Tab Tries: Staying Awake for 36 Hours

With most of Cambridge drowning in a mire of exams, revision and sheer panic, BEN DALTON sees if pulling an all-nighter is really worth it.

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The much a-feared first exam grows ever closer. A glance at any revision schedule will alert the common crammer to the mortifying realisation that there are simply not enough hours in the day. I, otherwise slumber hound, am about to take the 36 hour day for a test drive in a bid to demonstrate that luxuries such as sleep are to be considered superfluous at such a time.

Let us fast-forward to 10pm: the beginnings of a nocturnal marathon with a belly grumble of apprehension and a veritable platoon of red-bulls.


‘Man! Cock or ball?’ It’s Owain, trusty library confidante and part time contortionist. ‘Ball.’ I’m right, always am. Owain should really vary his game. Down slips the first can of Red Bull. Tastes just like promise.


Urge to bathe rising violently. A sip of my second Red Bull followed by theatrical and unexpectedly gassy exhalation. I have thwarted temptation.


The library’s atmosphere has kamikazeed into a downward spiral; the once maternal bookshelves now breathing eerie tension onto their undergraduate cohabitants. The sweaty grip of cabin fever is picking off its first unsuspecting victims.

The girl next to me is practically nose-to-nose with her apple laptop, pausing every now and then to ferociously scrub the screen with a moist paper towel. I decide she is to be called Marie Antoinette, and that it’s probably time to stop ogling her so owlishly. Is that Dettol she’s using? Maybe she would do my screen? Oh how I would love for it to shine like hers.


A casual meander downstairs to spend a penny reveals a dark secret lurking in the library dungeons. It’s a sorry sight; a second year medic has fallen prey to caffeine. Bush baby-eyed and twitchy-smiled, her palm unfolds to reveal her treasured booty: an energy drink going by the name of ‘CULT’ so high in caffeine that it is in fact illegal outside of Norway. This is a case of Gollum and the one ring that ruled them all. I make a mental note to hide my Red Bulls, lest she stampede upon them.


An apishly animated Owain suddenly brings to our attention that the hands on the wall clock are turning at an alarming speed. Marie Antoinette has reached for her iPhone to catch the event on film. The ambiance of wonderment is rudely shattered by Antoinette’s gleaming laptop which brashly announces its completion of a spyware check in an electronic shrill, as if jealous of the attention. Maybe it just wants to be cleaned again.


First bite of fatigue. In order to wake up, Owain and I decide to put our jumpers on our heads and pretend to be Mother Theresa. Oddly liberating.


Owain leaves for bed. He snatches up his books with a boyish glee, and I watch him bound down the corridor towards liberation; arms, legs and bottom up, down and everywhere, tumultuous and excited as a Quentin Blake illustration. I scowl after him.


Back in my room now. Things have turned ugly. Since the last time I wrote, I have experienced periodic shakes and have watched the entirety of Disney’s Tarzan. Posture of a roman column, I live in the mortal fear of slumping messily into a forbidden kip.


Help. Help. Let me sleep. Help. Growling noises outside my window?


Suddenly very awake again after coffee and stretching routine. I wonder what Marie Antoinette is doing right now.


Need to blink. I blink again. Slowly.


I wake up, vertical. I have missed my first class of the day. I eat one solemn grape and try not to blub.


Supervision. I look at the carpet and almost belly-flop into it. The sofa is softer than warm cottage cheese. Deliciously comfortable.


Cannot quite believe where I am. Apparently I agreed yesterday to give blood. Lying on a bed in the ‘donation paddock’, barely able to give the traditional thumbs-up to the rest of the Fitz blood-giving contingent, I feel like a dry sponge in a desert, about to have its very last squelch of golden wetness sucked out of it. Watching as my final poops of energy drain out lethargically into the collection bag, I wonder exactly how much of my blood is pure taurine .


Made it. Bed. This hasn’t worked. And worse: I haven’t worked. The 36 hour day beckoned me in with its gnarly, deceptively unproductive fingers, munched me up, and spat me out. Red Bull having failed in its half-arsed attempt to grant me wings, my peepers close. The 36 hour day is angry and hostile: I advise a wide berth.