In my younger days (Hold on, let me go get my cane) I’d often pull all-nighters for various reasons. Sometimes it was because I was cramming for a test or completing a project for school… but more often it was to do a sleep adjustment. For a handful of years I worked a night shift from 5pm to 3am four times a week. However, one of the issues with this is that no matter how I start out, my schedule would always adjust so that I’d wake up at around 4pm, go to work get back at 4am, and then kick around until 9am or so when I’d finally get tired and go to sleep. This made living in the real world rather difficult; so from time to time I’d have to adjust myself for use in the real world.
This usually entailed staying awake until I collapsed at a reasonable hour, say 9pm. So really I’d only have to stay awake for around 29 hours before I could finally collapse into unconsciousness. And let me tell you, that point where you let yourself go to sleep after a prolonged wakefulness is some of the best sleep I’ve gotten. Generally I’d pass out right away and sleep for a solid 8 hours and wake up around 5am feeling great and prepared to rock the day. From there my sleep would be pretty good for about a week, or until I went back to work, whatever came first. But until the work came along and borked my sleep again, I’d be falling asleep around 9 or 10 and waking up around 6. Nice for a guy who’s battled moderate insomnia for most of his life.
But there have been occasions when I’ve had to push the boundary of wakefulness. When I’d have loved to pass out at 29 hours, but couldn’t for various reasons. One of these was an ill-timed sleep adjustment. We were going out to visit a friend for the weekend, and for some reason I miscalculated when Friday was. I think I forgot that if I’m up past midnight on Thursday, it becomes Friday… or something like that. All I remember, and I can say that I don’t remember a heck of a lot about that day, is that after being up for 32 hours, I found myself in the passenger seat of my wife’s car as we drove across the state to visit said friend. It was that day that I learned something: after I’ve been awake for 30 hours, I hit an energy spurt. From about hours 32 to 46 I was in a wonderland of excitement and anticipation. It was going to be a good weekend, and I had a 6 hour car trip to play one of my new DS games. Everything was coming up Taco! I kept the coffee flowing just in case I got tired, but it wasn’t an issue since I was Mr. Energy. It was all my wife could do not to smack me as I bounced around the car (figuratively) on our drive. Once we got to said friend’s house (now at hour 38.. something like 2pm) she and my wife had to go to a bridal shower and left me to my devices.
My devices ended up being to play my DS and hassle our friend’s cats for 6 hours while singing and dancing around her living room. I’m glad only her cats were around to witness that. Anyway, then 8pm hit; 44 hours awake. Friend and wife were getting back at 10pm, at which time we’d planned to game for a few hours then go to bed. 8:00 found me sitting on one of the chairs in the living-room, staring at the cat sleeping on my lap, and holding my DS dejectedly trying to gather enough ambition to turn it on and play something… or even reach over and grab the remote and turn on the TV. My energy burst had run its course and now I felt like I was dying. I can honestly say that before that moment I had not realized what being entirely bone-weary exhausted felt like. My entire body lost its ability to temperature regulate and I bounced between being way too hot and shivering with cold. I had dry mouth like I’ve never had before; and I kept zoning out and snapping back to myself without realizing how much time had past. By 9pm I couldn’t hold on anymore. I laid out the bed and decided to go to sleep. That’s when friend’s cats came alive. The first thing they did was to pop the air mattress with their claws; which was awesome. I have a moderately bad back, so sleeping on hard surfaces is a no-go, no matter how tired I am. I moved up to the sofa, at which time the cats decided that they wanted to play with me. They pestered me for a good hour (or at least it felt like that) before I finally passed out.
At 11 friend and wife got back and had to wake me up. I was sleeping on the sofa which was also the only other bed in friend’s house, being the least comfortable pull-out bed ever created. Still, dead exhausted I didn’t have too much trouble falling asleep; though I slept for about 10 hours, I still work up sore and tired due to my bad back and ill-designed bed. And thus I learned that my burst of energy was a double edged sword. It was great and euphoric when it pounced on me, but it drained me in a way that only hours of hard labor can mimic.
So we fast forward to the early days of Tron’s toddler-hood. A few months after he turned 1, he decided he didn’t want to sleep anymore. Tron’s never been very good about sleeping; something he probably gets from me. As a baby he’d rarely sleep for more than 5 or 6 hours in a day, and if you could get him to nap it was a small miracle. Until he was 1, like clockwork he’d wake up every 3 or 4 hours at night and want food; and again no real naps to speak of. With some restructuring and a few “hard-love” nights we finally got him on a schedule; which helped a lot since now he sleeps 10-12 hours a night and we can usually get him to nap once during the day… though napping is still a battle. Granted he still wakes up a lot a night, but for the most part he’s learned how to get himself back to sleep without us. Tron also groans, moans, whines, and cries in his sleep a lot; which makes it nearly impossible to sleep in the same room with him.
