A Lack of Sleep

I don’t get much sleep. When I tell people that I get to work at 5:30 in the morning most days, they are usually surprised, and often afterwards they ask me when I go to bed. When I tell them, then they are even more surprised. The answer that I give is between midnight and 1am, which is true most of the time. Lately, I’ve been trying to get into bed before midnight, but I still often don’t try to sleep until after the witching hour (?).

I don’t really seem to have a problem keeping up this sleeping schedule on normal weekdays. There is some leeway on the amount of sleep that I get on the weekends, but usually my to-bed time isn’t changing, but rather just the wake-up time. My alarm is set to 9am on the weekends, but I’m also not worried about it being right next to my head most of the time, so commonly I will sleep until 10 or 11 on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve read a few articles that say that you can catch up on sleep, but then again, there are others that don’t believe it.

If I go through and do the math, these weekend sleeps aren’t really balancing out the score though: on an average weekday I will get between 3 and 5 hours of sleep. On a weekend, I increase that to 8 to 9 hours, and sometimes up to 10. Doing the math, that’s only about six and a half hours per day when it comes to the end, still less than the recommended amount of eight hours.

I’ve been confused as to why I can do this for a while now, especially during the weekdays when there is so little sleep time. I’ve read about polyphasic sleep and REM cycles, which suggest that I am perhaps getting a single full sleep cycle in, and it just happens to be convenient for the time that I’ve chosen to get up and head to work in the morning.

Ever the experimenter, I tried napping during my lunch break for about a month last year. I would have my lunch out of the office, and then start sleep now to wake me up half an hour later. I did it because I read that just a short nap can actually improve your mental condition for a long time if you take it during the day. It didn’t work out for me, I just ended up feeling no better or groggier than I did before. Possibly it was because I was doing it in the full sunlight, as there is some evidence that you need to have a dark room for good sleep.

Alternately, I could be actually detrimental some part of my day, penalizing the work that I do in the evening towards my thesis, or making it that much harder to concentrate on the programming that I do on my spare time. Then my lack of shut-eye could be actually hurting my life. It’s just one more thing to worry about, so I usually just keep doing what is working for now, and maybe worry about it later.