The Cycles of Staying Up Late

I recently discovered that I’ve been passively testing out the neurological limit of my body every once in a while. Almost like a cycle that keeps going on.

The cycle goes like the following: I start with a normal routine of 11:30 pm sleep time and 8:00 am wake up time. Over a period of 2 to 3 weeks I’d be sleeping later and later from midnight all the way to 1:30 ish. I slept late not because I had something to do, but rather having a unexplained urge to discover new things on the internet, flipping through pages of hackernews and YouTube subscriptions, simply not wanting to fall asleep and end my day. Part of me knows it’s bad to stay up this late and do nothing productive, sometimes even not entertaining or relaxing. But the other part of me keeps telling me to stay awake and flip to another Tiktok video, reddit thread or whatever.

Despite of sleeping late, my wake up time doesn’t deviate nearly as much from the routine. I’m usually awake by no later than 8:45 am. I sleep less as each day passes. It’s like a inward spiral that once this started it’s very hard for me to stop doing it. I sometimes don’t even realize that I was taking sleep time away from myself. Even when I do, when it comes to the night, I just ignores my realizations during the day and keep maintaining my bad routine.

This continues until my body collapses from chronic lack of sleep, usually ending up with me getting sick, catching a cold, or suddenly feeling an unstoppable fatigue in the afternoon and evening. I’d sleep for 12 hours that day. The following day I’d back at my 11:30 - 8:00 routine. But, it would only be a matter of time until I repeat this again.

I’m not alone in this. It appears that this is a common thing for the unlucky folks of my generation [1] [2].

We are sleeping late these days not because our body is rewarding us with dopamine from the content that we are consuming while staying late. But more like we are trying to vent. Venting what though? Every day, most of our time is consumed by work, chores, feeding ourselves and fulfilling responsibilities. That short time that we lay on the beds is solitude time that our subconscious is seeking. Not going to sleep at time almost feels like a protest against the time taken away from our innerselves during the day.

It’s only when our body finally complains that we realize passively staying up late is doing nothing good for us. Taking a step back for a few days but ultimately going back into the spiral because there are no better alternatives.

Is it bad though? Almost certainly, it’s a common understanding that staying up late is bad for health and our bodies have been given us similar warnings as well. But I’m also glad that I get to repeatedly test (and perhaps improve) my limit. It’s time to adopt better habits and try something new.