So, it is time to hack sleep, or more accurately – BECOME BETTER THAN SUPERMAN

Now I don’t mean hack as in the slasher/horror movie sort of way as this blog is far too upper class for that sort of cheesy, predictable depravity. Instead, to hack the art of sleep and the process of sleeping in order to find the optimum amount of sleep to get a night, what you can get away with having, what is way too much and how to best use the hours you do get. Basically, how to get one up on superman and wipe the smugness off his face.

You spend almost a third of your life on average asleep, a lack of sleep during old age nicely counterbalancing a ridiculously high amount while pretending to be a student. Surely then, it is worthwhile to optimize it? This is a rhetorical question, the answer is yes.

I spent 4 hours researching the studies on sleep to create my own optimized sleep plan, ironically due to not being able to fall asleep from jet lag… and also because I wanted to better superman. Now this may not seem like a lot but allow me to raise two very valid points:

1. Screw You – 4 Hours of research is better then 3 hours of research and

2. I have a sneaky time saving way of researching so my hours count more

My Super Sneaky Approach to Research

Basically I steal/borrow talented peoples incredible legwork on any given subject without remorse.

Now I know what you are thinking and I don’t care because generally I am 1. Less committed to scientific study then they are, 2. Generally less inclined to dedicate my life to one subject and 3. Have been banned from experimenting on humans for at least the next 30 years.

You may remember the above Pictomin from the previous post, it is one I use a lot in life. There are a ridiculous amount of research studies out there on sleep and therefore I don’t bother reading every study ever conducted, actually I don’t bother reading any.

Personally, I simply search for the studies from other hard working individuals that collaborate and summarize all the other research. I then compare and contrast these summaries over a coke to pull out where most people agree and disagree. I then put these ideas through my own filtering process of what makes sense and how many letters the researcher in question has after his name and then finally draw my conclusions taking credit for everyone else’s hard work. It’s the 80/20 of research, unfortunately without the charitable giving of credit. (I apologize for this as I know it is a really bad habit…don’t judge me, we all have them.)

The Terrible Truth From My Research About Sleep

The first thing to say, I guess, is that there is a lot of research out there and almost all of it doesn’t agree.

I like to imagine heated discussions that took place between researchers and collegues that quickly got out of hand and turned to violence and hot coffee injuries.

This disagreements between studies actually makes deciding what is accurate quite a challenge. The other things to say is that I have not bothered to summarize and link all the surveys, facts and figures I came across and I have written this post in layman terms from my collective understanding. Therefore hopefully making it easier for you to action but also requiring you to trust my summaries or use them as a base to do your own research. Your choice punk, go on, make my day.

To start I went to the guru of life hacking Tim Ferris to see what he has to say on the subject. With almost a third of ones life taken up with sleep I was pretty sure he had worked out an optimum plan. Unfortunately this was not the case and Tim was decidedly less helpful then I had thought he would be. You can see what he has to say on the subject here.  Poor show Tim, poor show.

As it happens the very best ebook I found was “40 Sleep Hacks: The Geek’s Guide to Optimizing Sleep” This well organized and written book seemed to have done a good job of summarizing the major research on sleep and, having put the time in already into researching the studies independently, would suggest it is the only thing you need to read to give yourself a very good and balanced overview of research backed hacks. It is basically doing what I was planning to but better.

Why Sleep Well?

Benefits of sleep (You Become Super Human)

Good sleep throughout your life will increase your lifespan, help the body to repair, focus the mind, increase productivity, reduce stress, increase happiness, aide weight loss and promote development of body and mind.

Problems associated with a lack of sleep: (Like carrying a backpack of Kyriptnyte)

By cutting down on sleep we learn less, we develop less, we are less bright, we make worse decisions, we accomplish less, we are less productive, we are more prone to errors, and we undermine our true intellectual potential!

How To Sleep Well

As I mentioned there are an incredible amount of studies into sleep and the effect of sleep, much of which is counter intuitive and also contradicts other research.

I would definitely not sleep with an onion, a lemon or a roasted horse chestnut under my bed.