Anyway, around the time he was 15 months or so, he went through a phase of not wanting to sleep again. We’d put him to bed and he’d sleep for about 4 hours (around the time his parents were just settling down into bed to sleep) then wake up and throw a fit. He’d want to go out to the living-room and play… all attempts at food, water, changing, or what not failed; all he wanted was to be up and nothing else. So, we’d plop him back in the crib and let him scream his anger at us until he passed out… usually it would take an hour or two before he would finally settle down and sleep for the rest of the night.
Now, mix this with Taco’s insomnia and we can have some fun. It was a Monday in February when insomnia had hit me pretty hard and Tron was making a nuisance of himself. I’d been battling for sleep until about 1am when Tron finally woke up and decided he wanted to play. Since I was up anyway I pulled him out into the living room and let him go at it for about a half hour… the entire time he was rubbing his face and only playing listlessly; the sure signs of a mightily tired toddler. When he started to drift off while sitting on my lap and watching some TV with me, I was certain he was ready to tank out. I put him in his crib and he passed out… for about 10 minutes. He woke up again and screamed for about an hour before finally going to sleep. By then it was 3am and I was wired to the nines. So, I got myself ready for work and quietly messed around on my computer for 4 hours before leaving for a fun-filled workday as a sleep-zombie. I don’t remember anything about the day at work; but I think it was busy.
10 hours later I’m home again and feeling like death warmed up with a fast-foot heat lamp. I spent the rest of my day listlessly trying to maintain consciousness so that I could pass-out at a reasonable time (like 9pm). We put tron to bed and I hold out until about 8:30 when I decide it’s late enough and I had for bed; now having been up for 37 hours. That’s about when the energy burst happened. I was laying in bed, wide awake yet exhausted and wired to the nines with energy. My wife joined me in bed 3 hours later and I was still attempting to have every thought in the universe simultaneously… all with Toto’s Africa stuck in my head on repeat. I heard her fall asleep within minutes and was green with envy. An hour later Tron woke up and wanted to play. The night before repeats itself. Though he is clearly tired and in need of sleep, Tron takes a good hour of fussing before he finally passes out and sleeps soundly. it’s now around 4am and I know I’m not going to see any sleep again for the second night in a row. I make myself 8 shots of espresso which I nurse until work and make myself another 4 shots for the road. That day is one of the few days I’ve drank so much coffee that I threw up. Coffee, if I have way too much without food, upsets my stomach because of the acid. Apparently if I have way, WAY too much I just hurl and carry on with my life. I’m pretty sure I was busy at work, or at least something important was going on because I do remember that I couldn’t call in sick; which I would have being that tired, nor did I go home after beaning up at work.
So, once again I come home and am truly, utterly dead. I’d lost temperature control of my body and I’d developed a mild case of the shakes. I had no appetite and was suffering mild vertigo whenever I stood up or turned around too quickly. At this point I hadn’t slept more than a few minutes in the last 58 hours or so. I’m told that if you keep a person awake long enough they start to exhibit paranoid schizophrenic behavior. I can vouch for the paranoid part of that, at least. Around midnight that night, after having finally captured 3 hours sleep, Tron woke up again. I became absolutely convinced he was doing it on purpose. He didn’t want me to sleep because he hated me for some reason. He was a vindictive little toddler who hated his parents and wanted them to suffer for their transgressions against him. I would never get to sleep again because he wouldn’t ever let me; I was nearly in tears with my frustration. At that point my wife made me put in earplugs, which I generally don’t wear because they hurt my ears quite a bit, and I passed out again. By morning my psychological break was healed and I was ready to join the world of the living again. I was still tired, but more of a “just 5 more minutes” tired than the agonizing tired of the night before.
A few weeks later Tron’s sleeping pattern stabilized again and has remained fairly good since; though he does lose his blanket in the night sometimes and freaks out. Generally though, once you get the blanket back into his hands he’s good for the rest of the night.
I can honestly say that I’d never been as tired as I was that third night. 60ish hours of constant wakefulness is pretty painful and has some pretty profound physical effects on a person. I don’t recommend it at all. I also don’t have many solid memories past the first day outside Tron keeping me awake. I think the brain starts to have trouble storing memories once sleep deprivation starts hazing things up.
-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?