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My sleep story

I’ve had some kind of odd connection with sleep pretty much my whole life. When I was a kid, I was one of those very energetic kids who crashed hard into sleep given he righ provocation. My mom once took a picture of me asleep on he floor clutching a bat and some pencils. I don’t remember
What the game was I had been playing when I fell asleep, but it was clear that it had come upon me suddenly.

As a teenager, I felt like I never got enough sleep. I woke up at 5:00 every morning; I had a church class I attended before school, and a paper route with morning delivery on the weekends. I fought my wakeup time, used snooze, and generally had a hard time with it. Some days I would take a nap in the afternoons, but not every day. Later, I quit the paper route and got a different job which didn’t get me up early on the weekends, so I did what many people do: I was tired and grumpy most of the week, and then I slept late on the weekends. During the summer I also slept late as a general rule.

During my first year of college, I reveled in staying up late. I was often up until 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. In fact, there was a guy on my floor who occasionally was getting up around he time I was headed to bed. I had arranged my classes so that I didn’t have to get up too early, but I still missed class occasionally from oversleeping.

Then I spent two years of my life as a missionary. I was on a fairly rigid schedule: up at 7:00, in bed at 11:00. That sounds like it ought to be enough sleep, but still there were times that it wasn’t. I once fell asleep while standing on someone’s doorstep. I worked with a missionary who fell asleep while reading out loud in someone’s home. This kind of thing was worse in the summer, when it was hot, or when we had been kept up later than usual by something. I did, however, learn how to wake up consistently on time and ready to go.

When my missionary service was finished, I went back to finish my degree. I had, by that point, become more or less an early riser, but it’s never quite that simple. I discovered that if I was getting up to go hiking, I didn’t have any trouble waking at 4:00 or 5:00, but that it was difficult to consistently be up, alert, and on time to an 8:00 class. If I was trying to get up for something genuinely distasteful, he odds were even worse.

As a graduate student, my sleep habits were pretty normal, at least at first. Toward the end of my grad school experience, though, I became interested in polyphasic sleep, and I eventually successfully adapted to a polyphasic schedule. For about six months I only slept 2 out of every 24 hours. Our house was clean, I got lots of work done, and I had time to bake bread. I’ll write more about the experience of being polyphasic another time; it’s worth writing about, but doesn’t really fit the theme of this post. I got of the schedule when we were traveling. It was just too hard to find places to nap at the right times. Since then, I’ve wanted to get back into a polyphasic groove, but there has always been something standing in my way. Perhaps someday I’ll do it again. That’s not really the point of this exercise, however.

These days, I wake up most mornings around 4:00. I can take naps at work without too much trouble, and I’m becoming more and more interested in sleep from an academic (computer modeling and applied math, more than physiology or psychology) standpoint. Rather than wondering specifically about adapting to a polyphasic lifestyle, I’m more curious about what I can do with my sleep that will have a significant impact on my quality of life. For example, I’ve found that I get tired and cranky at about 7 pm nearly every night. Is it possible that a prophylactic nap can mitigate this? If so, when is the best time to take it? Today I tried a nap at about 5:00 pm. I didn’t stay asleep for the whole time I had web aside, but I did experience some improvements in my evening mood. I’ll have to see if it continues to help.

I have many more questions, of course, and that’s largely what this blog is for: to give me a space to explore these issues, and to scratch my sleep itch in an organized way.


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