Archive for June, 2007

How to Sleep 5-6 Hours In a Day, and Survive the Next Day

I have always, always had sleeping problems. Although I’ve never suffered from insomnia (as I’ve always felt the need to sleep 7-8 hrs/day), I have always been most active nocturnally. This has had its pros and cons as I went from high school to university and to full-time employment. After starting work at the awesome Zeald.com, for the first time in years, I could fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting in bed. For a time, it was good.

As I started studying part time again this year (while working full time), I needed to spend more time awake, just to get everything done. In early May, I started an experiment. An experiment to sleep 5-6 hours a day.

Week 1: The First Step is the Hardest
For no particular reason, I decided to start this on a Monday. So after a fun weekend, my first day back was after 5.5 hours of sleep. One of the worst feelings ever. I knew, whatever happens, I should stay away from caffeine. Easier said than done. I had 3 cans of V that week. Not as bad I would have thought. I required around 20 minutes of power naps everyday, just enough to recharge my batteries after work. Waking up on time in the mornings was extremely difficult. Some ways I managed to overcome this is by drawing the curtains straight after waking up (sunlight really helps), jumping into the shower straight away, and (believe it or not) checking my emails first thing in the morning!

Week 2: Persistence + RSI
In some ways, this week was harder. I stopped taking caffeine based products, and stuck to taking low GI products like Nutella and lots of nuts (almomds to be specific) as in-between snacks. Sleeping 2-3 hours less is quite tough on the body. Which means, my body needs to eat more. Since I didn’t have time for another meal, protein shakes worked well. It doesn’t have to be commercially bought, you can make one yourself! Another problem that could develop is RSI. Last year, I was actively playing tennis, and I never really got much RSI. This time however, I suffered extremely serious case of RSI, so bad that I had to take Voltaren. Back to exercise it was, and surely enough, RSI symptoms soon disappeared.

Week 3: The Hard Part’s Over
If you managed 2 weeks without cheating (ie, consistent sleeping patterns, low/no caffeine, exercise), this week will be quite interesting. Your productivity will be awesome. The only problem that I seem to remember from week 3 was that I kept getting easily distracted. This is where you should remember; it’s not the hours you put in, it’s what you put in the hours! Listen to music before starting to work, or while working. It helps a lot to get you into the mood.

I reckon it might a little easier to start this plan in summer, as the morning sun really helps you get out of bed quicker. I did it in the middle of winter, and it wasn’t too bad :) I have 2-3 hours extra in a day now, that’s 14-21 hours in a week!

So, to sum it up:

Avoid:

  • Caffeine
  • Doing Catch-Up Sleeps in the Weekends
  • Power naps greater than 20 minutes

Catalysts:

  • Water
  • Low GI Products
  • Power naps – I didn’t need this after about 3-4 weeks
  • Exercise – a good 2-hour session of tennis weekly has been great. Going for a run works well also.
  • Sunlight – free source of vitamin D

My girl friend was quite concerned about my sleeping habits. To a certain extent, so was I. From google, I can see this guy doing something similar to me. Needless to say, he’s a programmer also ;) There were quite bunch of articles that also mentioned the bad effects of sleeping less than 8 hours a day. So if you’re willing to try this, proceed at your own risk.


Update: 18th August, 2007
I have now completely stopped doing power naps. I don’t even need it anymore, which is great! Also, I sleep 6-6.5 hours in weekends. I can do 7 also but I get headaches if I sleep longer. Btw, headaches have been normal for me ever since I can remember. Everytime I excessively slept, I had headaches. Apparently, 8 hours is excessive sleep now :)