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MIT student blogger Stanley G.

Sleep is (not) for the weak by Stanley G.

Myth: All engineers are insomniacs

This post is brought to you by the 20 hours of sleep I got this weekend!

Wait, that’s a normal amount of sleep to get? Missed that memo.

In all seriousness though, I actually do get sleep, usually about 6 – 7 hours a night. I know there are those people here that don’t sleep, but I am not one of those. None of my close friends are, and I think those people that regularly pull all-nighters are crazy.

As any neuroscientist (or your parents) will tell you, your brain does need sleep in order to function properly. When you don’t get sleep at night, you end up falling asleep during the middle of the day, you don’t absorb information as well when you’re awake, and you might say or do some things that you might not under normal circumstances.

This can be good if you are an extra imaginative type sleep deprived person like I was last Friday in working with my GEL team trying to solve different challenges in our Leadership Reaction Course lab that we did.

The goal was to use the provided parts to make air cannon to get a ping pong ball to within a taped square on the other side of the gym. I don’t suppose holding the PVC pipe like a gun/cannon is THAT creative, but I thought it was. Note my amused face in this picture. 

Or it can be bad when you realize that you said that the concentration of intracellular protein on your design project was 100mM instead of 100nM (something that I discovered on Saturday when showing the project to my friend). Not to worry, my MATLAB code has the right concentration in it, so hopefully my TAs don’t think I’m too stupid.

The point here is that engineers need sleep, and they also need weekends, if not only to catch up on sleep. No matter how hectic my schedule is I always make time to hang out with my friends and maybe do a little self-reflection. I haven’t worked on anything the last couple of weekends, but my relaxedness has caused me to now be more on top of my stuff now than I have been all semester.

If anyone tells you that less sleep will help, they are lying to you. At least try to take naps if you’re stressing about making a deadline.

I believe that the idea of engineers consistently not getting sleep is false. After all, there are only so many days I can get a less than optimal amount of sleep before my body revolts at me for being off schedule. A perfect example of that is one weekend freshman year, when I decided to stay up until 4am Saturday morning on the internet talking to my friends and then went to an all-day entrepreneurship workshop with guys from my fraternity (Alpha Delta Phi) that started at 8am. At approximately 8pm, I found myself without the energy to stand up anymore and fell asleep at a table in my wing lounge at Next House. When I finally got myself up, I hauled myself to my room at the end of the hall and proceeded to sleep for 12 hours.

But going to that workshop and talking to my friends was completely worth it! Thus, I think it’s safe to say that I do my best to use my stock of all-nighters wisely. I have been on dates until sunrise, but I’ve never tooled through the night without sleeping for a significant chunk of it. ;)