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3 Sleep Cycles

June 25, 2013

"An estimated 25% or more Americans face a bout of insomnia in a given year..."   [1]
which may actually just be hokum: as [2,3] note, an 8 hour sleep may be a myth.

The article and the drug industry are hot to service such a huge customer base with drugs and coaching.

Been There, Done That

The problem I have with all this is that, when I read the "problem", I see, "a feature/artifact".
At one point, I thought I had "sleep problems": I would

  1. not sleep all night,
  2. have to get up for the bathroom more than once,
  3. not be able to get back to sleep sometimes,
  4. etc, etc, etc.

All the symptoms/issues that I hear are "a problem" (send money).

Base Data

Over time, I learned some key pieces of information that changed my perspective on sleeping.
(note: if you want more details. read the references and use a search engine).

  1. sleep seems to occur in 1.5 hour cycles with 3 main stages
    1. light - falling asleep
    2. deep - the "real" sleep
    3. REM - processing stored sensory inputs.
  2. the 1.5 hour boundary is a "awake" mode and getting up is easy
  3. being disturbed in the middle of the 1.5 cycle is grim, especially the middle 3/4 hour!
  4. after 3 cycles, about 4.5 hours, I often become more cognizant, get up to use the bathroom.
  5. sometimes, after 4.5 hours, I really "wake up".[1]
    It takes about 10 minutes of trying to sleep to tell.  If I am "awake", I get up:
    1.  and write in my journal,
    2. write down plans for the next day that are bubbling around in my mind
    3. capture anything rummaging in my mind.
    after I "empty my mind", usually about 1 to 1.5 hours, I go back to bed and go to sleep for 2 or sometimes 3 cycles.
    1. this matches historical accounts of "first sleep, second sleep".
    2. 2nd sleep, according to [3], is mostly "light" and "REM" sleep
  1. If, during the day, "my brain get full", I will lie down and "nap"
    1. often, while my eyes are closed and there is no visual sensory process, my mind will wander over a bunch of recent "stuff" - sorting, categorizing, etc
      => after about 20 minutes I "wake up" and am "rearing to go"
    2. if I actually "fall asleep", it had better be for a "cycle" or real close.
      If I am disturbed after 30 minutes and before 1.25 hours, I am groggy.

Bottom line

I find that there are a few key points about "sleep"

  1. don't ever, ever, be disturbed or try to get up while in "deep sleep"!
  2. if awaken on a 1.5 hour boundary
    1. if only 4.5 hours and awake/mind "bubbling": get up, write/plan, go back to sleep
    2. if after 6 or 7.5 hours (or 1.5/3.0 hours in 2nd sleep) and "awake", just get up.  May be a bit tired but not a real problem.
    3. if some other period, hypothesize "what woke me up", identify something (truck, rain, etc), go back to sleep if no reason to further investigate.


1. 2013-0625 New Entry in the Quest for a Perfect Sleep Drug
2. 2012-0222 The myth of the eight-hour sleep
3. 2012-0803 Decoding the Science of Sleep
4. 2008-0610 Understanding Sleep
5. 2012-0830 How I Quantified Myself: Can self-measurement gadgets help us live healthier and better lives?

Recent Commentaries
in Practical Knowledge Book

Commentary:Practical - June 25, 2013
3  Sleep Cycles
Commentary:Practical - June 25, 2013
2  Orders Of Ignorance
Commentary:Practical - October 27, 1978
1  Introduction

Practical Knowledge

1   Introduction
  October 27, 1978
2   Orders Of Ignorance
  June 25, 2013
3   Sleep Cycles
  June 25, 2013
Carpe Diem: What you can envision, you can achieve!sm
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