Everyone knows that majoring in Architecture is notoriously hard. I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say to me: “Oh you’re majoring in architecture? I hope you don’t like sleep.”
Of course, success in anything takes hard work. But I hate when I see people acting like pulling all-nighters makes them cool. Martyring your self does not make you hardcore. It’s unhealthy and unproductive.
All-nighters should not be glorified.
(Glad you checked out that video. I REALLY like the lighting I got with the sun setting. We had actually set up on the other side of the river first before we realized the money shot would be on the side you saw lol. We got over there just in time! You can see the light fading near the end of the vid. Clutch!)
At a certain point in the night, your productivity plummets. At that point it would be more beneficial to get some sleep and than to keep working.
Investors call this the “point of diminishing returns.”
I have noticed repeatedly that this point comes between 4:15 and 4:30 am. At the beginning of the night, when everyone is in studio, the energy is high and people feel like they can keep going forever. But as time passes, fatigue sets in and the tone changes. That realm of the night marked by staring aimlessly at half-finished drawings, mis-measured model pieces, and fingers sliced open by xacto blades usually seems to happen after 4:30 am.
So how do you act on the Point of Diminishing Returns?
1. Getting your sleep before working in studio.
Look at the work you have to get done and the time you have to wake up and figure out how much sleep you would get if you were lucky. Then after dinner, go to bed at 8:00 pm and sleep for that number hours and wake up at midnight, or 2:00am, or whatever. This requires a healthy dose of DICIPLINE. But that is a character trait worth developing. Then go into studio and do work!
This way you postpone the “point of diminishing returns” by pushing it, typically, into the next afternoon. (And don’t forget that it WILL hit you the next afternoon; this is just about buying time.)
Another benefit to this is based on Parkinson’s law:
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
When you have a hard deadline (the time the project is due) instead of a soft deadline (the time you would like to get to sleep), your brain will focus your energy and make decisions faster. If you give your self less time, by sleeping first, you will make it a MUST that you finish in that amount time AND your brain will be rested before hand.
2. Polyphasic Sleep Cycles
If you are going to be sleeping strategically, understand how it works.
Your body goes through different stages of sleep: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, and REM Sleep. REM sleep is the deepest. It is where you dream and encode information. It should typically take about 45 minuets to descend into REM sleep. Then you work your way back up to Stage 1 and go through the cycle again. Over the course of the night, you will go through 4 full cycles totaling in 2 hours of REM sleep, ideally.
Polyphasic sleep cycles work like this: Rather than getting all your sleep in one chunk of 8 hours, you can split that up into smaller more frequent chunks of time. Basically, you take a lot of NAPS instead of a full night’s sleep. Since you are sleep deprived, your brain will slip into REM sleep more quickly (this is called REM Rebound). You can, theoretically, train your body/brain to slip right into REM sleep, essentially, skip the first four stages of sleep, and only sleep for 2 total hours a day (in the most extreme approaches.)
There are several ways to split it up. I have tried splitting up my time asleep into 2 phases and it was an interesting experiment.
But it’s not for the faint of heart. Haha.
A Few More Pieces of Advice:
If you are going to take a quick nap, aim for 20 min. If you go longer than 30, you will probably be so deep in sleep that you will feel groggy and have a hard time wakening up. Anything less than 10 min is not really beneficial enough. 20 min is the sweet spot.
If you are going to pull an all-nighter to PRODUCE something and just turn it in, it might not be the dumbest idea in the world. But if are going to have to PERFORM, then it is. This means sleep before a tests is a MUST. I don’t care how unprepared you think you are. If you have some sleep your guesses will be better than your brain trying to function on no sleep. Period.
If you are going to pull an all-nighter or just stay up late, don’t forget that your body is probably accustomed to eating every four-six hours. You may slow down even earlier if you don’t get food. I always have a bag of trail mix or granola bars in my desk.
Sleep needs is a tricky topic to talk about, because sometimes your willingness to work harder than anyone else is the only thing you have to leverage. And sometimes you LOVE what you are doing so much that you keep going because you are in a FLOW STATE and WANT to do it; or you get lost in the project and loose track of the time; or you know you wouldn’t be able to sleep if you did go to bed. So my advice to “be careful of the limitations you put on yourself” goes both ways. Not going to sleep one night isn’t the end of the world. And of course, everyone is different, but they aren’t THAT different. Some people need 8 hours, others are good with 6. But everyone struggles with less than 4. It’s best to plan accordingly.
It’s easy to say, “just get some sleep.” But anyone who has experienced studio culture knows how hard that can be. It’s all about understanding yourself and having the self-awareness to know when you are being un-productive and when you need sleep. You need discipline to make hard decisions (like sleeping four hours and waking up at midnight). You need foresight to not find yourself in situations where you have to pull all-nighters.
You need a lot of stuff that’s easier said than done.
But struggling with all that is just part of the process.
Drew Paul Bell