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Sometimes it’s “normal” to not sleep for days

By Pamela DirrPublished 9 months ago 6 min read

Have you ever had to stay awake for more than 18 hours? What about more than 24 hours? 36 hours? 3 days? What about an entire week? How do think you’d feel? How do you think you would be affected by it? I’m about to tell you how it has affected me when I’ve had to do it.

First, it’s typical for me to be awake for18 hours on a daily basis. It doesn’t affect me too much, and sometimes I don’t even get everything done that I wanted to in 18 hours. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Or maybe I’m just trying to do too much in one day. Whatever doesn’t get completed gets added to the to do list for the next day.

I’ve spent many days awake for over 24 hours. It was always usually because of work though. Or maybe I just didn’t have proper time management skills back then. Or maybe I didn’t have a good enough sleep schedule. I used to work for a company where I’d have to be at work at 4am. It was great because I’d usually be done with work by 2pm (unless I had to stay late, then I’d get out at 4pm). Being finished with work meant that I’d still have a great deal of the day ahead of me to get things done. And I would do just that. I’d run errands, go to doctors’ appointments if I had to; whatever needed to be accomplished that day, I’d get it done before I went home. So, what time would I usually get home? In time to cook dinner. Straighten up my apartment. Take a shower. Before I knew it, it was time to grab a cup off coffee and breakfast and go back to work. Things didn’t happen like that every day; a lot of the time I’d be asleep by midnight only to have to be awake by 2am in order to get ready and be at work by 4am. But at least once a week I’d pull the 24+ hours of being awake. Sometime those 24 hours turned in to 36 hours. When that happened, I even more grateful for my day off. Honestly, I’d sleep for most of that day.

But what about staying awake for an entire week. I felt like I did that all through nursing school. I know I didn’t stay awake the entire time, but there were a couple of weeks that I was awake for the whole week.

I was in nursing school full time from January 2010 until April 2011. I was also working full time. Plus, I was also injured part of the time (maybe about half the time) but I was still working on light duty. So, needless to say, it was an extremely busy, and very stressful, time for me. But I got it all done. On not a whole lot of sleep. I was in my 30s at the time. I don’t regret one minute of it.

I slept mostly on Sundays. I was in school Monday through Thursday (I don’t remember if we had classes on Friday – I think maybe just in the morning). Class started at 8am if I remember correctly and we were done around 3pm or 4pm depending on the day. Then I’d go home and get homework and studying done. Then I’d go to work a night shift (and I’d do more homework and studying on my down time). That was when I wasn’t injured. When I was injured, I worked after school. And then I would go home and study because I had no down time when I was on light duty because I was doing office-type work instead of being out in the field on the ambulance. When I arrived home from light duty work, that’s when I would get my homework and studying completed; many times, pulling an all-nighter. I remember being constantly exhausted. But it was only for about 15 months. And well worth it too.

Staying awake for long periods of time does something to you – physically, mentally, and emotionally. At least it did for me anyway. It has both pros and cons. Physically it drained me. I looked tired all the time. My eyes were always bloodshot. I gained weight because I was always hungry because I was using so much energy. But it also “taught” me that I can physically keep going when I need to (at least at that age) especially when coffee is just as important as water lol

I’m going to put mentally and emotionally into the same category here because they are closely related. Staying awake for days on end definitely affected me mentally and emotionally, but good and bad. As with physically, it also drained me mentally and emotionally. I would expect it to be like that with anyone. My brain was constantly tired, exhausted even, and many times I felt like I couldn’t even think straight. I became moody. I wondered of I’d be able to complete school and continue working full time. It was a lot to handle. But you know what? It also strengthened me. I kept telling myself that it was what I wanted. I made the choice for myself, and I was going to complete it. I knew that I didn’t want to fail myself. I set a goal for myself, and I wanted to accomplish the goal. I knew the only way to do that was to “toughen up” and not let anything get in my way. Even while I was injured. I didn’t let that stop me.

Could I have quit at any time? Absolutely. There were actually a few times that I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. But I’m glad I didn’t let those thoughts get the best of me. I made new friends in nursing school (a few who I still periodically keep in touch with) and they became such a great support system for me. We helped each other out. And they were always there for me when I need extra help (whether it was needing help undertesting what we were being taught or needing help physically doing something because my injury prevented me from doing something on my own), my classmates were always there for me. And I was always there for them too.

Do I regret any of it? Absolutely not. I’d do it all over again if I had to. Just making the friends that I made, made it completely worth it.


About the Creator

Pamela Dirr

I like to write based on my personal experiences. It helps me clear my mind. We all go through things in life. Good things. Not so good things. My experiences might also help other people with things that they might be going through.

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