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I've done some search in this forum and I haven't found a proper discussion on sleep. Kit said to me it's a “forum topic”, so here I am opening this thread.

Since I'd like to make more room for my practices, I'm considering reducing the time I devote to sleep. My issue is I don't sleep that much and, on top of that, I feel like I need around 8 hours to be fully rested (and more than 6 to function properly). What's your experience? Do we need a lot of resting time? Could some practices be a substitute for sleep? A friend of mine, an architect, swear that sleeping 4hrs or less at night isn't that bad once you get used to it. I usually tell him that such sleeping pattern is a health hazard, but…am I right?

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3 hours ago, jaja said:

I'm considering reducing the time I devote to sleep.

Please don't! I am headed out the door so I will have to come back to this, but there are few things more essential to our health than (lots of high-quality) sleep. Will be back with more later.

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Was going to edit my reply, but the forum software didn't want to populate the edit with quotes, so I'm just going to post a new reply for convenience.

13 hours ago, jaja said:

Since I'd like to make more room for my practices, I'm considering reducing the time I devote to sleep.

I have a feeling you already realize that this is not a good idea, but are looking for someone to help you rationalize such a choice. (We all do it! But my apologies if I'm completely off-base.) What is the purpose of your "practices"? If the purpose is to enrich/better your life in some way, then sacrificing your health in order to fit them in is surely a mistake. It's like saying you heard that losing weight is good for you, so you cut both of your arms off. Well, sure, you lost weight, but you sacrificed something even more important in order to do so.

If your practices are important to you, then you can find time to do them without sacrificing your health. It is simply a matter of priorities. (For example, did you cut out social networking services, etc. before considering reducing sleep?) And if you truly do not have the time, then ask yourself whether you're not trying to include too many practices, or too much of each. An hour of meditation each day might be great, but if you are sleep deprived, then 10 minutes of meditation and 50 extra minutes of sleep is probably going to be better.

13 hours ago, jaja said:

A friend of mine, an architect, swear that sleeping 4hrs or less at night isn't that bad once you get used to it.

I was going to dig up a bunch of studies, but I will leave that to you if you are truly interested in the science. Suffice it to say that there is a large body of evidence that suggests that ample, high-quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of good health, both physical and mental. At least one study has looked at the effects of sleep deprivation on people and found a significant decrease in function despite the fact that the participants felt they were functioning just as well as usual. Ask your architect friend to first define "not that bad" and then ask how he has quantified his findings. I have gone long periods heavily sleep deprived in the past, and I was able to function. Humans are also able to live for weeks on end without food, but that doesn't make it a good choice.

13 hours ago, jaja said:

Could some practices be a substitute for sleep?

Not likely. That said, if a practice enables you to have higher-quality sleep, then it may give the appearance of doing so. For example, if you sleep very poorly for 8 hours each night and replace one of those hours with a practice that increases the quality of your sleep, it's very possible that the resulting 7 hours of higher-quality sleep will be better than the initial poor-quality 8 hours. Does that mean that such a practice is a substitute for sleep? No. Eight hours of higher-quality sleep would still be even better.

These TED Talks and the collection of articles at the bottom might be a good place to start exploring if you are inclined to do so. Just don't lose any sleep delving into the rabbit hole ;)

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1 hour ago, Nathan said:

I have a feeling you already realize that this is not a good idea, but are looking for someone to help you rationalize such a choice. (We all do it! But my apologies if I'm completely off-base.)

It's not actually a path I have desire to follow: I like sleeping! This is an aspect of human physiology I'm really ignorant about. I'm looking from some feedback here because I know this place is full of tinkerers.

1 hour ago, Nathan said:

If your practices are important to you, then you can find time to do them without sacrificing your health. It is simply a matter of priorities. (For example, did you cut out social networking services, etc. before considering reducing sleep?) And if you truly do not have the time, then ask yourself whether you're not trying to include too many practices, or too much of each. An hour of meditation each day might be great, but if you are sleep deprived, then 10 minutes of meditation and 50 extra minutes of sleep is probably going to be better.

