Cherwell

Why do students prefer all-nighters to sensible work hours?

10% battery left on my computer. Gulp. 0 words down, 2000 to go. Gulp. It is gone 12am (well, 12.32 to be precise) and I am in the library trying to write an essay for tomorrow morning on a topic I don’t particularly like without a power cord. Everyone has gone to Camera Tuesdays (when did people start going out on Tuesdays?) and I am all-alone. Life’s a bummer. Oh, and f***, I have a blog to write.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about the above is the fact that most students reading it would have little sympathy. They, after all, have been in far worse predicaments. They have worked until 3am before or have pulled an all-nighter. Working through the night is a commonly accepted fact for the sleep-deprived student who views them like a badge of honour, going around college boasting of how he pulled two all-nighters in a row. Oxonians, it seems, are night animals. This image fits into the whole work-hard, play-hard ethos Oxford seems to have going.

Yet, there is a reason why so many students at Oxford feel burnt out after only 8 weeks of work: such a lifestyle is unhealthy. It fails on all three fronts – social, academic and sleep (obviously). Let us first tackle the social aspect. For most young people, night time forms the culmination of their daily social experience. (Unless you are a rower who has to get up at 5.30 in the morning in which case a) this article doesn’t apply to you as you manage your time far too well already and b) give up – there is more to life).  Why, therefore, would you want to eat into it by doing work, which you could have done in the daytime instead of Internet shopping? From my present personal experience, there is nothing more depressing than seeing all your friends have a good time whilst you needlessly slog away in the library.

In the academic world, such a lifestyle screws you over even more. After the bewitching hour, people stop to concentrate properly and what might have taken 20 minutes in a post-noon high now takes 2 hours in a post-midnight low. What is more, the bullshit you produce burning the midnight oil is not even good bullshit – it rarely makes sense, often lacks coherence and is littered with spelling errors. That lie you tell your bleary eyed self when you finally go to bed – you know the one where you kid yourself into thinking that you will carry out a meaningful edit of your masterpiece in the morning – is just that, a lie, and it requires a rare character to do anything more than correcting the odd misuse of the colon before sending it off in the morning.

In some senses, this is a pointless blog post to write. Very few people mean to stay up all night, they just are forced into that situation through sheer laziness. I am not going to kid myself into thinking that what I have written will change anybody’s working patterns. Anyway, people who do manage to do all their work ridiculously early exist only to be antagonized as people we love to hate. I probably would not even take my own advice. However, if you take away one thing, take away this: much like getting hammered, essay crises are not things to be proud of.