The Effects of Insomnia

Considering the pressure I felt yesterday it was probably inevitable that I should have slept badly this night, the night before the architecture exam. When I went home after 8 hours of reviewing flashcards with my peers and staring at UML diagrams, I had collected a handful of unexpected or tricky questions that people had been asked, and I spent another hour at home researching good answers to those (amazingly one of them did come up in my exam). In the early evening I was unable to focus my eyes on the screen any longer and decided to call it day. I did my best to unwind. We even watched a TV serial to help me get my mind off thinking of NoSQL databases and architectural styles.

But for once, to no avail. Even though I went to bed outwardly rather relaxed, my subconscious refused to let go. I couldn’t sleep a wink for most of the night and was wide awake at 4 a.m., having had less than two hours of sleep, and very shallow sleep at that. Yesterday I expected to be whacked before the last exam, but this morning I faced the first already completely knocked up. I rode my bike to UAS through the drizzling rain, my brain addled with fatigue. No way, I thought, I can talk my way through a prepared statement on the rather complex lambda architecture without notes in this state of mind, or give witty replies to tricky questions, as doing well in an oral exam demands, particularly with two professors who compete for the examinee’s attention. In fact, this morning even in conversation with my wife and kids, I could hardly form a coherent sentence.

A cup of coffee and 45 minutes of looking at the lecture slides yet again and modifying my opening statement in the last minute (but there was an actual factual mistake in there that the professor surely would have spotted so I had really no choice) unfortunately did very little to improve my condition. I had expected a kick of adrenalin to take the fog out of my brain at least temporarily, but that didn’t happen until well into the exam. My voice was trembling while I tried to explain the lambda architecture under the critical gaze of the professor just across the table. But amazingly he seemed satisfied with my explanation. In fact, he asked me just one question on NoSQL databases, on a very general level, let me explain my chosen architectural style while asking only a single question, and then the dreaded part was already over. The other professor (our original one from software engineering) asked me only a handful of very specific questions, none of which required any thinking–just flashcard stuff, such as what is a bounded context with microservices, or explain the single responsibility principle. Only then did I finally get my head above the water, and then it was over at least 5 minutes early, with both professors explaining they had nothing more to ask. My fears had been ungrounded. And I got an A+, for the third time with this professor.

Everybody else had expected of course just that outcome, including all my peers and my wife and kids. I don’t know for sure why I was so rattled this time. Maybe because of those expectations. It’s amazing that I was relaxed and slept well before the first two oral exams in the third and fourth term, but was extremely tense and slept hardly at all before the third this term. But in any case it’s now over. One down, two to go.

And now I wonder whether I should say I am well enough prepared for process mining tomorrow and should take the rest of the day off to calm down and maybe catch up on a little sleep. Or practise solving problems for a couple of hours just in case, because maybe it won’t make a difference anyway. If I do nothing, and still don’t sleep at night, it will have been a waste of time. But then maybe that doesn’t matter either.

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