I don't have much leisure time, these days, so I can't optimize much. I could practice mindfulness while commuting, though.

I still have a daily meditation practice (only 20 minutes), which I do usually in the evening. I'd like to make room for yoga nidra, which could be in some way “complementary” to sleep. I'm also willing to try some daoist drill, but I truly have no time left.

2 hours ago, Nathan said:

Not likely. That said, if a practice enables you to have higher-quality sleep, then it may give the appearance of doing so. For example, if you sleep very poorly for 8 hours each night and replace one of those hours with a practice that increases the quality of your sleep, it's very possible that the resulting 7 hours of higher-quality sleep will be better than the initial poor-quality 8 hours. Does that mean that such a practice is a substitute for sleep? No. Eight hours of higher-quality sleep would still be even better.

Few years back I was working as a chek-in agent at the airport near where I live. Given the nature of the job, my sleeping schedule wasn't optimal and 8hrs of rest were a luxury. At the time my meditation practice was going great and thanks to it I noticed a couple of things.

 

  • A deep samatha session was able to give me a boost of energy, way better than a nap
  • I experienced a couple (or more) of random lucid dreams. Waking up from them, I felt well rested even though I didn't sleep much (Often times I feel tired upon waking up)

During my honeymoon phase with yoga nidra I also had my sleep enhanced, so I feel there're practices that could aid the quality of my sleep.

 

Thank you for taking the time to post your comment, Nathan.

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10 hours ago, jaja said:

It's not actually a path I have desire to follow: I like sleeping!

That's good to hear. I love sleeping too! I like to get 8 hours, but I find I do even better with around 9-10. I'm tempted to say that sleep is even more important than exercise and nutrition. Why? Because exercise is a stimulus for beneficial change, and nutrition is the fuel for such change, but sleep is when those things actually induce change. Exercise without sleep is simply damage to your body. Proper nutrition without sleep is not damaging, but it cannot actually work its magic.

10 hours ago, jaja said:

I don't have much leisure time, these days, so I can't optimize much.

I have no reason not to believe you, but I can tell you that almost everyone thinks this regardless of the reality. Something that can be very helpful is to keep a log of how you spend your time for several days. Make note of everything you do each day and for how long. Then, after 3-4 days minimum, look back and ask yourself if all of it is necessary and/or important to you.

10 hours ago, jaja said:

I'd like to make room for yoga nidra, which could be in some way “complementary” to sleep.

I certainly feel that it can be complementary. If you can do it without falling asleep, then it will prepare you very nicely to fall asleep quickly and likely increase the quality of your sleep. But even done at another time of the day will complement your sleep since you will be more relaxed overall, in time.

10 hours ago, jaja said:

I felt well rested even though I didn't sleep much (Often times I feel tired upon waking up)

This is certainly not a bad thing, but I would not place too much stock in simply feeling more rested. As I mentioned in my first reply, people who showed real limitations in mental/physical functioning felt like they were perfectly well-rested. The body needs to be able to feel good despite functioning at a deficit. This is a matter of survival. And regarding feeling tired upon waking, this can also simply be a matter of waking up at the "wrong" time. If you wake up during a light cycle of sleep, you will feel refreshed. But if you wake up during a deep sleep cycle, you will feel groggy. This is why certain nap lengths are recommended.

10 hours ago, jaja said:

I feel there're practices that could aid the quality of my sleep.

Indeed! But do not underestimate non-practice elements (your sleep environment) as well. This includes things like making sure your sleeping environment is adequately dark, quiet, and cool. Also limiting artificial/blue light in the evening, limiting stimulant (caffeine, etc.) intake after noon (also depending on how your body processes caffeine), relaxing and winding down before bed, etc. A consistent sleep/wake schedule is also very, very beneficial. These things can increase the quality of your sleep without requiring extra time.

10 hours ago, jaja said:

Thank you for taking the time to post your comment, Nathan.

