The time is ticking. You have 24 hours to finish your 3,000 words essay that you haven’t got a chance to tackle. On top of that, you have two weeks left before your back to back exams.
You go to your kitchen, made some coffee and say goodbye to sleep.
Sleep has turned into an option for people in our age. Whether it be for assignment deadlines, exam week or even just another Friday night.
According to a report released by Sleep Health Foundation in 2017, four in 10 Australians experience some form of inadequate sleep.
Not to mention, the most sleep deprived people are in our age group, 20-24 years old.
It is no wonder that when I googled “how to survive with less sleep”, more than 70 million results came up.
People are trying to sleep less even though it is said that sleep is one of the three pillars of our health.
To know what’s in the mind of the sleep deprived, I talked to two students who don’t even aim to sleep for 8 hours a night.
One experiments with his sleeping habits, one unintentionally shifts her sleep.
Girvan – the sleeping scientist
When I say ‘the sleeping scientist’, I didn’t mean that he has a degree on sleeping and is doing a fancy experiment on sleeping. I just meant that he experiments with his own sleeping habits.
The reason why he does it? Cause he doesn’t like sleeping.
“Everyone says that you need to sleep for eight hours per day and you only have 24 hours in a day. So if you spend eight hours a day sleeping, you’re basically wasting a third of your day. And if you do this every day, you’re basically wasting a third of your life. I don’t want to live my life like that,” he explained.
He wanted to do more on his work and social life without feeling ‘constantly tired’. The thought made him interested in trying out different kinds of sleeping habits to find the sleeping habit that will work best for him.
And so Girvan began his sleeping experiments when he was in high school: squeezing his sleeping time on weekends.
“Back in high school, I had a really messy sleeping schedule because I want to hang out with my friends, but I still need to go to school and extra courses after school. I have so little time to sleep. So, I just stayed awake for the whole weekdays or slept only for two or three hours per day and slept for the whole weekend.”
He also tried out how long he could function without sleeping a wink. The answer: six days.
“By the time you reach six days, you’re physically and mentally exhausted. People will be talking to you and you’ll just say something gibberish. In the end, you’ll just drop dead.”
“It’s worse than hangovers. When you have hangovers, you have this really bad headache which you can easily solve – take some Aspirin and drink water. But when you don’t sleep, [the headache] is incurable, it never stops.”
“It also puts a strain on your eyes. My eyes turned red, really red. And I found it really hard for my eyes to focus on stuff. It’s just painful, you can feel the tension on your [eye] muscles. Ultimately, you just want to close your eyes.”
Another experiment is splitting his sleep up into several shorter naps – 2 hour naps four times a day.
“I found on the internet some people sleep for 15-30 minutes for several times a day and spread them out across the day. I tried sleeping for 2 hours four times a day – in total it would still be eight hours per day, the recommended sleeping hours. But it didn’t work out for me.”
Sleeping for several times a day didn’t help him save time, instead adding more time for him to get fully awake from the very short sleep. He found that it’s better to have only one long sleep every day, so he wouldn’t have to wake himself up multiple times a day.
Splitting his sleep also interfered with his scheduling because it’s harder for him to schedule his sleep and other appointments he had. He even missed some of his appointments because he overslept and didn’t wake up when his alarm rang.
“It’s hard… For example, when you slept for four hours yesterday, but you need to wake up after an hour of sleep today, how do you manage that?”
Girvan is still trying to find the best sleeping habit for himself. His current experiment is sleeping for eight hours straight from 4 am to 12 pm.
Melati – the sleep shifter
Melati didn’t intend to sleep any less than she normally did when she realised it was bright outside and the shorter hand of the clock had already pointed to six.
The light escaping from the curtain that morning has just made her lose all intention to sleep.
“Once I see the light, I feel like I don’t want to sleep anymore. When I see the bright light, there’s a switch in my head that says ‘I can’t sleep any more’,” she said.
That’s a daily occurrence for Melati. On some days, she has two sleeps, first from 6am to 10am. and then again at 6pm to 10pm.
“I like sleeping. Sometimes I didn’t realise that it was already so late and I have to wake up early the next morning. So, I’ll take long naps after my appointment.”
Melati doesn’t think that she would have any problems sleeping at night but for her long naps. Procrastinating on her responsibilities also made her want to do her work at the end of the day, resulting in a shift in her sleeping pattern.
“[On some nights] I don’t think I’ve done enough work for the day, so I push myself to do some more work. I think I should feel like I deserve to sleep before actually going to bed.”
However, given Melati shares a room with her sister there have been complaints about her unusual sleeping patterns.
“[My sister] has been complaining because of the lights. Sometimes I also print some stuff and it gets noisy. That’s why these days I’ve been sleeping on my couch,” Melati admitted.
For more information on why sleep is important for students, click here.