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andrew's avatar

3-5AM: magical time or better to sleep?

Asked by andrew (16553points) October 12th, 2009

One of my fondest memories of college—and one thing that always struck me, was all the people staying up in the CIT working on projects throughout the night. I used to love being in the lab when there was a deadline the next day—all these incredibly smart people working late and stretching themselves. Eating to stave off sleep.

One of my hypotheses was that there’s something magical about spending time awake with people during that time—some sort of ultra-late-night bonding that goes on, be it between lovers or work partners. This goes double if it’s winter.

It’s that time when it’s totally unreasonable to be up, but before the birds have started to chirp and you really regret pulling an all-nighter.

Have you noticed the same thing? Or are those witching hours between 3 and 5AM best reserved for deep sleep?

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30 Answers

Zen's avatar

I took a walk with my dog from 0300–0400 this morning. I call it morning. I won’t be going back to bed.

So many songs have been written about that time… “It’s 4 in the morning… comes to mind (Leonard Cohen) because it is indeed a magical time.

Peaceful, tranquil. Quiet. Possibly, romantic.

Haleth's avatar

I have memories just like that, only from art school. When portfolios were due, everyone bonded over staying up all night to pull their work together in time for the deadline. That’s always been the time I get my best work and thinking done, and have the most energy. It’s a great time for late-night adventures on the town. It’s wonderful to be out in the quiet streets with your friends, after everyone else has gone to sleep. It’s surreal.

andrew's avatar

@Haleth Oh yes! Late-night rehearsals as well. And night shoots!

Haleth's avatar

@andrew You know… all the day people are asleep right now, so everybody is going to say this is a magical time. Unless they hate being up right now, but can’t help it. That would suck.

Grisaille's avatar

It is magic.

I get a ton of my writing done in the wee hours of the morning. However…

There’s nothing more magical than walking around the city during those hours. 34th street – notorious for being the epitome of tourist traps, shopping and general overcrowdedness – is a ghost town. Grab a like minded person, some late night Starbucks (HINT: there’s a 24 hour Starbucks around 42nd) and just walk. And walk. And walk. Let the cold air hit your faces, talk about obscure shit no one really cares about, dance and love. Magic.

Dog's avatar

If it were not for those magical hours of the night I would not get any quality painting time.

It feels rebellious and serene.
In college the all night study sessions inspired amazing conversations. Yes- it was and is awesome!

Grisaille's avatar

@Dog “Rebellious and serene” is a perfect way to describe it. Thank you for that.

jlm11f's avatar

It’s 3:15 am right now, I am sitting in the school library studying for yet another night. I don’t know about magical, I really really want to be sleeping right now. But I get what you are saying. Some of my fondest memories with my colleagues have been the crazy nights where we were all high on caffeine and trying to memorize random facts in science while trying not to go loopy and giggle at something every few minutes.

Even though I have a high respect for students who are able to get everything done by 11 pm and be in bed and get their 8 hours of sleep/day, I always wonder if they are missing out on an important part of the educational experience. There is something to be said about the conversations that take place late at night. There’s a really simple explanation to it, I think. In the night, emotions generally run higher than during the day and so people are able to bond better with each other. And it always feels good to be around those that are stuck in the same situation as you; which is why I choose to study in the library.

I do think that as you grow older (and get into a family-structure of life), 3–5 doesn’t seem as magical as it did earlier and you really just want to get some sleep.

So my answer to the title Q would be: Have your occasional “magical” nights (weekends or the week of a test, take your pick), but for most days get that sleep in, because sleep is important for your mind and your immune system and does help you live a longer life.

Les's avatar

I’m a morning person, so I completely know what you mean. We launch balloons from Laramie periodically, and we launch them at dawn. During the winter, dawn is nearly 8 am, so it isn’t all that early. But in the summer, when the sun rises before 6, we have to be out at the Laramie Regional Airport (I know. It is a huuuuuuge airport.) at 3 am. It is great. Its dark, we’re the only ones up, even the streetlights in town aren’t set to their “daytime” scheme, yet. They just flash yellow and red. We can see so many stars, and there are always some type of pronghorn or fox roaming around. It is pretty spectacular.

andrew's avatar

@Les Oh, I know what you mean. I love driving early to shoots, and I really don’t mind waking up early to drive people to the airport.

drdoombot's avatar

It must be magic, because I haven’t slept in that time period in years.

whatthefluther's avatar

I love the wee hour of morning. And as magical as they are in the city, they are mystical when:
in the desert laying under the stars of a moonless night and counting shooting stars or scavenging for treasures on a moonlit night;
at the beach with sand between your toes huddled around a pit fire and passing a bottle of Silver Patron tequila and a joint between friends or walking in the surf in hunt of beached grunion;
or on the dock of a mountain lake listening to the water gently lap the shore with the sound of crickets in the air and the occasional hoot of an owl;
or on a deep sea fishing boat spraying ocean mist and diesel fumes alongside the aroma of coffee, frying bacon and pancakes from the mess as you motor on to a prime fishing site;
or a motorcycle run along a crest highway with city lights far off in the distance and a cozy tent awaiting your arrival at camp;
or…....well, I could go on and on (as I often do), but I’ll just add this:
sharing any of the above with someone you love: highly recommended
recreational drugs: when appropriate (no driving) are optional

I used to do all that shit and more regularly and fucking miss it more than you can possibly imagine. So do me a favor: count your blessings, get off your fucking ass and get out there and do it for you and for me, while I sit here and remember and dream. We’ll thank each other at day break.

