Vain attempts to balance the sleep-study-socialise equation

A very Cantabrigian fashion is to pull all nighters — study all night without a single moment’s rest. What a terrifying concept, I thought with a shudder, until the due date for an essay crept up on me without warning. 

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It is 11pm as I am writing this and I am already yawning. For most people here, though, the evening is just beginning. The streets of Cambridge are filled with hordes of students in the middle of the night. They emerge from their hidey-holes like swarms of termites after a day spent indoors attending classes and attempting homework. There are drunken revellers lustily belting off-key renditions of Clarabella, or costumed packs off to a themed night at Fez or Cindies, the local clubs.

The next morning, everyone arrives bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to supervisions, seemingly having memorised the entire textbook while out clubbing. The question is, when do they sleep? Apparently never, like Edward Cullen. A friend keeps himself perpetually well stocked with caffeine tablets, so he can revise in the early hours of the night, and still have the energy to head for the party at midnight.

There’s a saying that students can only do two out of three things at Cambridge: sleep, socialise and study.

I can’t fathom how they do it. Long periods of wakefulness slowly turn me from a reasonably pleasant Dr Jekyll to a grouchy Mr Hyde with scattered faculties, even more than usual. I read somewhere once that you need nine hours and 15 minutes of shut-eye every 24 hours. This appealed to me immensely, so it is a principle I stick to religiously. Another, more reliable source propounded at least six hours, but I like the nine-and-a-quarter theory better.

Accomplishing this isn’t easy. Just as you’ve pulled the pillow over your head and blocked out the musical efforts of said revellers, the fire alarm is bound to go off. You must grimly brave the shrieking banshee’s wail, evacuate the building and assemble out in the cold. Fire alarms are set off, without exception, at the most inconvenient times – when you’re in the shower or when you’ve just fallen asleep. I’ve never experienced a real fire yet, fortunately; people just keep burning their toast at all hours and triggering the alarm.

A very Cantabrigian fashion is to pull all-nighters – study all night without a single moment’s rest. What a terrifying concept, I thought with a shudder, until the due date for an essay crept up upon me without warning. It was time to give the all-nighter a whirl. At 10pm, progress deteriorated steadily from bad to abominable and I wrote exactly five sentences in the space of the next two hours, with atrocious spelling and worse grammar.

A break was in order, so I binged on roasted cashews while watching an According to Jim episode online. By this time, my drowsiness warranted a short nap and I set the alarm on my phone for 30 minutes later. But I had accidentally left my phone on silent and managed to nap for the next 10 hours, from which I was awoken by our cheerful housekeeper coming in to empty my dustbin. Come to think of it, I’d say the dustbin’s the best place for an all-nighter.

The writer is an 18-year-old student at Cambridge who grew up in Dubai