The first thing you notice is that the guy one row in front of you and to your left keeps squinting. That’s fine. Maybe he just can’t read the professor’s handwriting. But then you notice that his head keeps nodding a little bit…and now he’s leaning back and stretching his neck. Now he’s looking at the clock, and you can just hear him thinking, “Twenty-five more minutes? How am I going to make it?” You see his elbow come up on the desk while his hand ever so stealthily shades his eyes from the teacher’s stare. Then finally, just when you think he may just make it, his head lurches forward. Careening towards the desk, it gathers momentum until BAM! His chin bumps into his chest and his head flies back up. His eyes are wide and fearful. The look of horror on his face almost makes up for you having a 9 am lecture class.
Honestly, there is something about watching random people fall asleep in class that never gets old for me. Maybe it’s because I get an ego boost for successfully fighting my own urge to just rest my head in the crook of my elbow. It could be because I love to dramatize their internal struggle to stay awake for my own entertainment. Mostly, I just find it funny to watch everybody fight so valiantly, and yet, so fruitlessly, against that undefeatable villain we call Exhaustion. The bottom line is that the “You Can Only Pick Two” triangle of “Enough Sleep,” “Good Grades,” and “Social Life” is not so much a joke as it is a reality for college students. And while some of us are better at juggling their workloads than others, we all experience the need to crash in class at least once a semester. The only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that we are not suffering alone. We take comfort in our unspoken camaraderie. And if we don’t take comfort, we can at least have a laugh at the expense of those few students who lose the struggle to stay awake.
I want to make it clear that I am not judging borderline narcoleptic college students. As a diehard procrastinator, I have found myself in the same position as these kinds of students on multiple occasions each semester. And while I’ve never personally fallen asleep in a lecture class, I’ve on many cases wondered how badly it would have turned out. Just the other day I ran into my friend as she stumbled out of Devlin, blinking her eyes at the sun and yawning as if she were a bear fresh out of hibernation. When I asked how her lecture went, she smiled brightly and told me with a self-deprecating chuckle that she slept through the entire thing. When I asked her if her teacher noticed she just shrugged and told me that even if he had, she made great use of office hours and, besides, this was just a one time thing. Even so I decided to go around and ask a few people how they handled exhaustion when they found themselves particularly weary. Some of the most common answers were:
- Pinching themselves,
- Giving mental pump-up speeches,
- Sitting up straighter/Shuffling around on seat,
- Choosing a seat underneath a vent to keep themselves cold,
- Concentrating on handwriting/note taking,
- Tapping out favorite songs on the desk, and
- Just giving up and falling asleep.
While some of these are too unappealing to consider (I hate being cold and I’ll never surrender to exhaustion!), I definitely have been guilty of numbers 1, 2, and 3. My one last comment to make is that, although it is so obvious as to be useless, the best thing a person can do is get more sleep, even if it means falling a bit behind on an assignment. Personally, it is so much easier for me to catch up once I’ve recharged my body and brain. Plus, we all know how crazy people become when they are sleep-deprived. If they aren’t downright belligerent then they are emotionally unstable. The last time I skipped sleep to write a paper, I found myself tearing up in my creative writing class (I’m an English Major! I love poetry!). So do yourself a favor, people, and try to get some sleep.