Got a good question from a reader about sleep. One of my goals is to sleep less than 8 hours/night
Hello, and thanks for inviting your blog visitors to email you directly. I just came across your site today, and got some good reading out of your "top stories" list. What compelled me to write, though, was a trend I noticed on some of your "goals" posts: sleeping less than 8 hours per night.
It caught my attention, because at first glance it looks counter-intuitive. Yet I understand exactly what you mean.
Cut. Return to monologue later. Get to the askin':
How is it working out for you?
Okay, lessee. Here's my results since late June when I started calculating this. First week listed is "Week of 23 June to 28 June" - Last one is "Weekly review: 21 August to 27 August" - the rest fall in between in order.
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 8.14 hours of sleep per night on average. Could be a little lower, but pretty good.
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 8.5 hours average - 7 11 hours, 6, 14 (wow...), 7, 8, 7
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 8 and a half - 8, 8, 10, 8. Interesting that last week I did a similar average with more days below eight, but then one 14 hour day... wonder if that's related.
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 7.15 (6 hours, 7 hours (plus nap), 6, 8, 8, 8 and a half, 6, 8 - average 7.15)
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 7, 5 and half, 9, 9, 10, 9, 5, 5, 4 and half.... 64 hours total over 8 days, 8 hours total
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 9 hours/night on average. 12, 7, 10, 10, 8, 7, 10, 5, 10, 10 = 89.
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 53.5 hours over 8 days = 6.7 hours per night (10, 4, 7, 7.5, 8, 5, 5, 7)
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 8.5 hours night (7, 10, 7, 9, 9, 10, 8 = 60)
What was my hours per sleep on average this week? 7.9 hours per night: 6, 6, 5, 12, 4, 12.5, 9.5 = 55/7 = 7.9 hours
I see myself gradually trending mostly downwards... after a few very short nights, I crash for 12-14 though. Actually, I seem to get more done by alternating low sleep and larger amounts, I think - take that with a grain of salt, I haven't run analysis yet, just my intuition. I could check in more detail, though since my work changes all the time I don't really have any objective criteria for "good work" - I could cross-reference it with some other stuff if there's anything in particular you're curious about though. Diet, exercise, writing, or something.
1. Honestly, I do feel like hell when I get up after particularly low sleep, but then after about 30 minutes awake and a cup of coffee I'm good to go. I do feel really awful when I'm starting, but then it doesn't really affect me during the day, except...
2. I really zone out hard for between 20 minutes and an hour when on low sleep. I just roll with it and meditate, half-nap, stare at nature, go for a walk, sit in a cafe, or get a massage during that time. Also, I go through hyper-sharp moments when I'm sleeping less, where my concentration seems much sharper than normal - but that might not be real, it might be just the contrast with the low sleep state.
I can cross-reference this with other things I track if anyone is curious. Let me know.
After seeing this, I have started writing a post about sleep. I have a very unique experience with sleep and I believe it can be very useful for everybody.
Unfortunately, Sett's editing capabilities didn't satisfy me. Not even close. So I cut my writing and pasted somewhere else. I will share it again. I really want to give it a try when it is better than now.
Funny, I've only now come around to finding this follow-up post after out initial discussion in 2010. Don't know what your experience is these days, but I've made peace with a necessity for more than 8 hours of sleep a night for optimal work performance. Ideally 8 1/2 - 9. The difference in alertness between waking up ready and waking up deprived has been too dramatic to ignore.
The interesting thing to me, though, is the role circadian rhythms play into the equation. Absent of any early obligations, my body has a surprisingly accurate internal alarm at around 9:30am. The amount of sleep I got the night before doesn't seem to be a major factor; I just wake up at that point. Which is great to have, but too late to be very useful in the working world. Despite being on an earlier work schedule for years, now, and making efforts to get 8+ hours of sleep for several days at a time to "reset" that internal alarm, I've seen no effect. My mind just likes resting until 9:30am. The sun is generally strong at that point, yet the morning hasn't been spent. It's a good feeling, waking up at that time and feeling ready for a day.
It's not especially useful, though. Not for attempting to put in an early-and-done work day. But at least understanding that behavior makes me aware of what trade-offs I'm making on days I get up earlier. After the first 30-60 minutes of the day, I'm nearly as functional as I'll get regardless, unless I'm suffering sleep debt. But I miss that eyes-open-and-alert feeling that I get when given the opportunity to sleep later and wake up naturally.
