Tuesday, May 16, 2006

changing sleep patterns

For most of my life I have been a strictly 8+ hours of sleep per night kinda person.
Notoriously so as a teenager, as so many others.
I could go for a few weeks on very little sleep, when working heavy overtime or doing serious "all nighter" pushes, but then I had to catch up on sleep.

But, for the last couple of years I have necessarily been making do with 5-6 hours of sleep, at best.
Right now, this seems to lead to me crashing for a day about once every 2-3 weeks, which seriously displeases the Big Kid.
My coffee consumption is also creeping up, which it does on a ~ 5 year cycle. In the past I've restarted the cycle by going cold turkey on coffee for 2 weeks, once I hit 6-7 cups per day (real cups...). Don't know that I can do that anymore.

So... is it possible to switch sleep patterns and transit my body clock and metabolism to a permanent 5-6 hour sleep pattern (permanent in this case probably means 5+ years), or not?
Anecdotally it would seem this is possible, but I need to do it without an external enforcer, and preferably while letting the rest of the family get their 8-14 hour sleep, as age appropriate.


Blogger Chris said...

This is definitely common in astronomy. Thankfully I've been able to be closer to 6-7 than 5-6, but 6 is more common than 7.

One point that immediately leapt to my mind -- a faculty member at another university that I know well (I'll be vague, but it should be somewhat obvious) had his memory tested by a doctor, because he was worried about memory lapses. The doctor tested him, declared him healthy, and then told him that his problems were probably related to chronic sleep deprivation. Apparently, if you don't get enough sleep, your short term memory doesn't get transferred to long term memory. He told us that it made sense to him when he thought of the analogy that he wasn't sleeping long enough to complete a full backup of his internal hard drive. Don't know if this has led to any changes in lifestyle, but there was at least recognition that it was probably necessary.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except for times of extreme motivation, as in deadlines, my body will give me a few days of feeling strong on very little sleep. Usually, just long enough to convince myself that I'm made of steel. The next day, I sleep til 11.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd look into getting a prescription for modafinil. It's now often prescribed for shift workers, which you in some sense are. See here:

1:05 PM  

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