I am an unskilled sleeper

Recently Sa was given an hours flotation as a present.  It was billed as being as restful as four hours normal sleep (see here – bottom of the page).  That sort of statement gets my antenna up, since it is so obviously a bogus statistic – e.g. could two hours of flotation substitute for a whole nights sleep?  If so then the value of the extra time would pay for the cost of a flotation tank in short order.  But, before being cynical about what is certainly a high bogosity index statement, I realised that I really didn’t know much about sleep at all, which is a real oversight since I spend about a quarter of my life asleep.  So, I thought it was time for some education.  N.B. this post is as much a reminder for me on sources as something aimed to be read by others, so some degree of caveat lector (not misleading, just not intended to be self-standing without following the links).

Wikipedia, as ever, gives a good position on what drives sleep, though it’s a little hard to turn it into useful guidelines for how one should optimise sleep.

There is an annoyingly written piece here.  Lots of exclamation marks which is always a worry in an education piece.  And, statistics thrown about with abandon, and usually without sources.  But, improves a lot as it goes on – worth a read.  Lots of broken links though.  New stuff I learnt was that the owl vs. lark model (aka being a late night person vs. an early morning person) is not really driven by the time of day – instead for owls it’s by a longer circadian rhythm or poor entrainment (the ability to reset the circadian rhythm to 24 hours each day); for larks a shorter circadian rhythm … and that most people really aren’t either.  For myself, I find it pretty easy to reset body clock when travelling, and am definitely an owl, so I guess my circadian rhythm must be at the longer end.

Also, that Caffeine is good for overcoming homeostatic sleepiness (what you get by thinking hard for a long time), but not circadian sleepiness … and that drinking it first thing in the morning may well be a good thing (OK, Sa, I just might have have been nagging you wrongly for 20 years!).

Another source (here) on what is called sleep hygene.  Lists some top tips, some of which counter what is in the previous source.  As a simple example, this one suggests drinking nothing at all in the 6 hours before going to bed … the one before says a small drink is fine and might help.  It also makes some fatuous references to how long bats sleep and that they live in a cave, so dark is good!

Interesting notes on the body clock here.  Notes that lots of light first thing in the morning is good – I’d love to use a light alarm that used lots of light to wake me up in the morning … but not sure that Sa would appreciate it at 5:30!

As ever (though rather indirectly), Wikipedia helps on when light is most useful via an article on ‘phase delay’ – see here.  Basically, within two hours of when you first wake up – though not if you need to wake up to do it!

There is also a truly mind-bending amount of total nonsense described – e.g. anyone fancy turning off all the circuit breakers before bed to prevent EMF upsetting your Pineal gland? (see here – top hint was the ’33 ways to X’ which is always a hint that it’s got lots of nonsense)

Of course, if you can’t get sleep, then simply reading the links above should help – they are long and repeticious enough!

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