What separates morning from night? Not a lot in college.
I walk down the dorm hallway at around one. A few kids are in the study lounge on my right, hunched over computers with stacks of notebooks hiding each other from view. I hear a few doors close behind me and footsteps walking away. As I round the corner to my room I smell burning popcorn and feel glad that I missed what was likely another unnecessary fire alarm.
It was 1 a.m. on Friday morning and I was returning from my late copy editing shift at the newspaper, but in terms of the ratio of people sleeping to awake or studying to partying, it could just as easily be one in the afternoon.
When I was in high school 10 p.m. was my normal bedtime. I’ll admit that was probably on the early side, but it definitely wasn’t abnormal. Abnormal to me were those few and far between nights I’d return from a track meet at the ungodly hour of 9:30 p.m. and have to make tea in order to stay up until midnight to finish my A.P. calculus homework.
My parents would worry as they headed up for bed at the normal hour.
“Are you sure this can’t wait until tomorrow?” my mom would ask. “Could you request an extension? Sleep is important Jules.”
I would usually, sadly shake my head at her and grimace as I picked up my pencil to draw yet another graph. But sometimes, they’d have me convinced, and I’d decide to turn in anyway and leave integrals for another day.
A good night sleep came before all else.
But when I arrived at UConn, two and a half years ago, a whole new story began to take shape.
It became clear that sleep (at least not eight hours during the night) was no longer a priority for most of my fellow students. With piles of studying and the temptation of hundreds of like-aged and like-minded people around something was sure to steal precious hours away from night time rest.
Have an exam in the morning? Clearly, the logical thing to do was stay up all night studying, drink 3-4 cups of coffee and then crash afterwards. Who cares if you missed lunch and dinner – wings were available until 2 a.m.
Friends throwing a party on a Thursday? You could probably go and just catch a few zs before your 1 p.m. class. Why would it matter? 8 a.m. is a logical bed time? And 3 p.m. works well too.
Wanting just a little predictability in life, my roommate and I soon established the 3:30 rule. Or the forbidden hour as we endearingly called it.
It was totally fine to stay up doing homework, or whatever, until about 3 a.m. and it was equally acceptable to wake up around 4 a.m. to finish up some homework, study for that day’s exam (or in my case) go for a pre-breakfast run. However, nothing was acceptable at 3:30. Other than sleep that is.
My parents (and frankly any non-college student I talked to) thought I was crazy. “You stay up until 3? That’s crazy!” they would say.
But to those who lived around us the idea of the forbidden hour seemed crazy. For them, sleeping and wakefulness did not belong to any particular time of day or night. Both are normal at any time.
Julia Werth is the News editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.