Zombie coding is what I like to call it you’re so tired that nothing goes right. You’ve been staring at the same equation on the screen for a while now but just can’t seem to find the solution, even when you know it’s not that hard. I have had extensive experience with zombie coding. My web development school schedule was as follows; work from 2am-8am, school from 10am-2pm, child rearing from 3pm-8pm, sleep for 4-5 hours, repeat 5 days a week for a few years. I was tired, to say the least.
When I get tired, the first thing that fails me isn’t my energy or my attitude or my motor skills, it’s my cognitive reasoning and logic skills. I can see the code, I can read the code, but it doesn’t make sense right away. After a few years of this routine, you start to notice weird side effects from the lack of a regular sleep schedule. I noticed a huge drop in my creativity, my short term memory seems much… shorter, I get joint soreness where I didn’t before from my muscles not being able to support my movements and a slower metabolism to name a few. You start to become very aware of how everything from movement to emotion to thinking uses energy and how much energy each of those take. Like you have 100 energy points every day and each task uses some, so you choose very wisely how to spend them, making sure to waste them on trivial things.
There have been many studies that have shown that a staying on the night shift for an extended period of time can cause your brain to stop producing a chemical that it needs to help you think. Once that begins, it’s considered a mental disability. Whether or not it’s recognized as a disability by government standards is another story. Many sleep studies have proved that working against your circadian rhythm can have the effects I have mentioned above, plus others. Those are just the ones I’ve noticed.
My professor always use to say that ‘tiredness is the coder’s enemy’. I truly believe this. After having lived in the zombie code zone for a while, I have gotten pretty good at managing it. All in all, I would say that instead of retaining 100% of my schooling, it has knocked me down to 90%. Which may not seem like a huge effect, but is if you think about it. That’s a couple months of lost time for a web dev certification.
For anyone who does critical thinking for a living, like a coder, who basically solves riddles all day, the best thing you can do for yourself is setup a sleep schedule that allows you to get a solid 7-8 hour block of sleep every night. For those who that isn’t an option yet, my heart goes out to you, keep chugging along. Luckily for me, now that school is over, I can finally get the rest I have missed out on for so long.