Optimizing Sleep

by [anonymous] 1 min read10th May 201137 comments


I have an atypical sleep schedule.  I tend to drift in the hours that I keep (that is, going to sleep later and later each day until a 'reset' is required).  I also am willing to sacrifice sleep if something sufficiently interesting or urgent (problem sets, a Neal Stephenson book, a new Less Wrong article about an interesting topic) comes up.  While procrastination earlier in the day can also play a part in my staying up late, I've noticed that, left to my own devices, I seem to prefer a day-night inversion.  I'm naturally much more active at night than during the day, and will skip a meal or two in order to maintain this schedule.  (Note:  I realize that day-night sleep inversion can be a sign of a medical illness.  For reasons I won't go into here, I don't believe that any of them are applicable.)

The schedule that I have now is not optimal for a number of reasons:

  • Not being able to socialize with very many other people due to not syncing up with their schedules.
  • 'Drifting' leads to unpredictability in my ability to function at a given time during an upcoming day- which is  important for tests and classes.
  • Sleeping during the day is more difficult than at night (extra noises, distractions, etc.)


What I'd like to do is figure out how to optimize my sleep schedule.  I'd prefer not to just 'invert' it to be a typical sleep schedule, but to either alter the sleep schedule or discover changes that I can make in other parts of my life that will mitigate the downsides.  Some things are obvious: microwavable food for when nothing else is available at night is one change that I can make right away and would minimize the damage from skipping meals.  The social issues and 'drifting' are more complicated and don't present an obvious solution after a few minutes of reflection.  The reason I resist changing back to a regular sleep schedule is that I know that I'm groggy and miserable in the morning and less productive until about noon of that day if forced to operate under a regular sleep schedule.

Do you have an atypical sleep schedule now, or have you in earlier parts of your life?  I would hazard a guess that among the Less Wrong/Rationality/Skeptic/Bayesian community, experimentation in sleep schedule would be higher than in the general population.  Have you tried a polyphasic sleep schedule?  (I once unsuccessfully did a few years ago in hopes of solving some of the above problems.)  If you have experienced these or similar problems, what 'hacks' have you found that mitigate the downsides?


(Note: This is my first discussion post.  I apologize in advance if the formatting or content seems a bit askew as a result.  Constructive criticism is of course welcome.)