No matter how much research backs up the above statement I will not be following it – I wish to have and keep a girlfriend at some point in the future.

Therefore you have to put the research through your own filtering system and draw your own conclusions, this can be scary for some people but don’t worry that is what teddies are designed for. Having done this myself I came up with the key principles of optimizing sleep, feel free to steal them and pass it off as you own work. Fairs Fair after all.

3 Things That Most People Seem To Agree On About Sleep That Also Make Sense

1. Around 6-7 Hours of sleep is optimum for adults. More or less significantly increases tiredness, drowsiness and mortality rates.

2. Ideal time to go to sleep is when you naturally feel drowsy ideally at least 15 hours after previously waking.

3. A good diet, good eating habits and regularity as well as a comfortable bed and complete darkness will make the most of your sleep hours.

An Optimized Sleep Plan That Might Actually Work

This plan will definitely work for life hackers already free from the rat race or those with a lot more flexibility with their time but I am aware it will not work for all. For the others, read the ebook and create your own. This plan is based on all my research and heavily on the three key points mentioned above.

As it happens this is sleep pattern I have been generally using for some time now to great effect with just a few tweaks here and there.

  1. Shower, brush teeth and change into comfortable clothing before midnight
  2. Work in the early hours of the morning until natural drowsiness sets in.
  3. Eat a very small 150-200 calorie snack just before getting into bed.
  4. Record sleep duration and journal.
  5. Don’t set an alarm but aim to wake naturally around 6 hours after getting into bed.
  6. Eat breakfast within an hour of getting up.
  7. Use weekends to catch up on sleep ensuring weekly average is between 42-47 hours.

The Morning After

Later on when I have the habit ingrained I will also start including elements of Lucid Dreaming Theory and Sleep Based Problem Solving.

I would like to end by saying I will let you know how it is getting on but in all honesty and I am feeling particularly honest at the moment for some reason, I will probably forget so I will simply end with.

Good night, sleep tight and I hope the bedbugs of your lucid dreams don’t tear your face off – apparently it can happen.

Kidding, kidding….ok, i’ve lost a lot of readers now.

Night.

31 Comments

  • January 11, 2010 Reply

    Kenny

    This is pretty cool about sleep. Should also mention stuff about REM! Heard that if you wake up in the lightest part of your sleep (away from the REM cycle) you get a better day.

    Might’ve been rejected in the discussion papers!

    • January 11, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hey pal,

      Conflicting research on REM and in my opinion it is very difficult to benchmark and build into a practical system. Cheers for the comment pal and i’ll see you on Wednesday.

  • January 12, 2010 Reply

    Ideas With A Kick

    Hey thanks Jonny,

    This post reinforces my commitment to change my sleeping habits. I want to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. Night sleep is the healthiest sleep.

    Eduard

    • January 12, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hi Eduard,

      Good to hear it mate, although you might want do some research into the “night sleep” concept and then might conclude that this is not necessarily true.

  • January 12, 2010 Reply

    how to ebooks

    Benchmarkably better than superman? What was that about? Seems a new idea to me.

    • January 12, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Lol, just a blog title but by optimising your sleep you will definitely see improvements in your life, which will be benchmarkable – whether you are then better than superman is really a matter of debate.

  • January 12, 2010 Reply

    Nathan Schmitt

    Sleep optimization is key. Definitely a good read. I experiment with this quite a bit myself. I agree with pretty much all of your suggestions, here are some of the ways I’ve tweaked these ideas over the past 2 years to fit me–hopefully this will give you some new fun stuff to try.

    1. Shower, brush teeth and change into comfortable clothing before midnight
    –Freezing/scalding showers are a TON of fun to experiment with, (I don’t have a bathtub, otherwise I’d do that) it’s quite an adrenaline rush at first, then it just knocks you out. I end alternate a few times and end with really hot water.

    3. Eat a very small 150-200 calorie snack just before getting into bed.
    –Specifically, low GI foods

    5. Don’t set an alarm but aim to wake naturally around 6 hours after getting into bed.
    –The best way I found to do this is to wake up at the exact same time every day for a month WITH an alarm and now i wake up naturally at the same time everyday. Good way to get over that natural sleep hurdle but you have to be consistent.

