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4 Reasons why 48-hour long Study Sessions are an Awful Idea

01/26/2012

These days all-night study marathons are as common in colleges as tent camping and mace. Maybe it’s because of too much heavy coursework, or maybe it’s just an increase in the number of party-hounds and stoners going to college. Either way, as finals week draws near, energy drink sales sky-rocket and large hordes of stressed-out students disappear into libraries and dorm rooms in an attempt to cram an entire semester of studying into a single weekend.

For reasons that are not party or drug related, I recently vanished from civilized society to conduct my own last-minute, 48-hour long study binge. (And in this case, I feel that “binge” is an appropriate word to use, since I was staggering like a drunk by the end of it.)

But just in case anybody else out there is thinking that sleep deprivation sounds like a great way to condense your education and get some extra free time… let me give you four good reasons why it’s not worth it:

 

1) Sleep Typing

College courses require tons of writing, and if you’re in grad school chances are that 90 percent of all your work is writing papers. In fact, if your finals week consists of only multiple-choice tests with a few short answer questions… you’re still in your academic toddlerhood. Come back when you’ve hit intellectual puberty.

But we veterans know, any real college course is going to require you to produce at least 30 pages of hard-core, thoroughly sourced, deeply insightful, academic brain-candy… Because if the professor thinks that your paper lacks depth, you might as well start filling out the McDonald’s job application now.

... This poor girl's thesis paper suffered from a genetic fallacy.

 

But sleep deprivation is the kiss of death for your award winning thesis. The reason: Micro Sleeps.

There is a point at which your brain is so desperate for sleep that it will suddenly shut off entirely, and go immediately into a dream state that can last anywhere from a half a second to 30 seconds… and you are completely unaware it’s happening. I’m not making this up.

...in fact, I think this could explain a lot about American politics.

 

I seriously dealt with this. I would be writing a paper, meaning to type something like,

“Therefore these passages cannot support this alternate hypothesis.”

But when I finished typing, I would look and realize what came out was

“Therefore these Cheeznips are stale and cannot support this effort to shoes when I get theessssssssssssssssssss…………….”

My Cheeznips were stale… but I doubt that would impress my profs. When I proofread my work before turning it in, I found several other insane statements in my paper. Hopefully I didn’t microsleep while I was fixing them. But at least I’m not the only one who has done this.

 

2) Psychosis

If you do decide to forgo sleep, nothing really happens the first night except a lot of yawning. The next day gets a lot harder, but you’re still your normal self… only now you’re doing a constant bleary-eyed head bob, like a semi-conscious Butabi brother.

...Only more tired... and less idiotic.

 

But there comes a point when you get so tired that the boundaries or reality start to blur. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they get wavy. Because at some point in the last half of my study marathon, my computer screen began to look like the surface of a rippling pond. I almost felt like I should be able to put my arm through it like a watery portal into cyberspace.

As if that wasn’t enough, my office began to seem like it was filled with sunlight. Every few minutes I would pause to be amazed at how bright my office was, and wonder about the sunlight coming in through the window behind me… and then I’d realize that there are no windows in my office… and that it was dark outside…. and that I had already paused to consider this amazing sunlight 15 times in the last few hours. It was not a comforting experience.

...this was me at about 2:45am... by 4am there was an orca... and Michael Jackson music.

 

And finally, to top it all off, there was the constant traffic of phantom people and animals walking by outside my office door. Every time one of them walked by, I couldn’t help turning my head to look. Of course nothing was ever there, making me even more concerned for both my sanity and the quality of the writing being produced by my dysfunctional brain.

 

3) The Third Wind

You know that moment when you’re staying up late, where you magically go from being nearly comatose to feeling like you could stay up for at least five more hours? It usually happens around the same time that every lame joke becomes hilariously funny, and it’s commonly referred to as your “second wind.”

Well, it wears off… big time. Somewhere around 7am the next morning, your second wind blows you right into a brick wall.

But if you can just hang on until the 35th hour of being awake, something else magical happens. I call it the “third wind.” (I know… how did I ever come up with that?) This third wind is a lifesaver if you need to concentrate, but there’s also something very wrong about this experience.

This is pretty much the perect illustration...

 

The way I see it, the second wind is your body tapping into some reserve source of energy when it realizes that you are bent on getting more junk done tonight. But the third wind is your brain getting so crazy tired, that it just stops feeling things… such as your need for sleep.

When you hit this third wind, your brain has finally realized that you never intend to sleep ever again. It has been screaming at you to GO TO SLEEP! for about 35 hours now, and has finally given up in defeat. You’ve won, and now your brain is preparing to destroy itself to meet your demands.

But the idea that your brain can just give up asking for sleep is too scary to even imagine. How can you trust your brain to do anything right at that point? I mean, your brain could do some crazy and horrifying things to you… like suddenly decide to make you into a Justin Beiber fan…

…still think staying awake is a good idea?

 

4) Post Study-binge Brain Drain

Even if you’ve never been drunk, we all have a pretty good idea what it’s like… just imagine the biggest migraine possible that starts first-thing when you wake up. Well, post study-binge brain drain isn’t quite that bad, but I think it’s probably close.

For the next two days after my study-binge, I was nearly useless. I was able to sit at a desk and work… and accomplish next to nothing. And talking to me for those two days was probably as stimulating as watching the World Ice Fishing Championships.

...once again... the perfect illustration.

 

Plus there was the pounding pain in my face for two days. It was so bad that I even felt irrationally tempted to pound my fist into my forehead, on the off chance that it would send the pain toward the back and feel more like a normal headache. As a result, I was either walking around with a pathetic expression of misery, or I was punching myself in the face like a moron.

 

In short, I spent the next week trying unsuccessfully to not be a useless idiot. If that sounds like something you would like to try, be my guest. But I would suggest a different strategy… one that involves more forethought and sleep… and less face pain.

 

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