After attempting to convince yourself to do work for the last few hours, it is 2:55 a.m. and you are curled up in a ball watching YouTube videos. At this point, it is too late to get a healthy amount of sleep and too early to attempt productivity. Only five more minutes until haunting hour begins — the land of 3 a.m. limbo. A little-known fact is that the hour of 3 a.m. includes its own alternate universe, full of emotions and thoughts only tackled by dreams. Thus, we begin the stages of 3 a.m. existence — starting with exhaustion.
Once 3 a.m. hits, biologically, your body is completely aware of the absence of sleep. Incapable of allowing the body to rest, you try to advance from this stage by numbing your brain with other distractions. These distractions can differ depending on the person. Some examples include exploring YouTube black holes or reading about dystopian futures — anything to keep you from remembering that the world isn’t awake, and that you are cheating the system. After finally overcoming exhaustion through excessive visual distraction, you are brought into the next stage of 3 a.m. — isolation.
Isolation is one of the worst stages, but a necessary one nonetheless. Completely aware that you are going to be awake and alone for the next few hours, the pit in your stomach starts to rise. Behavior during this stage includes staring into the void and/or looking at yourself in the mirror for what seems like centuries. Blankly looking at your features in the mirror at 3 a.m. sparks intrigue and wonder. A different part of your mind turns on at this point, full of intense emotion and a strange energy. The emotional peak of isolation feeds the next stage — self-reflection and nostalgia.
While examining every single life choice you have ever made as you stare into blank nothingness, common features of the self-reflection stage include journaling or visiting old pictures and papers. Every memory comes flooding into the present, and the need to overanalyze yourself becomes a priority. Not wanting this emotional high to fall, you try and grasp your thoughts into something concrete. Here we are brought to my favorite stage of 3 a.m. — inspiration.
With a mind full of color and light, inspiration causes an intense devotion to creation, typically practiced through physical art. By expressing this mindset through art, there is a need to prove to both the sleeping world and yourself in the morning that you are capable of such thoughts. It may be messy and overdramatic, but this type of art is honesty at its finest. After all of your mental energy is used up and every ounce of creativity has been squeezed out, you start to wind down as you enter the last stage of 3 a.m. — hunger.
At this point, time hasn’t existed for what seems like hours and you have no idea when you are supposed to sleep anymore. So, you focus on your bodily needs and begin to eat absolutely everything. After all, there is an emptiness inside you at this hour that only Gushers and pizza rolls seem to fill.
Looking at the clock, it is 3:55 a.m. With a drained mind and a full stomach, you feel ready to start the day. The sun is beginning to rise, the world is new again and you may as well just pull an all-nighter. Excited about the decision to stay conscious for the next few hours (like a personal slumber party), you reward yourself by laying down for a just a moment — believing your mind has finally outsmarted your body. However, your body has one final say on the subject as it begins to weigh heavy while you lay down, ultimately pulling you into hibernation. Before you know it, you wake up in a pool of your own drool and tears, delirious, with only empty wrappers and abstract art to remind you of the morning well spent in isolated fantasy.
Ellie M. is a Confusion Corner columnist who thinks all-nighters occur in a series of mental stages and ultimately conclude in sleep.