    7. Use weekends to catch up on sleep ensuring weekly average is between 42-47 hours.
    –Definitely.

    • January 12, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hi Nathan,

      Great added value tips. I experimented with the cold shower once and never shall I do it again, the ice bath is even worse.

      • January 13, 2010 Reply

        Nathan Schmitt

        Also, I somehow forgot to mention exercise even though it’s the most important factor for me. Regular exercise or physical activity (daily) does incredible things for sleep.

        • January 13, 2010 Reply

          Jonny

          Can’t fault the logic there.

  • January 12, 2010 Reply

    Alexandre Guertin

    Great advices!

    So you’re saying that all this time I’ve been sleeping 9 hours per night, I could be just as awaken and productive with 6!

    How do you feel about napping?

    And Lucid Dreaming is a lot of fun and can get your sleep to be more productive too!

    • January 13, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hi Alexandre,

      From the research I did it seemed to suggest that anything above 7 hours a night for an adult was not just unnecessary but also detrimental to health and life longevity. This being the case, if you wish to live longer and be more productive then I would definitely suggest reducing your amount of sleep to between 6-7 hours.

      Napping has great benefits but I just don’t do it.

      • January 13, 2010 Reply

        Alexandre Guertin

        Thanks you might just have added a couple years to my life then.

        In your research, what did it say about how much time you should be napping? 30 minutes?

        By the way, could you add a feature to your Comment section where you can get follow-up comments delivered to our inbox, it would be a lot easier to know when you reply to a comment.

        Thanks!

        • January 13, 2010 Reply

          Nathan Schmitt

          The recommended nap length is generally 15 minutes. I tested 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 and 20 minutes is optimal for me. Everyone’s different so it’s best to test stuff on yourself to optimize.

          Also, caffeine naps work really well for some. Caffeine just generally messes me up so I can’t do it. Here’s a short article on caffeine naps from Brad Isaac’s blog.

          http://www.persistenceunlimited.com/2006/02/how-to-take-a-caffeine-nap/

          • January 13, 2010

            Alexandre Guertin

            Thanks! So again, I guess doing 90 minutes naps is detrimental to my health… Why do I love sleeping so much!?

        • January 13, 2010 Reply

          Jonny

          This was from another reader.

          The recommended nap length is generally 15 minutes. I tested 5, 10, 15, 20, and 30 and 20 minutes is optimal for me. Everyone’s different so it’s best to test stuff on yourself to optimize.

          Also, caffeine naps work really well for some. Caffeine just generally messes me up so I can’t do it. Here’s a short article on caffeine naps from Brad Isaac’s blog.

          http://www.persistenceunlimited.com/2006/02/how-to-take-a-caffeine-nap/.

  • January 13, 2010 Reply

    Steven

    So uh, what do you suggest to college students (me) who is taking more than 5 courses, works part-time, volunteers too?

    If i send a picture to you of my bags under my eyes, you would think that I can actually put things in there.

    You should also talk about how we shouldn’t drink coffee or energy drinks everyday (believe me).

    I think I should look like a 40 year old by now.

    • January 13, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hmm, I suggest RedBull, Why are you doing so many courses?

    • January 13, 2010 Reply

      Nathan Schmitt

      It’s all about planning and designing systems that cut down on time but not quality of content, at least for me. Last term I took 12 credits of joint graduate classes–all reading/essay based–, work 20 hours/week, intern 10-15 hours/week, consult for NPO 5 hours/week, 10 hours exercising, 5 hours on my blog, and I had a full weekend, got 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and did my best work ever.

      I’m so stoked about it because I’m a million more times productive than ever before and I love what I’m doing. Had a freak lung accident and now I’m having surgery, but I’ll be back and mashin’ again in no time.

  • January 15, 2010 Reply

    tullibo

    You should check out the iPhone app called Sleep Cycle
    Have been using it for about a week now with some interesting results. I can easily get by on 6 hours at night no problems but my GF needs an minimum 7-8 hours. After both using the app for this week we’ve discovered that I fall asleep straight away, get good quality sleep for 6 hours while she constantly wakes getting maybe 5 hours good sleep a night.

