Sleep Optimization : A Week Later

Read the first post : Sleep Optimization

Well, I’ve collected a baseline. Not huge but some interesting information.

This is where I’m at.

  • I take between 40 and 80 minutes to fall asleep at night
  • On average, I sleep just over 8 hours a night (after I fall asleep)
  • I go into ‘light sleep’ (I move around) on average about 33 times a night. (Fairly restless)
  • In my notes each morning, I’ve noted that my back is usually sore or stiff and causing me pain

A couple of thoughts about these results.

First, I’m taking way too long to actually fall asleep. From what I’ve read, it should take no more than about 15 minutes to fall asleep. Right now, I’m basically laying in bed in the dark for a good hour just thinking about stuff.

Second, my back being sore is a recurring theme. Nearly every morning, that’s my main complaint. I believe this is what’s waking me up and causing me to move around so much at night.

Both of these hypotheses are inline with my thoughts in my first post when I started. I’ve noticed a few other things that interrupt sleep, (my dogs waking up and walking around the room or howling wakes me up, the train that blasts by my house at 3am for a couple). I feel thought that my sore back is the biggest problem though. I mentioned it as a problem every morning that I recorded data.

Next comes the testing to see how to improve things.

  • Exercise and stretch my back. This will build up flexibility and strength and hopefully make it harder to get this sore. I need to research some good exercises and stretches. I’ll note what I find here on the blog.
  • Do some reading that’s not related to work before I go to bed. I need to get some books that take my mind off of work and let my mind drift. Maybe some soft music will help too.
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each night. I hope this will also help me fall asleep faster as my body will hopefully prepare for it.

I’m going to do these separately so that I can measure the results separately. This will help me determine if what I’m doing is making a difference or not.

The first thing I’m going to try is exercising my back as I think this is causing the biggest impact on quality of sleep. I sleep for eight hours a night but always wake up feeling like I slept six.

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Sleep Optimization

UPDATE 9/25/2011: Sleep Optimization : A Week Later

I work for Adobe. I don’t work on Flash or PDF or Photoshop or any of those products though. I work with the analytics part of the business, (from the Omniture acquisition).

I look through data and try and find patterns and find places to improve performance. As such, I’ve been developing, (and still am), a sense of procedure when solving problems.

I’ve never been a super sleeper. When most people run well on 6-8 hours of sleep, I run well on 10+. If I only sleep 8 hours, I feel pretty out of it during the day. I’ve put up with it for so long that this kind of thing seems natural.

I’ve recently started wondering if there is a better way though. I hear so much about early risers and how much they do, and thought it would be nice to be like that. So, I decided to try and optimize my sleep.

Here is my procedure so far:

  • Research
  • Collect data (for baseline and for comparison of results later)
  • Develop tests for new methods of sleeping
  • Compare collected data against baseline

I’m currently in the research/collect data (for baseline) phases. I’ve turned up some interesting things.

There are some people that think that humans have biphasic sleep cycles (meaning they sleep twice during 24 hours). Apparently, there are primates that do this, and various cultures that have “siestas” in the middle of the day. Some more people have checked this out and have tried something called polyphasic sleep, (in which they basically just take small naps throughout a 24 hour period). This seems kind of extreme, but they’re big claim to fame is that people can get by on less than 8 hours of sleep, (some claim just 3).

This is pretty radical, but interesting. Its a little extreme for my tastes though. I’d be happy if I’d just feel rested after 8 hours. 🙂

So, I check out what people say about that.

One of the things that sticks out from what I’ve read so far is that people need to wind down before they sleep. I frequently work or play intense video games or watch intense shows before I go to bed. This usually keeps me up starting at the ceiling for an hour or two before I finally sleep. I’m going to try writing something or reading before I go to bed so that I can unwind.

Another thing is that my back gets sore at night and I turn over a lot. I believe this is due to a weak lower back as well as a firm mattress. I’ve tried stretching out before bed, but I don’t think I’m doing it right. I need to research back exersizes and and stretches.

In terms of gathering data, I’ve downloaded an app from the Android Market called ElectricSleep. I’ve used it the past four nights and found that I enter a state of light sleep over 20 times during the night. Last night I hit 37.

The way the app works is it uses the phone’s accelerometers to measure movement on the bed. Even small movements are remarkably picked up. The idea is, when you sleep, you generally don’t move a whole lot unless you wake up a little. Movement is a good indicator of that.

Since I don’t have a personal EEG, I’ll likely be using this to measure progress as well as logging notes on how I felt each night went.

For what its worth, it also has a built in alarm clock that tries to go off when you are in light sleep instead of REM. 🙂