Notes on Sleep

Updated 30-Jan-2022

Read This Book on Sleep (2020)

Bill Gates recommends the book Why We Sleep, and it is excellent. All of my notes above need to be revised with this book in mind. I highly recommend reading it, to get more science, less psychobabble.

How Much Sleep is Enough? (2018)

Now that my eldest son is 3 years old, there may be some changes to his schedule (he still takes a nap most days, but he is staying up past his traditional bedtime, so this became a question for me: How much sleep is enough?

Well, there is a range of answers, depending on ages, such as:

Mayo Sleep Recommendations

Age group Recommended amount of sleep
Newborns 14 to 17 hours a day
12 months About 10 hours at night, plus 4 hours of naps
2 years About 11 to 12 hours at night, plus a 1- to 2-hour afternoon nap
3 to 5 years 10 to 13 hours
6 to 13 years 9 to 11 hours
14 to 17 years 8 to 10 hours
Adults 7 to 9 hours

*Note that there are differences in particular circumstances such as illness, pregnancy, and the like.

CDC Sleep Recommendations

Age Group Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day
0–3 months 14–17 hours
4–12 months 12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
1–2 years 11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
3–5 years 10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
6–12 years 9–12 hours per 24 hours
13–18 years 8–10 hours per 24 hours
18–60 years 7 or more hours per night
61–64 years 7–9 hours
65 years+ 7–8 hours

Note on bedtime (2020)

The book Why We Sleep is excellent and one main point is to always go to bed and wake up at the same time. One cannot deposit or withdraw sleep from a sleep bank. When facing sleeplessness, there are some specific things to do (limit blue light, no active displays before bed (video, computer screens), don't eat before bed, bedroom cool enough, shower before bed (helps cool core temperature), darkened room, etc.).

Our children are now 3 and 5 years old, needing 10-13 hours of sleep including naps. They usually get 1-2 hour naps but sometimes no nap and sometimes 3 hours. Bedtime is 8pm, though it can be 8:30 or sometimes 9pm before they get to sleep (after reading stories, etc.). Wake up is at 6am or 5am for the older boy if he goes on an early exercise bicycle ride.

Sleep Training (2016)

With teeth and teeth brushing comes the need to sleep through the night, or at least change the nighttime feeding into nighttime watering. Turns out that this happens about the same time as toothbrushing should, or somewhat thereafter.

We are entering the zone of the final few months of the baby's first year. At 10 months, kicking dad throughout the night has gotten a bit old. So it is time to make several changes:

  • Co-sleeping
  • Nighttime weaning
  • More and better tooth brushing

The question is the correct method and also sequencing. Probably the most traumatizing should come first.

Resources for Sleep Training

These articles are from the very informative Dr. Craig Canapari.

Monophasic, Biphasic, Polyphasic Sleep (2012)

There will be sleeping enough in the grave. --Benjamin Franklin

Polyphasic Sleep is when sleep occurs at more than one point in the 24-hour cycle. Otherwise known as napping, it is possible to shorten the length of sleep for all sleep periods and end up with less time overall spent sleeping. The reason this is possible, is that the sleep periods (theoretically) become more efficient in delivering the kind of sleep needed for restfulness. Power-napping is another term for this, but the power part comes from a compression of sleep stages.

Note that sleep is quite diverse in different cultures at different times. Biphasic sleep and Monophasic sleep are both normal.

Some people are able to supposedly get by on 3 hours of sleep this way, and it has been ascribed to such people as Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill among others.

Benefits of Sleeping Less and More Often

The purported benefits besides an increase in available time (quantity) include as well quality indicators such as increased alertness, creativity and health. However these benefits have been (somewhat) debunked on Supermemo. The main issue that they take with this practice is that sleep deprivation is necessary in order to entrain one's sleep pattern.

Naturally Polyphasic

This is obviously true... Or is it? If my current sleep pattern is not actually natural (quite a bit of historical as well as EEG evidence that humans are naturally diphasic).

Extreme Sleep Conditions

In extreme situations such as battlefields and extreme adventure sports, sleeping less is mandatory for success. Enter the Uberman (aka Superman, Uebermensch).

Uberman Sleep Schedule

The rather heroic Uberman sleep schedule, which is 20-30 minutes of sleep every four hours, is not something I am going to try for. I don't need that much of a change and also, there doesn't seem to be much room for error there regarding the actual function of sleep. Instead, all I need to do as a result is one more hour of productivity without any loss of energy/alertness, etc. I intend to do more reading and more exercise during this time bonus, if and when it arrives.

Five Interval Sleep Phase

My initial experiment (beginning 11-AUG-2012) will be one hour sleep periods five times per day, at approximately:

  • 8am-9am
  • 1pm-2pm
  • 6pm-7pm
  • 11pm-12am
  • 3am-4am

This fits my schedule which is fairly flexible, but needs a 4am wakeup for early morning running, a 10am-12pm classes and 3pm meetings several times per week. This also allows me to have an early dinner (at 5pm) or late dinner (7pm+), and not need to sleep at night until 11pm. Also this would allow me to do a late night dancing from midnight to 3am (which my current monophasic sleep does not allow).

Updates on Sleep Experiment

  • Day 1: Took the naps during the day, and had more energy, but got tired (as always) later in the evening. Slept from 11pm-4am. Which means I had 8 hours of sleep (which is more than I usually do). Therefore slept more, ate more, and had more energy.
  • Day 2: Similar to day 1. Took naps (the 2pm was difficult, only 30 minutes and got back up). Instead of the 6pm nap, went for a two hour Thai massage. Then to bed at 10:30pm. Heard the 1am alarm but ignored it. Heard the 3am alarm (to nap again), thought of getting up, but didn't. Heard the 4am alarm and then stayed in bed. Got up at 5am for the run. This mean 8.5 hours of sleep. Even more!
  • Day 3: ...

Conclusion on Sleep

I've learned this isn't going to work out, I am sleeping more, not less. And there are times I put off the nap, can't get to sleep, can't wake up easily, and also the habit of sleeping through much of the night. However, my awareness of sleep and its effect has dramatically increased. There are some studies which conclude that modern man is basically sleep-deprived and this has disastrous effects regarding accident rates, attention in the workplace, not to mention basic physical well-being.

I've come to realize, especially at my advancing age in the upper 40s, that sleep and naps should be grabbed at every reasonable opportunity. Note: This is the same for early-to-mid 50s.

1 thought on “Notes on Sleep”

  1. Hi Jeff, I am glad you stopped that schedule. I think, it is not advisable to sleep against your circadian clock, and I don’t think you can entrain it to the pattern you are suggesting without detrimental effects to your health and memory. Also, more recent research has shown that the variation in different people is actually quite a bit smaller than originally thought – and proposed on the Supermemo website (free running sleep experiments). The problem with the original experiments, suggesting that some people’s circadian clock is way longer than 24 hours, was that they allowed the subjects to turn on the light – which resulted in resets and shifts. I really like Wozniak’s spaced repetition and learning ideas, but the assumption about the clock variation is probably not current. Take a look at the part about humans in the following wikipedia article: It has the references to relevant and interesting research. IMO, Czeisler in particular is very interesting on the subject. Nice to meet you on Twitter.

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