    She might be in bed longer but my sleep quality is far better.

    Interestingly, sleep cycle seems to play a massive part in the feel good factor the next day. If I get 5.5-6 hours sleep I feel great, 6.5-7 hours I feel lousy, 7.5-8 hours I feel good and anything over 8 hours just makes me feel like crap. It seems 80-90 minute sleep cycles is spot on.

    Other sleep hacks I been playing with quite a bit:

    -L glutamine before bed (idea from musclehack.com). Puts me in a “solid” sleep and really good for taking after going out boozing, hangover much reduced. I take when going to bed. This is also apparently diagnosed for insomniacs quite a bit

    -5htp, this is hydroxytriptophan and seems to put me in a dead sleep – really good quality sleep but feel really drowsy and dehydrated when i wake up. I take when going to bed. This is good for a tired body or when I go a tad too hard at the gym and am feeling sore.

    -triptophan, makes me fall to sleep when im not tired, take 30-60 minutes before bed

    • January 15, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Mate, really interesting breakdown and I am definitely going to check out the sleep cycle app – is there nothing Apple doesn’t get their hands into?

  • January 15, 2010 Reply

    Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice

    Hey Jonny,

    Facinating part about your research you harbinger swine, but I like it! :-)

    I wrote a sleep post a while back and the thing I’d be honoured to contribute to your fine piece (bravo by the way) is not using an alarm clock. I believe being ‘jarred’ out of sleep terrible for the bwain and contributes to overall zombieness.

    allowing yourself to wake up naturally is a great addition to your stupendous (not stolen) research…let me buy you a booze free beer! Tally ho!

    • January 15, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Lol Amit, great comment. Word of warning about the alarmclock less existence. I work up at 1.30 in the afternoon the other day. Think I need to improve slightly there.

  • January 17, 2010 Reply

    Nawala-theNawalaTribe

    Great post. I have been def looking for ways to improve my sleep, will try some of these. If anyone is interested in better sleep thru food check out this post! http://www.welikeitraw.com/rawfood/2008/02/the-joy-of-less.html

    • January 18, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hi Nawala, Thanks for the comment and thanks for the link. I hope some of these techniques help

  • January 29, 2010 Reply

    Tony

    Have you heard of WakeMate? (http://wakemate.com) It’s a new device you put on your wrist and measures your sleeping patterns, then picks the most optimal time to wake you up based on your REM patterns. I pre-ordered it. I’ll let you know how it is when I get it.

    • January 30, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hi Tony,

      Yeah I believe Tim Ferris uses the same system. For me personally just setting a 6 hour timer from when I go to bed works best as having a watch is just another gadget but definitely let me know how it goes.

  • January 31, 2010 Reply

    Arsene Hodali

    Another lifestyle designer obsessed with sleep. I like it.

    However, our approaches were different. I took the path of sleeping only two hours per day through polyphasic sleeping. Research it. I’m one of the few “Dymaxion” sleepers.

    Here’s my first post on the subject:
    http://www.danceproof.com/2009/12/28/dymaxion-sleep-intro/

    • February 1, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Arsene,

      I looked over your post – 2 hours a night is hardcore but as you said in your latest comments you seem to be doing alright. I’d be interested to see how it works over a 3 month period. Good work my friend.

  • April 27, 2010 Reply

    Bill in Detroit

    How you write is casting a shadow over what you write.

    “Problems associated with a lack of sleep: (Like carrying a backpack of Kyriptnyte)”

    Your posts — I’ve read a half-dozen — are all shabbily written. They all need to be re-read and edited.

    No reader should ever have to struggle with your grammar, spelling and punctuation problems.

    Did you learn to write this way while in college or did you learn it from the books you claim to have read?

    • May 4, 2010 Reply

      Jonny

      Hello Bill,

      Interesting comment and it seems you are in the field of helping people correct grammar though I think your approach needs to be drastically rethought. Thankyou however as I will probably now use your post as an example on how not to do things.

      All the best.

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