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How much sleep you really need is one of the greatest debate out there.
There are numerous studies on set times patterns, flexible times, REM cycles, and sleep deprivation which results in bad drivers on the road.
As a student, athlete, employed person, new father, newly wed, computer professional on call, and most important, a human being, I’ve tried all the methods known to me. Sleep strategies can generally be broken down to 4 strategies:
1) Go to bed when the sun goes down, and rise when the sun rises.
This is great if you live near the equator when the sunset and sunrise times are consistent. Or if you are a Farmer dependent on light to do your field work, though I guess you can milk cows at dusk or darkness!
2) Go to bed same time and wake up the same time to an alarm clock
The problem with this is you may waste time lying in bed and not sleep, especially if you’re not sleepy. The upside is you could do other things in bed.
3) Go to bed when you’re sleepy, not knowing the time, and wake up the same time to an alarm clock
I did this in University with great success. My sleep cycles that is, not my GPA. I would always have my alarm clock pre-set, but turn the clock around so i wouldn’t see the time I go to bed. I would eliminate all clocks in the study room and bed room, similar to that of a Las Vegas casino. This way, I would never psych myself out on how little I slept if I knew exactly how little I slept.
4) Go to bed when you’re sleepy and wake up when you wake up naturally
There is a caveat to this and that includes sleeping in! This makes it hard to keep commitments in the morning, especially your day job! There has been research with circadian rhythms that the human body clock is really 25 hours long, not 24. No wonder we have problems waking up! Prolonged experiments with research scientists living in caves drift anywhere up to a 48 hours daily cycle with 24 hour awake times and 24 hours sleep times! I’ll find the original source of that research, which was done in France.
Jimson’s method: I like a modified #4 and #2 as a backup when I need to get up!
Go to bed when you’re sleepy and wake up when you wake up naturally, usually in 90 minute REM cycles, such as 6 hours sleep, 7.5 or 9. Or, for unfortunate circumstances like early morning flights for travel, even 3 or 4.5 hours of sleep! With a bit of practice, you can wake up safely 10 to 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. But if you do, STAY AWAKE! Because if you fall asleep again, the alarm will wake you up in the middle of your deep sleep, and that would be bad. I’ll go more in depth into REM sleep cycles on a later post.
Let’s say I sleep only 6 hours one night. I’ll be a bit tired the next day and I would naturally go to bed a bit earlier to compensate from the night before, and maybe sleep 7.5 hours. Or sleep 9 hours on the weekend when I don’t have to work.
Having pets don’t help, as they will wake up on their own clocks or to daylight. And your cat doesn’t know it’s a weekend when you really want to sleep in. Having children won’t help either, but they are worth it in the long run. Or, so I am told.