Once again, with standard time approaching and daylight savings time ending, you actually gain an extra hour of sleep and that alone can screw up your sleeping patterns.
At least temporarily.
But what about oversleeping? How many people, especially teenagers, sleep over 10 hours a day? WebMD carried an article on Physical Side Effects of Oversleeping.
So the question is, how much sleep do we really need?
I will use the time change from Daylight Savings Time (DST) to Standard Time as a good experiment to determine how much sleep you really need, and IF it is possible to live on less sleep. With less sleep, and more time on your hands, you won’t have the excuse, “I don’t have time”.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
The short answer is your sleep hours should be a multiple of 90 minutes (give or take a few minutes) which is your REM cycle.
That’s either 6, 7.5, or 9 hours of sleep. I know some executives who sleep 4.5 hours but they are fuelled by adrenaline and pure motivation to succeed. Or fear of failure. Executives and Officers are just wired differently.
Some marathoners like Paula Radcliffe sleeps 10.5 to 11 hours a day. That number may include a 90 minute midday nap between workouts.
People who wake up in the middle of their REM cycle from alarm clocks report feeling groggy, lethargic or simply grouchy for the entire day. I’ll bet you know a few people like that!
You will have to train your body to wake up naturally at the end of your REM cycle. Obviously, it’s better to wake up BEFORE the alarm clock and use the extra time to organize your day, or perhaps squeeze in a Yoga or dynamic stretching routine.
Personally, I sleep 6 hours a night Monday to Friday. On Saturday, I get up at the same time, as my body just wakes up naturally from the last 5 days of habit. By Sunday, I do wake up at the same time, but manage to sleep an additional 90 minutes or sometimes an extra 3 hours depending on my “sleep deficit” if that theory actually exists.
The Sleep Deficit Theory
If you do believe in this theory, where your body has to catch up on the lack of sleep, AND you have a couple of days off work approaching, then try this experiment.
On the Thursday and Friday night before Daylight Savings Time ends, sleep in as long as your body needs to. Ditch the alarm clock. (Do keep track of the number of hours you sleep, however). Also keep a rough estimate on how long it takes for you to fall asleep. It may be a soon as the head hits the pillow or it may be anywhere from 10-15 minutes. YMMV.
Then on Saturday night, after adjusting all your clocks and watches, sleep as much as you feel, but wake up as soon as you feel semi-conscious from the end of your REM sleep . Ignore the current time, and check your stopwatch or internal clock.
If you are hoping to do more in life, then it would be a perfect world if you woke up on 1.5 hours less sleep compared to Thursday and Friday night.
There are so many factors involved here, from number of caffeinated drinks during the day, alcohol consumption, and to the type of hard workouts you are doing. Speed workouts affect the CNS and that alone will affect your sleep pattern or morning mood behaviour.
But I’m pretty sure your number of hours of sleep will be in multiples of 6, 7.5 or 9. So why on earth do they tell you to sleep 8 hours? Because it’s exactly one third of 24? Who says our circadian rhythm is 24 hours and not 25? Or do they expect you to do something for 30 minutes before bed? Keep the suggestions to yourself, please!
REM cycle varies, especially with age, so the 90 minute model may vary from individual to individual.
Optimizing the Results
Once you have your numbers, you now have to back track, just like your annual training plan’s competition schedule. If you must get up at 6:30am, and you need 7.5 hours of sleep, then you know you must sleep by 11 pm. Any later and either (1) you are dead duck from waking up from an alarm in the middle of your REM cycle. Or (2) you MIGHT wake up at 5:30 or 6 pm after 6 hours of sleep (4 x 90 minute REM cycles)
Knowing this information, you would start “getting ready” for bed at 10:30pm.
One plus One or Two plus One
I find you can go one day with “less than optimal” sleep, say 6 hours, but the next day you may need to get back your normal sleep of 7.5 hours.
Other people I know can go two days on a deficit but by the third day, they need to return to their normal sleep pattern.
Waking up at 5am for an early morning flight doesn’t bother me. I just have to watch out for time zone changes.
After years of tinkering, I can wait until Sunday to catch up, sometimes with a mid week nap after work and a mid-day nap on Saturday after Lunch. By Monday, I am all charged up again.
Throughout the Day
Another important consideration is adjusting your life around your optimized patterns throughout the day. On less sleep, you might be fresher in the AM, so I would do reading, research or important meetings. By the afternoon, especially after a big lunch, I try to do physical work. Or at least walk around a lot. No boring meetings!
At the end of the day, if you work 8 hours, and sleep 8, then you only have 8 for yourself. Add traffic, commute, overtime, and oversleeping, then that 8 shrinks down to 1-2 hours very fast! So every hour less of unnecessary sleep will be added to your “bank account”.