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burn the midnight oil? no.

“What we think might be happening is, there’s a problem for the night owl who’s trying to live in the morning lark world” - Kristen Knutson.

Do you know the feeling when you realise that you screwed up? Somehow, you have managed to mess things up so much that every morning, the only thing that makes you leave the bed is that you have to go to the kitchen to make coffee.

I recently realised that I often get this feeling, especially when I am rudely reminded that it’s the morning after yet another all-nighter. AND do you know how I get this reminder? Every single morning?

At 5 am, bells start ringing around my house ( you see, there are three places of worship nearby, all belonging to different religions). And I get maybe 3 hours of sleep. The current average is 4.5 hours every day. I scrounge through the day looking for a few hours of peace and quiet, but it's tough given that I like to read, watch movies, listen to music, dance, do makeup, cook, and live my life between 2 and 5 a.m. But I guess I forget to… sleep.

I like sleep. I love it. But when I was younger, it was clear that one must burn the midnight oil to be successful. Whether it may be wearing our dark circles like medals of hard work or being competitive of how little sleep one had the previous night. We have done it all or at least witnessed it. Just as it seems, suffering is the measure of commitment.

I have always been an early riser. When I hit puberty, I graduated into being a night owl so much that, at one point in my life, I found extreme difficulty going to sleep before midnight. Now, it seems like a victory to fall asleep after 3 am without any pain or guilt. Early mornings were my sacred hours - the ones where I could get the most work done in the least amount of time. But I can’t wake up early!

For the last few years, I have realised that my internal clock is starkly different from what it needs to be, given my daily schedule. You see, it has taken me time, but I have learnt that sleep is essential, and I can’t compromise on it. But inevitably, every night, I feel guilty picking sleep over any pending tasks, no matter how productive I’d been during the day. I wonder why 7 hours of sleep feels like a reward? But it does. I DON’T THINK IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO THAT. IS MY BRAIN BROKEN?

The year is 1995. At that time, we discovered how the brain functions and processes information. It became clear that we had underestimated the importance of sleep and why people can’t be productive after so little sleep.

We use various tools to keep ourselves awake to be more productive. Every day, we compromise sleep because the world has conditioned us so. It may not be in our best interest, but we do it over and over again.

I recently met a person, who’s now a friend, when we were working together on a project she told me she couldn’t come to a meeting at 9 pm. My first instinct was to ask, is everything okay? I am not sure you realise what it means. There are times when my day starts at 10 pm. But her answer genuinely shook me to the core. “No, I just need to sleep.”

Do people still go to sleep at 9 pm? Apparently so.

It seems unbelievable, to be honest. But maybe I’m just jealous.


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