Tuesday, July 22, 2014

update on sleep experiment

Three months ago, I decided to improve my sleeping habits.  Here is what I've learned so far:

1. Falling asleep.  It turns out I dislike the time period of lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.  Things that are more interesting than lying motionless with eyes closed include: reading, watching a movie, writing code, or any number of activities.

So I previously would just stay up until I was so tired that I would fall asleep instantly, thus skipping the boring part.

But this meant that I would go to sleep quite late.

Things that did not work include:
  • setting a reminder to go to sleep earlier
  • avoiding blue light for two hours before "bedtime"
  • announcing my intention to go to sleep earlier, and asking others to hold me accountable

Things that did work include:
  • listening to a meditation video during the boring part of falling asleep

2. Waking up.  I was previously waking up earlier than I wanted to.  As soon as I became awake, I would get up, instead of trying to fall back asleep for another hour until my desired waking time.

Things that work include:

  • using an eye mask and earplugs to avoid being woken up by light or sound
  • listening to a meditation video in order to fall back asleep again

An obstacle was that it turns out that in the half-awake, half-asleep state, my brain makes problems seem ten times more arduous than they appear in the sober light of full day.  I previously countered this by spending as little time as possible in that limbo state, often by just getting up.  Now I try to meditate.


With this effort, I've managed to increase my average sleeping time from 6h 30m to 7h 10m.  Sadly, in the Ericcson study of violinists, the elite bucket slept 8h 36m, and even the worst-performing bucket slept 7h 48m.  I'm still significantly below even the worst bucket, sigh.

But focus on the positive!  I increased my sleep by 40 minutes!  That's a lot!

There was one week I got up to an average of 8h.  It felt like a new lease on life.  Something to aim for.


Anonymous said...

That's quite interesting. And progress is progress, you've added more than half an hour to your total. A story on the national news tonight said that we'd all be doing a lot better if we could average at least 7 hours, and you've already done a bit better.

I do about 30 minutes of cardio in the evening (using a stationary bike) followed by a warm shower and some modest stretching. When bedtime finally arrives, I usually have no problem falling fast asleep. There is something about the brief cardio workout that helps banish 'busy brain' syndrome. Everyone's physiology (and psychology) is different, but it might be worth a shot. You could even jump rope, if you're not currently living above anyone.

Niniane said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

I prefer to exercise in the morning. It makes me energized for the rest of the day. If I work out at night, I'm very tired, so I end up dreading it and disliking it. It's cool that your night-cardio works for you, but alas, I don't think I will be able to replicate it.

I slept 8 hours last night and feel amazing today!

Damien Sullivan said...

I used to be insomniac going to bed. These days I fall asleep fairly well (but fairly late), but often wake up after 5-6 hours and don't easily get more. I've got xflux, I've got earplugs and eye blocker, and blackout curtains, white noise generator (fan or A/C unit, sometimes pinknoise program while traveling)...

What meditation videos do you use?