Earlier this week my mother emailed me an article about the importance of sleep. After I got over the disbelief that she engaged in the archaic practice of sending emails even though we text 24/7, I slouched in a nice third floor-Perkins couch and opened the article. Essentially, the article reinforced what she’s been telling me ever since I told her I only get an average of five hours of sleep at Duke: college students do not nearly get as much rest as they need. It talks about college students needing long hours of deep rest in order to perform their best and combat unhealthy behaviors. The thing is, mom, I know all of this is true. Every day I tell myself that I’ll go to bed earlier and wake up later in the effort to establish a healthy sleep cycle. No matter what time I intend to crawl in bed or what time I set my alarm for in the morning, I always end up drifting off around 3 a.m. and waking up around 8 a.m. When that happens, I’m not being kept up by lingering work or attention-grabbing shows, I’m being held up by the process of making friends. 

Making and maintaining friendships during the day is next to impossible. Even a slow day here at Duke pushes me to my extremes. If I’m not sitting in class, writing a paper, or trying to meet my Chronicle column deadline, I’m running errands, doing laundry, or attending meeting after meeting. I consider myself lucky if I have an even an hour when the sun is out to sit and relax; and sadly, things don’t slow down when it gets dark out. The meetings continue, the practices commence, and the studying intensifies. On the best days, I manage a 30-minute nap. At worst, I’m running from place to place, racing through another day. In the midst of all of this chaos, I have come to understand the importance of sleep. But getting through day after day at Duke requires a strong support network that most of us do not have the time to cultivate between our first 8:30 class and our last meeting or practice of the night. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think a good night's rest is wildly important for any student. How I approach my day, my level of productivity and my dependence on coffee all improve when I get anywhere near the prescribed 8-10 hours of sleep. In theory, there should be nothing standing between me and my fleece-lined, two-pillowed twin-sized slice of heaven. But no matter how I fill my calendar, hard I work, how many extracurriculars I take on, or how often I go out, I am left wanting something more at the end of the day. 

It wasn’t until I rushed and was fortunate enough to join an SLG in my second semester freshman year that I realized what I was missing: meaningful connections and intense friendships. In one of the first conversations I had with an upperclassman in Cooper, he said something I would never forget, “You always have the deepest conversations at 3 a.m.” At first I laughed Salil off. There was absolutely no way I was going to stay up until the wee hours of the morning just to talk to people. But, the deeper into my Duke career I get, the more I understood just how right he is.

It seems like the only time my friends and I allow ourselves to be normal college kids is between the hours of 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. At the night grows older, the stress of deadlines lifts, worries from the day fade from our memories, and all that’s left are the people we surround ourselves with. This pivotal time of day brings me what I’ve been missing the most since coming to Duke: community. There’s nothing better than sitting in the McDonald’s lobby after a long day—and an even longer night—and laughing with the people who make this university such a special place. I’d trade almost any part of my day just to sit in a common room and guess the answers to outdated Jeopardy! episodes. I always make time for the people that mean the most, even if my sleep schedule makes me regret it in the morning.

I am willing to concede, as the article that my mom sent me claims, that a good night’s rest could actually lead to a more productive workday. It might even be the case that a regulated, healthy sleep schedule can thwart insomnia and depression—both of which are high among college students. But, at this point in my college career, I’m willing to risk my full ten hours to make up for the friendship I left behind in Texas. So the next time my mom asks me why I sent her a message at 2 a.m., I’ll tell her the truth: I was taking Salil’s advice, getting to know the people around me, and forming the friendships that I think all Duke students need to make the long days here a little less agonizing. 

Ryan Williams is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays.