurs so that the body can repair cells and regulate its energy usage, and the brain can transmit information from short term to long term memory. However, a similarly straight-forward argument can be made when we consider the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day.

A typical engineering schedule keeps any student occupied with class for anywhere between six and ten hours daily. Once we factor in the time it takes to walk to class, eat, socialize, participate in any number of extracurriculars, and involve oneself in the general mess that residence or living with roommates often turns out to be, it may be safe to say that the time remaining for studying will be limited to the evenings.

And often, those few hours that comprise the earlier parts of the evening simply are not enough to keep up with a full course-load. The phrase “doing the bare minimum” can easily lose its meaning in engineering, as “minimum” implies a small amount, and a very not-small amount must be done in order to even pass classes. And if you are striving for more than a passing grade, as many of us overachievers are, you will naturally find yourself needing even more time to thoroughly learn material and complete assignments.

One could even narrow down the debate between bed and the books to a simple visualization. Picture the most intimidating prof you know sitting down at their desk to carefully construct the most intimidating final exam possible. Seeing as you likely have limited time in the evening, and need to master a hefty load of content, cutting into the time usually allocated for sleep may be the only way to conquer that intimidating final.

But staying up late to study may also be a gateway to other exciting adventures. Looking up at the stars and plunging down a wormhole of existentialism, spontaneously having an interesting conversation with a similarly tired stranger, or simply making and savoring some much-needed microwaveable Kraft Dinner, are only a few of the quintessential university student experiences, and they are easily facilitated by the early hours of the morning.

Some of our strangest thoughts come to us in that delirious stage where the consciousness is fragile and the laptop screen has begun to stare back. Strange, unconventional ideas, however, are the driving forces behind the profession of engineering, which focuses on turning them into reality through design.

Now, it would be foolish to think that every bizarre idea that knocks on your consciousness at 2 a.m. is one worthy of an iterative design process. However, if you find yourself needing or wanting to study more for an upcoming test, why not open yourself up to the possibility of having these wonderfully weird ideas arrive in the late hours of the night?

Nonetheless, during that fateful minute, when your head turns from your notes to your bed, and you eventually come to a stare-down with your alarm clock, only you can truly make this decision. Only you can thoroughly consider your past nights’ grind, the difficulty of your midterm, and how confident you feel about your knowledge of the subject. Only you can decide on your priorities for the evening.

Consider, though, as you make your decision: studying longer will not only help you to learn more material, and experience the thoughts and adventures of a university student; it will also make the sleep you get at the end of hell day or hell week or hell month so much more worthwhile.

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