If you’re an insomniac with nothing to do at dawn, Goleta’s Evergreen golf course is a great place to unwind. No lines, great weather, birds chirping. My Frisbee disk arched away from the hole, and I cursed at the managing editor, Curtis.
“I told you my coordination is shot after 24 hours without sleep!” Curtis was also exhausted, and he drove his disk into a tree. Little kids with backpacks snickered at our sorry opening drives and taunted, “It’s tooooo earrrrlyyyy for Frisbeeeeee golfff.”
“Not if you don’t sleep,” I said. The kids shut up.
The sun was just a blob behind a thick, gray marine layer. This was my ninth all-nighter of the quarter. Dead Week and finals still loomed. Nine quarters in college has schooled me; I am a professional insomniac.
After a night of heavy partying and low-wage work, a dawn round of Frisbee golf would seem like a doomed venture. Medical studies say cognitive ability drops 25 percent for every 24 hours without sleep. The areas of the brain hardest hit are always the higher mental functions like critical thought and analysis. But as I said, I am a professional. I golfed at my peak – five over par – while Curtis’ disks strategically homed in on trees, shrubbery and murky ponds. He attempted to give up on the 17th hole, but I made him finish.
My personal sleep-deprivation experiment carried on through Friday with a term paper, a nice swim, a literature class, a sloshball game and a DP party. When I was escorted to bed that night I had logged 42 hours of consciousness.
College students are often crippled due to lack of sleep, and one’s ability to function can mean more than a better grade; lives are on the line. The first thing to go when you’re missing sleep is the brain’s bullshitting ability – vital for finals. But more severely, sleepy drivers between the ages of 18-24 cause over 100,000 car accidents a year. The mean age for a sleep-related accident is 20.
Studies on Army Rangers – who averaged 3.2 hours of sleep a day for 56 consecutive days – showed a man is capable of marching, answering simple questions and shooting a gun through the fourth day of consciousness. Veteran Rangers call the bone-tired students “drones,” though. They can do little more than march and kill. Keep this is mind when one of your friends laments about how he was up “for, like, five straight days, man, I was totally hallucinating during the exam.” Call the exaggerator on it. His blue book would look like gibberish.
There are tried and true methods to stave off passing out from shear exhaustion. The Army recommends 600-800 milligrams of caffeine, which is equivalent to eight cups of coffee. Professional insomniacs skip the No-Doz for quality pharmaceutical uppers like fentermin or Ritalin, available over the counter at your local Mexican farmacia just south of the border. A potent caffeine/Ritalin/carbo combo can put you in the test zone even after 40 hours without sleep.
Keep in mind, the most restful sleep you get happens at the beginning. Seek out catnaps, but beware of lion naps. In the end, building up a tolerance to exhaustion is key. My personal record is 90 hours without sleep while traveling from Amsterdam to Santa Barbara. Due to three years at the Nexus, I now poop longer than most people’s notions of all-nighters.
With that said, I’ll end my column year with a funny anecdote.
I once knew a man who stayed awake for 96 consecutive hours, hallucinating on psilocybin mushrooms. The impressive feat of endurance and depravity ended tragically in hour 97, when he introduced himself to a uniformed Isla Vista Foot Patrol deputy. He asked the deputy if he wanted to buy any drugs. The deputy said yes, and my friend was taken to a place for crazy people.
Let that be a life lesson to us all. Lack of sleep + uppers = success. Lack of sleep + ‘shrooms = crazy home.
Enjoy your finals.
Senior David Downs is due for a massive R.E.M. rebound featuring fantastic neon fantasies of Fortune and Glory. His column runs Wednesdays.