Currently I have a nap whenever I feel tired. I'm carefully noting down all of the times and trying to get into a more regular routine. So far the only consistent pattern is that I have a nap in the morning, starting sometime between 6:00 and 9:30 and another in the afternoon, starting between 2:30 PM and 4:00 PM. I've also usually had another nap most days in addition to those two, and that third one often comes in the evening (around 9:00 PM) but sometimes other times of day.
So in short, I haven't gotten into a very consistent pattern yet, but I'm doing fine, getting extra hours out of every day, and not feeling tired or groggy (because if I do then I go have a 25 minute nap and feel refreshed). Actually there's an exception: I have often felt tired and groggy between about 6:00 AM and about 9:00 AM. I'm experimenting with waking up earlier, say 5:00, and then having a nap at 6:00 to cure that 6-to-9-AM tiredness.
P.S. I may not notice replies to me here on your blog so feel free to write firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me as @zooko on twitter.
Unless you have already, you should probably check out some stuff on sleep stages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep#Sleep_stages) and the 'biological clock' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm).
I believe that with some studying you'll quickly learn that this is a fairly well researched area, and that it is both unhealthy and inefficient to try to cheat yourself out of the approximately 8 hours most people need. Setting a regular sleeping schedule of 7-8 hours might be better.
Hi Sebastian. I just discovered your blog by following a link from Patri Friedman on twitter:
Thanks for the advice!
I've been trying a sleep schedule in which I sleep for 4h30m each night and then have several 25-minute naps during the day. I'm into my third week of this. In the last ten days I've usually taken three naps per day in addition to the 4h30m core sleep for a total of 5 hours and 45 minutes of sleep.
Perhaps you should take a nap during those periods when you "zone out hard". 20 or 25 minutes of nap. Not longer! If you nap for longer than 25 minutes you will suffer grogginess (which is called "sleep inertia").
Exercise like weight training, or trying to push my limits while running -- stuff I need to heal from.
Thanks to the simple fact that my institute is roughly 1 km from my hostel, I end up walking 4-6 km at a fairly brisk pace (who wants to be _too_ late for class) a day. That doesn't impact sleep requirements in any way.
However I find the 4.5 hours/day not sustainable; once I crash, after the 14 hour sabbatical I still remain groggy and unproductive for the remaining day. And I'm trying to wean myself off coffee -- got into the habit of drinking 2-3 cups a day at my intern; now down to a single cup a day and slowly returning to normal.
Sleep is an issue I'm rather sensitive about -- a side effect of living in college, and occasionally working with people across timezones. Ideally, for me a fairly sustainable sleeping pattern is 5 1/2 - 6 hours a day; though I can survive fairly well throughout a normal day on 4 1/2 hours (after which I crash).
These days I've been managing on 4-5 hours of sleep a day for two-three week stretch (till I meet the more urgent deadlines) followed by a crash of 14-16 hours (ie a completely wasted day).
Of course, this is only viable when I don't play/exercise at all/only very lightly. Otherwise every body part starts protesting about the lack of rest.
"What gets measured, gets managed." - Peter Drucker
There is so much power in this quote. If you've never tracked yourself, you don't even know how much power there is in tracking. I couldn't even explain it adequately. You wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was exaggerating. The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost without any extra effort.
I'm not a believer in "free lunch" and I don't think the universe vibrates things to you just by thinking about them. But the closest thing to a free lunch getting vibrated to you by the universe is writing things down as they happen.
Before I go any further, I need to give you one piece of advice - start small and build up, so you don't overwhelm yourself. This is just being pragmatic. You want to scale up gradually, as I wrote up in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking." You want to build small wins, lock them so they become automatic, and then expand.
I'd have a hard time convincing you of the power of tracking, so I'll just show you. I fill this out every single day.
Along with exercise and nutrition, sleep is one of the primary determinants of your happiness and wellbeing. If you don't get good sleep, you will not only be tired, but also pessimistic, unmotivated, lazy or even depressed.
Research has shown that self control is a limited resource that is greatly diminished when you're exhausted. If you don't get good sleep, you are less likely to be productive and stick to your good habits (such as exercise). You are also more likely to do things that you know are bad for you (such as eating sweets).
Good REM sleep plays a critical role in the development of long term memories. If you're trying to learn anything at all, you better make sure you get enough high quality sleep.
Proper sleep is also essential for maintaining a robust immune system. If you want to be happy, healthy, smart and productive, you have must make sure you get good sleep.
Do you think that your physical health and emotional wellbeing can be considered in isolation? Think again. They both come from the same body, and they both require that you sleep well.