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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Make Time: Sleep Less

Sleep less and you'll have the time to be creative, make more money at a second job or whatever you want to do. But don't just deprive yourself of sleep - get smarter about it.

When I was going to Alexander Technique teacher training school and had to pay for it myself AND live an hour commute away, I came up with the brilliant idea of a split sleeping schedule. Went from nine hours a night sleep to a daily total of five hours with no ill effects. After around three weeks to get used to the schedule, it worked beautifully. I had no trouble keeping it up for over a year - so my experiment stood the test of time! Now whenever I want to stay up late for music or dancing, I can switch into that schedule without having to "get used to it."

I've become a "happy napper"! To my mind, the ability to nap is one of life's secrets.

The best schedule was a split sleeping time. Heard this hint from learning about a study with college students where the minimized sleeping schedule of 12 hours apart was the most common cycle tolerated by the most people. Decided to be sleeping 12 hours apart. For most people, how long to sleep two hours apart would be determined by the timing of their own sleep cycle. After experimenting with how awake I felt after sleeping certain amounts of time, I observed that the best sleep cycle for me turned out to be 1 1/2 hour plus a little time to get deep into falling asleep. So two hours was a good minimum cycle for me that gave me much more sustaining energy than a random "nap."

Rather deliberately because it worked into my schedule, I chose the actual times from 4am-7:30 twelve hours apart, which gave me two cycles each. It turned out that I could get by with the afternoon cycle being only two hours; from 4pm-6pm. It worked elegantly in practice. I would go to sleep at the end of the day and wake up, having all night to be awake...then go to sleep at the end of the night and be awake to have all day.

The only thing I missed is that I never got to see the sunset during the winter.

The trick to start the routine is to pick a time when you want to take a nap anyway. Turn off the phone, lock the door, make the room dark if possible - and it also helps to go through your nightly "routine of going to bed" rather than just treating it as a nap.

With this schedule, you could have two jobs, have more time for the internet or for doing your creative projects, have time for yourself while the kids are sleeping, etc.

Warning: don't let friends who show up from out of town talk you into skipping your sleeping times. You can't "catch up" later once you establish these times. You'll have to sleep ten hours if you get knocked off your routine; or at least I did the two times this happened to me.

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