Ah, sleep. The wonderful state that all of us desperately need but many just don’t get enough of. During my high school days, I didn’t get enough sleep; sleeping roughly six hours each day. I honestly don’t know how I even functioned back then; I didn’t even drink any caffeine to supplement myself. But maybe I did in fact function sub-optimally, at least in part due to sleep deprivation; after all I do have such vivid memories of falling asleep in class back then. It definitely didn’t help that I had class at 8am every day, and that my commute would often take over an hour. I’d have to wake up at 6am, struggle to get out of bed and try to get some breakfast in occasionally, and then run out of the house by 6:40ish to catch the train that would hopefully not be delayed. I spent the vast majority of my train rides catching up on sleep, even when the majority of them had no seats, so I would try to balance myself on a door or pole to close my eyes and try to relax for just a bit. I also have memories of 11th grade when I would just come home directly after school to knock out for 6 hours from like 4-10PM, and that would be my sleep schedule for the day. Not particularly great.
Needless to say, as with many other things, I tried to fix my sleep schedule when I first came here to U of T. I need 8 hours to function properly, 7 hours after 8ish the day before is salvageable for a single day, but 6 and under is too little. If I only get 6, I need a lot of caffeine to even function, but still find myself having to supplement my sleep with caffeine in order to energize myself through some rough times for coursework. I had a borderline addiction to caffeine during my second and third years, which is likely the reason my sleep schedule got as messed up as it did. Even during first year, I’d find myself skipping 9am lectures just to sleep in, as if I went I would probably be too exhausted to understand anything properly. But during second year I found myself staying up later and later every day to do more work, I found that I functioned slightly better at night with fewer distractions. I’d end up skipping most 9ams and many 10ams as well during this period. My high school friends and I would regularly stay up as late as 4am, and have long late-night conversations that would only keep us up even later.
But then the pandemic and lockdown came around, and I was completely spoiled in terms of sleep schedule. When more than half of your class hours are asynchronous, suddenly you don’t have as many classes scheduled in the morning anymore. I took advantage of this to the extreme, and the earliest class hour I had in all of third year was a single 11am lecture in the fall semester. Now instead of shifting my sleep schedule around my classes, my classes schedules were shifted around my sleep schedule. Everything was perfect, in fact my general wellbeing and marks seemed to have improved from this as well. That is, until, the thunders began to roar.
Well, not literally thunder, but more like drills, hammers, and other heavy machinery. All at 8am. Ruining everything I had going. Yep, because, for some reason, even though the lockdown forced everyone to stay in their homes for the vast majority of the time, and not go out for work or school or the like, it seems that EVERYONE wants their construction done during these times. And it’s been driving me insane ever since. I swear I’ve gone 18 years of my life without hearing a single sound of construction equipment in my own home, and now suddenly that everyone’s stuck indoors, yeah now THAT’S when all the construction needs to happen!
When my friends asked me why I went back to Toronto for third year, when it was guaranteed to be all online, well the real reason is that I was losing my mind at my parent’s apartment because a neighbor decided to start renovation of their apartment like three weeks after the lockdown started. And this neighbor seemed to particularly enjoy how angry and miserable my parents were when they would constantly go to him to complain, thus the 8am drilling became routine. And the worst part is that it isn’t consistent: they’d always start with the loud stuff really early and then radio silence later in the day. In this particular case, I’m pretty sure the neighbor was in fact messing with us, and that’s why I went back to Toronto for my third year. My sleep schedule was further ruined during this summer, and my well-earned break after ECE second year wasn’t as relaxing as I would have liked.
But of course when I come back to Toronto and live near campus, UofT decides to make the entirety of it a construction zone. You can still feel it to this very day; Front Campus is a giant hole, Hart House is closed occasionally, and SF still has scaffolding everywhere. But oh boy, my escape from the clutches of 8am construction noises simply brought me right back to them. At the very least, since these were not internal renovations, I just developed a habit of waking up at 8am just to close my window shut to get rid of most of the noise, and then plop right back into bed. That worked well enough, and to be completely fair if the vast majority of its students weren’t on campus, it makes sense for UofT to choose that year for all of its renovation plans.
And now that I’m back in Toronto in a new place for this year, I find myself in a familiar situation yet again. Construction noises, drilling at 8am, except now at my new apartment the contractors are working on Saturdays too. Whenever I’d complain about all of this to someone, the natural response is “Just fix your sleep schedule lol.” Trust me I’ve tried. Going to bed earlier when I’m not tired amounts to nothing. Melatonin either doesn’t work, or works too well such that even with 8 hours I feel tired, and end up sleeping upwards of 12 hours, making me wake up at the same late time as usual. Same result from pulling an all nighter; I feel like I need more sleep to recover and I end up waking up late anyways. And even when once in a blue moon I do end up waking up early naturally, I’m so accustomed to staying up and working late that I don’t feel tired at a normal time anyways.
After a bit of Googling earlier this summer, I discovered a condition called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, which is exactly what it sounds like; a person’s internal clock is delayed compared to that of the average person such that they both sleep and wake up late. Of course, you shouldn’t ever rely on a questionable self-diagnosis, but since this condition is in fact real, I do feel more justified in my frustration. This semester the vast majority of my class hours are online and asynchronous once again, with the earliest class time being 12pm, so I would like to work on my own schedule yet again. But I cannot due to the constant construction at 8am waking me up after only 4 hours after my 4am bedtime, and end up sleep-deprived, cranky, and not at my best self.
The amount of hatred and ill will I feel at those moments when I’m woken up and unable to sleep should never be put on paper. Yet I’m definitely not the only one who’s been feeling this over the past two years. If these politicians and health advisors keep forcing lockdowns, why don’t they put some sort of regulation on home renovations while the lockdown is still in effect? Loud noises are annoying to everyone, especially during work meetings or for young children. And the whole arbitrariness of the start time as well; if they just don’t drill after like 2-3PM, why can’t they just do the quiet stuff first and then the loud stuff later if I know for a fact they work 8-5PM? It’s simple human decency. I’ve tried blasting my air conditioner for white noise, and even putting on headphones with noise cancellation to the maximum setting, and yet these noises are still too loud for me to go back to sleep. Yes, I’m a very light sleeper. There is still research being done on what exactly causes light vs heavy sleepers, but I will always be envious of those who can sleep through such noises that have caused me so much agony over the past two years.