See ya….Gary/wtf

peedub's avatar


whatthefluther's avatar

@peedub….Wish you were down this way….we could make some magic together! See ya….Gary/wtf

peedub's avatar

Tee hee…

maggiesmom1's avatar

I think it depends on how old you are and what type of person you are. When I was younger (college aged, early 20s) it definitely was magic time. Walking home through a deserted campus after a party – everything so quiet and peaceful. Hanging out with friends and it feels like you’re the only people on earth.
But now, at 40, the idea of being up at 3–4 am makes me want to pull my skin off. NOTHING is more important or magical than sleep. In fact, if you expect me to be up at 3–4am, you’d better assure me a nap at 7am.
But, that said, I’m old, so….there ya go.

ccrow's avatar

@maggiesmom1 – Old? At 40?? Nah, you’re just a kid! :-)

EmpressPixie's avatar

Sleepy time! I dread 3am with all of my heart. I usually get up around 8am, when left to my own devices, but I don’t really function with an amount of sleep between 3 and 5 hours. 4 hours of sleep will leave me dead all day long. And no amount of coffee or tea or anything will perk me up. So 3am is my “in bed asleep or you don’t get to sleep” time. I hate seeing it.

Yes, I can function on 3 hours of sleep, but it is definitely not preferable. And less than 3 hours is another dead zone of non-functionality the next day.

I generally try for 7 hours a night—it’s good for studying and memory, good for my body, and good for my soul. Having said that—I definitely do my best work from 8am or so to noon—before my roommates really start moving about the house. Accordingly, if the best way to get alone time in a comfortable place was to work at 3am, it would be magic time. There is also a bit of camaraderie formed when a group of people work at odd times—the night shift is usually tighter than the day shift, the people working in a lab at 3am to finish an assignment will probably be tighter than the folks who came in at 8am the day before to finish it.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

You guys want to make me spend some magical time with all of you (read that any way you want to, it’s late night anyway =)).

And yeah, it IS a magical time. It’s in those late hours when you’re alone with close friends (or anyone really) that you truly start to bond because, hey, nothing else exists except for the few of you. Secrets come out and conversations you’d never have in the daylight pour out of the both of you.

But of course, when you’re home alone, 3–5 AM is a lonely and depressing time

jonsblond's avatar

@maggiesmom1 I’m with you on this one. Back in the day, sure it was magical. Being 38 now with children in school, I want my sleepy time. The only thing magical about being awake at 4am this morning was the nighttime medicine starting to kick in. strep throat is so much fun! Now that the kids are off to school I’m going to take a nap. :)

Bluefreedom's avatar

I think those hours might be best saved for sleep (for some, anyway) unless your work schedule necessitates that you need to be functional during those times. I worked midnight shift for 10 years from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the last three hours of shift, from 3 to 6 a.m. were the longest and hardest to get through. After a recent move to dayshift, I now have to be up at 3:30 a.m. to prepare for a shift that lasts from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. So much for reaping the benefits of REM sleep from 3 to 5.

My doctor once told me that a human body is not naturally nocturnal and should be sleeping at night and engaging in activity in the daytime only. Of course, this isn’t possible for everyone and from what I’ve read here from others and the schedule I kept for 10 years, we’re proof that being night owls can be both functionally sound and enjoyable.

poofandmook's avatar

When I’m alone… sleeping.

When the boyfriend is visiting, magic. Staying up that late talking is… freakin unreal. and on not such a deep level as the rest of you, the sex is great at 3:30 in the morning :x

bennihan's avatar

I never really thought about that time to be magical in any sort of way, but now that I think about it… it kinda is :D

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Magick time! The best time wake up after a nap, have a nosh, a romp and whatever else before a few more hours of sleep.

jlm11f's avatar

mm yet another night of magic time ~

andrew's avatar

Someday PnL, someday you’ll be able to appreciate the lyrical.

Grisaille's avatar

Magic time is almost over over here. Delirium is kickin’ in.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Lonely and depressing time right now… Listening to Toccata and Fugue in D minor (I think my choice of music isn’t really helping)..

Narl's avatar

It’s magical if you’re with a person (or people) that you like to hang out with.

andrew's avatar

I just read Murakami’s After Dark which is set all over one night. It’s rad. Read it.

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