Research has shown that poor sleep can negatively affect a person’s physical and mental well-being. But sometimes we need to prove things to ourselves by making poor decisions.
I recently stayed up for 24 hours because I wanted to know how depriving myself of sleep for a full day would actually feel. Maybe I could beat it, maybe I’d need less sleep than I thought I’d need, maybe I’d find out I’m a superhero who doesn’t need sleep. What happened, you ask? I kept a diary during the entire experience, so you can find out all about it without actually staying up for 24 hours yourself. Here we go!
8am: I just woke up from a dream where I stayed up all night and got tired. In the dream. This is not a great sign.
9am: To kick off my day, I went to a high-intensity workout class for an hour. This was a mistake for many reasons, the most immediate being that I’m very out of shape, and I want a nap right away. Isn’t working out supposed to make you feel energized? Off to grab a coffee for some manufactured energy!
3pm: I just recorded my podcast (when you move to LA you have to start a podcast). I feel great. I only mentioned that I’m staying up 24 hours five or six times while “on the air” (a little podcast term originating in radio; maybe you’ve heard other audio professionals use it). I’d compare this 24 hour marathon to when people can’t stop talking about doing CrossFit or being on a juice cleanse, except I’m doing something clinically proven to be unhealthy.
5pm: I’m overdoing it with coffee and it was a bad idea. I have to slow down or my heart is going to explode.
6pm: The cure for too much coffee is going for a drink with coworkers. This is fine, right?
7:30pm: Well I had two drinks and yeah, I’m fine, but oh jeez, I’m not NOT wishing for a nap. Day drinking is not a good idea, especially when your day has 12.5 more hours in it.
8:30pm: 11.5 hours in, and I’m feeling great! This is easy. Bring it on, baby. My Facebook memories reminded me that eight years ago today I made a post that said “Sleep is for suckers.” I’m surely as resilient as I was eight years ago. I am young! I don’t need sleep! This confidence is surely not covering up a sleepy fear!
10pm: I did a wild improv comedy show where we played cavemen afraid of pterodactyls. After the show everyone went home because they had work in the morning, those cowards! Who will party with me all night?
11pm: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will party with me. Now is a perfect time to go see Skyscraper. Hot tip: Parking at the mall is GREAT at 11pm.
11:15pm: I’m having a very late dinner (a movie theater hot dog and candy), but should I pace this out even further? Will another dinner at 3am keep me going?
11:45am: The Rock can do anything. He’s climbing a bunch of crazy buildings and trying to save his family from this tall ass skyscraper, a seemingly impossible feat. What a king.
12am: Can you imagine the Rock with hair right now? Like, long, flowing, shoulder length hair. That’s fun.
12:10am: Credit where credit’s due, Neve Campbell and this cast are real badasses. I don’t fully understand the villains’ motivations, but I don’t care. I also forget what this diary was for. Now it’s all about Skyscraper.
12:30am: No spoilers, but I think this is the best movie of all time.
1am: I’m not a big club person, but maybe I should go to the club now? I just asked Siri about clubs that are open, but she’s not very helpful. Siri hates clubbing.
1:20am: LA’s hottest club is 7-11. They have everything: Easy Mac, energy drinks, every kind of gum, a man telling me I only have 40 more minutes to buy wine. You know me too well, wine man, but tonight I’m drowning my sorrows in candy.
1:30am: My cat is loving this experiment. He’s somehow both fully asleep on my lap and upset when I stop petting him. Must be nice, dude.
2:45am: I’m watching a show on Netflix about a couple that is renovating a boat so they can live in it. It’s not a houseboat. Why renovate a house that could float away or sink? This is dumb. I can’t stop watching.
2:50am: Now it’s the house of a guy who put a urinal in his basement. I have stopped watching.
4am: I’m bouncing back and forth between rom coms and superhero movies, while playing Civilization V on my computer. If I was this productive in real life with things that mattered I’d be a millionaire.
4:30am: I bet The Rock just woke up to go to the gym right now. He’s perfect. I will do one push-up in his honor.
4:32am: Push-ups are hard when your body is doing its best to just keep you from lying down.
5am: Ooh, my back hurts. This is no way to live. I’m also not hungry, but here I am eating chips. I don’t want any more chips, but they keep finding their way into my hands, and I can’t waste chips.
6am: My neck feels like a wobbly Jenga tower on top of a pile of empty cans (that’s my back). My neighbors are waking up at this time. This is an insane time to be awake. For any reason. Everyone who’s awake, go back to sleep.
6:30am: What even is sleep? Turning off your consciousness, but not turning it off, just letting it happen all casual. Consciousness just says “ok, I’ll chill for a bit.” How does that happen? Relaxation? I feel tense as hell. Maybe this is how I’ll feel forever.
7am: This is just who I am now. I have transcended tired. I might feel good? I could maybe go to the gym? I mean, I won’t, let’s not be crazy, I’ll die. Maybe I’ll go for a walk?
7:15am: I take that back. I feel bad and wildly uncomfortable. I’m foggy, woozy even. My back is angry.
7:35am: If I don’t concentrate, I go cross eyed. I’m so close.
8:11am: I made it! I’m even up 11 minutes past the 24 hours. Is that a world record? Gotta be. Oh dang, this bed feels heavenly. I just got a Purple mattress and this thing is legit. I don’t know if I’ve ever described a bed as luxurious, but this one is. It’s like I’m lying on a soft, fluffy field. My back is so happy. I may never get up.
2:30pm: Good morning. It truly is. I’m writing this from my glorious bed. I’ve only had about six hours of sleep, but I feel incredible. I can’t sleep anymore because I want to make sure I get more sleep tonight. I want all the sleep. I still haven’t decided if I will get up or lounge here forever, but I don’t see myself staying away from it for another 24 hours. I enjoyed the adventure and my time with The Rock, but my brain and my back will never forgive me if I do it again.
So, there you go. I survived 24 hours awake. And, thanks to my Purple mattress, I seem to have recovered fairly quickly. But I’m curious — what tactics have you used to overcome sleep deprivation? Let me know in the comments.
Sarah Claspell is an actor & writer living in Los Angeles. She is a regular performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade with Cardinal Redbird and at the monthly showcase Asian AF. She has written for Drunk History, Ask.com and many live shows including Characters Welcome. Sarah is co-host of the podcast Everything is Rent, a podcast about the Broadway musical Rent, of course, and can be found on social media at @claspy.