Saturday, April 12, 2014

60-day experiment: sleep

I've decided to embark on a 60-day experiment to get enough sleep.

All my life, I've had a reluctance to go to sleep at night.  In the evenings, I look at the clock every ten minutes, hoping that it's still early, so that I won't need to go to sleep yet.  Then at some point, it crosses over into "I should go to sleep now".  That lasts about 30 minutes.  Then I stay up another two hours, while trying not to look at the clock.

As a result, I'm usually in a sleep-deprived state, where I will fall asleep within one minute as soon as I finally lie down.

I read "The Promise of Sleep" years ago, from the leading sleep researcher on how sleep deprivation leads to worse mental performance and health.  But this just led to me feeling guilty while not changing my habits.

I'm going to do this experiment for 60 days.  Last night I went to bed at 12:30am, which is 1-2 hours earlier than normal for me.  It was painful.  Lying in bed awake for ten minutes before falling asleep was annoying.  Then I had more dreams than usual.  I had a dream about walking into a small conference room where a coworker was crying, and another dream about running around in a frightening maze.  I had been watching Lost just before going to sleep, so that was probably related.

The famous sleep researcher found these results when testing violinists at a music academy.  These are from top to worst performers ("teachers" means they are going to become music teachers after failing to become soloists).

I feel heartened that the best students on average went to sleep around 1am and got up at 9:30am.  I always envisioned that these virtuoso violinists were perfect little androids who went to bed in ironed pajamas at 10pm and woke up smiling at 6:30am. Good to know that their actual sleep pattern is not impossibly out of reach.

It was disheartening to learn that the bottom bucket of failed soloists still slept 7.7 hours on average.  Fitbit tells me that I sleep 6.2 hours on average.

This afternoon, I will try to take a nap around 2pm.