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 :)

  1. Very interesting!

    So how is it working now, after some years?

    • kgx
    • July 21st, 2010 7:00pm

    Yes it’s still working. My schedule is a little less busier these days, so I sleep around 6.5 hours. Unfortunately, I’ve become too dependent on coffee instead of having low GI foods.

    • Damien
    • December 14th, 2011 7:10pm

    thank you for this article, I’m a junior in highschool and I have soo much trouble waking up in the morning that it’s not even funny and this helped me figure out wen my REM and NREM stages are and wen to wake up to feel the least groggy (4-6 hrs of sleep) and my sleep has been increasingly better ever since I’ve started to sleep less. I sleep from around 11:30-12:30 pm to 6-7 am evry weekday and I feel fine as long as I get my 5 or 6 hrs of sleep. Thanks for all your help, I’ll be glad to hear back from you sometime soon, but I have to get going, I have finals in the morning :( have a good evening, bye :)

    • ami
    • January 1st, 2012 9:59pm

    thx for the info… i really want to try this!

    • Kaspars
    • November 5th, 2013 2:41pm

    I was just wondering. Sometimes I have some alcohol and have to attend parties. So I get hangovers.

    How does this come in to my sleep schedule?

    • kgx
    • November 5th, 2013 11:22pm

    @Kaspars
    I am a bit surprised that I still get comments on this post. I am no expert, but I have somehow managed to keep this sleep pattern for over 6 years now. In fact, I average about 5-6 hours on most days. RSI was a big problem for me earlier this year, but I started swimming and got better office furniture which helped a lot.

    Any way, back to your question – if you end up sleeping in, be fine with it. Spend the rest of your day as normal and making sure you go back to your routine with your next sleep. Sometimes you’ll feel miserable on Monday, but stick to your routine and you’ll be fine by Tuesday.

    • April
    • January 30th, 2014 2:14am

    I’ll be starting my part-time job next week and most of my friends and families disallowed me to do it because at the end of the day, i’ll be the one to suffer. Honestly, i have regular working hours in daytime which is 8am-5pm and then part-time which is 6pm-12midnight. I hope I could do the same as what you did and handle it well. Thank you for sharing this one. I appreciate it a lot.

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