My pleasure! If you do dig into the topic and would still like more resources, I will dig around a bit and pull up some good podcasts that I have listened to in the past. I am guessing podcasts suit your needs well since you can listen to them on your commute without cutting into your other practices!

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/11/2018 at 8:45 PM, Nathan said:

Could some practices be a substitute for sleep?

@jaja: exactly what @Nathan said: All the lying relaxations will prepare you for a kind of sleep that you can't otherwise have. 

On 10/12/2018 at 10:47 AM, Nathan said:
On 10/12/2018 at 12:18 AM, jaja said:

I felt well rested even though I didn't sleep much (Often times I feel tired upon waking up)

 

That is a certain, 100% reliable, 24 carat piece of evidence that you are not sleeping well. In addition to all the excellent suggestions Nathan made, have a cup of Valerian tea before bed, and no coffee (hear that? no coffee) after 12:00. Do a lying relaxation on the floor before going to bed and you will be amazed at the difference.

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1 hour ago, Kit_L said:

(hear that? no coffee)

:o The horror! :o

But on a serious note, even if you think your sleep is not adversely affected by caffeine later in the day, they have found that quality of sleep is usually still reduced, regardless of whether the result is subjectively felt by the person. I, personally, do not feel the effects of caffeine consumed later in the day, but I tend to stick to my morning coffee and enjoy other herbal teas, etc. later in the day.

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7 hours ago, Kit_L said:

no coffee (hear that? no coffee) after 12:00

That is brutal.

5 hours ago, Nathan said:

I, personally, do not feel the effects of caffeine consumed later in the day, but I tend to stick to my morning coffee and enjoy other herbal teas, etc. later in the day.

So…is teine different than caffeine? I've also heard physical exercise should be avoid prior sleeping.

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4 hours ago, jaja said:

So…is teine different than caffeine? I've also heard physical exercise should be avoid prior sleeping.

What is teine? Did you mean tea? Herbal teas are generally caffeine-free. Black tea, green tea, and some other teas do have caffeine (and some more than you would expect), so you do have to be aware of that.

Vigorous physical exercise right before bedtime can make it hard for some people to get to sleep, but most people are fine as long as they have a couple of hours to wind down. Lower-intensity exercise is usually fine. As always, see what works for you.

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4 minutes ago, jaja said:

Sorry I didn't check the English term: I meant theanine. And yes, it is different apparently.

Ah, I see. Theanine is actually a relaxing (although not sedating) amino acid and is often paired with caffeine to make it "smoother," i.e. to get the stimulant effects without any "jitters." There is actually a fair bit of it in green tea, which is probably why you never hear of people getting jittery from drinking a lot of green tea.

From Examine.com:

Quote

in persons with ADHD (8-12 year old boys) given 200mg L-theanine twice daily for 6 weeks, sleep quality appears to be improved by reducing sleep activity (10%) and increasing sleep efficiency.[11]

In studies assessing sleep latency (time taken to fall asleep) and sleep duration (time elapsed between going to bed and waking in the morning), these parameters appear unaffected.[11]

So Theanine itself probably isn't going to interfere with sleep, and might even help, but the effect doesn't seem significant enough to go out of your way to take it IMO.

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I recommend the recently published book ”Why we sleep” by neuroscientist Matthew Walker. It takes up a lot of important aspects of the need for a proper amount of sleep, what happens we don’t get it, things that can affect sleep like light, caffeine, etc.

Caffeine has been shown to be effective at fragmenting sleep. Even if you fall asleep without any problems, the actual sleeping will suffer. Personally I used to drink more coffee than I do now, even at supper as just a general habit and routine, without reflecting too much on it. I had the tendency to sometimes be half-awake at night and feel a bit jittery, or even feel like reading a bit on my tablet or checking my phone in the middle of night (terrible idea).

After reading more research on it I decided to change my coffee habits, to basically what Kit said there and cut all (most) of my caffeine intake at lunch.

