posted on Jun, 5 2004 @ 03:24 AM
Sleep is a rather peciliur thing, and unfortunately there is a great lack of research in that area. Much of what you hear is speculation or is based
on limited laboratory studies. I'm not a doctor, so don't take what I say for gospel. There are essentially two major parts of sleep: REM and
non-REM. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) is "deep" sleep, and it's generally considered the most rejuvinating part. If you are woken during REM, you're
going to feel bad, and you'll probably feel that way all day. That's an issue of using an alarm clock: it has no way of knowing what stage of
sleep you're in. I have heard of an alarm clock that actually monitors your brain waves, and can determine what sleep mode you're in, and figure
out when best to wake you - I'm sure it costs lots of money, and who really wants to wear patches on their heads all night?
A sleep cycle lasts around 1.5 hours, so it's good to schedule your wakup a factor of that after you fall asleep. You may actually feel better after
7.5 hours sleep than after 8. Of course, few people fall asleep within a couple minutes of laying down, so there's a good chance that you'll end up
shorting yourself by 30 minutes, which could result in your alarm clock going off during REM. So, basically, the best option is to force youself to
follow a daily ritual - go to sleep at the same time every night, and hopefully wake up without an alarm clock. That way you are guaranteed to wake
up during the "right" time in your sleep cycle.
Recently I have been doing some research into polyphasic sleep, an area that has only started to gain academic attention in the last decade or so.
Humans in general are monophasic, meaning we sleep once a day, for an extended period. We are the exception in nature. Most animals, spare a few
other mammals and some birds, sleep several times throughout the day (i.e. are polyphasic). Scientists have set out to determine why we are
monophasic, and what advantages that could hold. Perhaps, in this round-the-clock world, polyphasic sleep schedules would be more benificial? There
are legends concerning some of the great thinkers, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and even Winston Churchill, saying that they followed
polyphasic schedules. Allegedly, da Vinci only slep 1.5 hours a day - 15 minutes at a time, 6 times a day. Several experiments have tried to
duplicate this feat, some showing remarkable success. There is no set theory as to why this could work, but the general consensus is that since you
are awake less at a time, you need less sleep to recover. I have tried to implement something like this the last week, but it is very difficult to
transition. I've actually put my experiment on hold for a couple days, so I can do some more research and come up with a plan that should be easier
If we can sleep like this while leading perfectly healthy lives, imagine the implications it could hold! Several hours extra awake time per day!
Shift workers wouldn't be falling asleep on the job, as long as they got their naps every four hours. Those who have tried a plan like this say that
after a couple weeks, they don't need an alarm clock, and wake up naturally 20-30 minutes after falling asleep. Certainly a plan like this isn't
for everyone, as there can be some serious social implications to having to sleep every four hours.
The best reference I've found for polyphasic sleep is Why We Nap: Evolution, Chronobiology, and Functions of Polyphasic and Ultrashort Sleep
(Birkhauser Boston, 1992), edited by Claudio Stampi.
Sorry for rambling...just something that I've found much interest in lately.
One thing I should note: If you find youself unable to get a decent night's sleep, and get tired in the afternoon, don't be afraid to take a nap
(as long as you won't get fired for it!). The general consensus among sleep researchers is that a short (20-30 minute) nap won't effect your
nightly sleep, and it can have some amazing effects.
[Edited on 6/5/2004 by PurdueNuc]