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June 11th, 2021
It’s dangerous to skimp on sleep. So dangerous in fact that scientific studies that involve sleep deprivation are against the law. And because of this we don’t have good data on how much wakefulness a person can stand, but the evidence seems clear that lack of sleep will kill you faster than a lack of food, water, or any other bodily needs aside from oxygen. Not sleeping, is just, a bad idea. That being said, every once in a while an all-nighter occurs, and like many bad things, “every once in a while” probably doesn’t do any meaningful damage.
The all nighter carries with it a bit of a psychedelic experience. There seem to be inflection points past which the mind works -or at least feels- quite a bit differently. Despite nauseating waves of exhaustion, if the task is pressing with enough urgency, a focus pushes through and dominates. This is pretty strange if placed next to the regular old day when beset with an ordinary amount of work. Despite being well rested and far better equipped mentally to tackle a task, we can while away the time. Perhaps there is an added desperation caused by those waves of exhaustion that add to the larger need to get the task done.
It begs the question of whether or not we have enough pressure during the average old day. Now for most, this is going to equate to an ambient and pernicious aura of stress. What? More pressure? Are you kidding? As with so many thing it’s not a matter of absolute quantity, but an issue of quality. For example it’s certainly very difficult to deadlift a lot of weight and it’s also very difficult to deadlift a bunch of weight with terrible form. It’s quite arguable to say that it’s harder to deadlift a bunch of weight with bad form because in that case you may actually be doing damage to the body, which brings it into an entirely different category of stress. The point is: perhaps we don’t funnel, filter and transform our daily amount of stress into the best forms?
The casual and probably quintessential form of this is spending hours dreading a certain bit of work, procrastinating the whole time, and then finding that it turns out the work is quite simple, easy, and quick and then pondering curiously about all that unnecessary stress that preceded it. Would life for this situation not be better if there’d been just a little bit more pressure to get it done faster? Is is possible that this would mean less total stress in the long run? Quite possibly.
The strange thing about stressful periods that involve all nighters is that we often look back on them fondly. See, a little secret about happiness is that it’s not all fun and games. We confuse happiness and comfort, and happiness actually requires a good deal of discomfort in order to activate in the soul. Comfort hard won turns into happiness, but comfort without struggle often just makes space for anxiety.