The half life of caffeine has a high variability between individuals (basically anywhere from 4-8 hours) but a common average number is 5 hours. That means if you drink a large cup of coffee (say generally 200mg caffeine there) in the afternoon (15.00 for example), that means you’ll still have 100mg of caffeine in your blood at 20.00, and 50mg 1.00 at night.

https://uploadfiles.io/gzd3c

That’s an excel document with calculations based on my own caffeine intake and a caffeine half life of 5 hours. I take one supplement + a small cup in the morning pre-workout, one when I get to work and one at lunch. Then a small amount of caffeine when I make my (mandatory) chocolate balls as a part of my supper ;) I go up at 4:30 and to sleep no later than 21:30.

As you can see, even when I’ve considerably cut my caffeine intake I still have a lot of caffeine in my blood when I go to bed. Even so, I’ve noticed a considerable improvement in sleep quality. It's a good general tool to map ones intake and get a rough estimate of where you're at when it comes to caffeine intake and if you may need to change something there.

Another thing is to not expose yourself to too much bright light the hour (hours?) before going to bed, since it effectively prevents melatonin secretion.

Anyway, I can't recommend abovementioned book enough.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So: coffee in the morning only, and definitely none after 12:00, as I said. Italians drink coffee at any time, even just before bed and, to some extent, they are attenuated to its effects. But (and thanks @Jonas W for adding that POV) I am sticking to my original post; many years of practical research informs it.

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On 11/1/2018 at 8:39 AM, Kit_L said:

Italians drink coffee at any time, even just before bed and, to some extent, they are attenuated to its effects.

Yes, I think we drink on average 4-5 espressos a day. It's also a “social habit”, so there's a peer pressure component to it. Anyway, no coffee after 12 is doable. Personally, I never drink it after dinner, but I know a lot of people who do.

Side note: challenging an Italian to abstain from coffee is hard; challenging an Italian to abstain from pasta is impossible.

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  • 2 years later...

I noticed Jonas W mention the book "Why We Sleep". I have also noticed my friends raving about it and being heavily influenced by it. I wanted to highlight there has been some push back on the claims in the book that can be found here: 

https://guzey.com/books/why-we-sleep/

https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2019/11/24/why-we-sleep-update-some-thoughts-while-we-wait-for-matthew-walker-to-respond-to-alexey-guzeys-criticisms/]

My limited sense as an outsider, having seen quite a few scientific failures by now (nutrition science, various social psychology fields, medicine, the list goes on), is that there's quite a lot we don't know yet within the field of sleep science. 

As to Jaja's original question about sleeping less, Nathan's recommendation seems wise. To venture into less sleep in exchange for novel meditative states that produce results equivalent to sleep is to be doing cutting edge research on yourself. That didn't work out so well for Marie Curie. At the very least, know that you're a guinea pig.

In any case Jaja, did you do any sleep hacking? If so, what did you find?

 

 

 

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On 8/16/2021 at 12:42 PM, Tim W said:

I noticed Jonas W mention the book "Why We Sleep". I have also noticed my friends raving about it and being heavily influenced by it. I wanted to highlight there has been some push back on the claims in the book that can be found here: 

https://guzey.com/books/why-we-sleep/

https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2019/11/24/why-we-sleep-update-some-thoughts-while-we-wait-for-matthew-walker-to-respond-to-alexey-guzeys-criticisms/]

My limited sense as an outsider, having seen quite a few scientific failures by now (nutrition science, various social psychology fields, medicine, the list goes on), is that there's quite a lot we don't know yet within the field of sleep science. 

As to Jaja's original question about sleeping less, Nathan's recommendation seems wise. To venture into less sleep in exchange for novel meditative states that produce results equivalent to sleep is to be doing cutting edge research on yourself. That didn't work out so well for Marie Curie. At the very least, know that you're a guinea pig.

In any case Jaja, did you do any sleep hacking? If so, what did you find?

The Alexey Guzey article is really good, would definitely recommend it. Don't skip the appendices, as it contains responses from people in the field!

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