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Sleeping Patterns

by arashi (Priest)
on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:05 UTC ( #75482=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I stopped by the Monastery last night, at about 1:30 AM, and noticed that there were a great many people still online. Now, mind you I don't really find this as unusual, and as Mission pointed out to me, programmers are up, and online at many strange hours. But this got me to thinking about how society seems to be changing as far as sleep is concerned.

I've recently seen some news reports that say Americans are getting less sleep than the recommended 8 hours. They say that a lack of sleep, or getting less sleep can lead to illness and memory loss. Are their claims valid?

I have found, as I got older, that I sleep less and less, not because I want to, it's just happened. I think I get 4 to 5 hours a night, and then 12 or 14 usually on Saturday night. I have also found that I can be very creative late at night, when I haven't slept all day. Is this typical?

I guess the questions are these:
  • How many hours of sleep do you get a night, and is it all at one time, or split into smaller chunks?
  • Do you have sleeping problems, and if so how do you cope with them?
  • Do you feel that the studies on sleep are invalid and getting less sleep doesn't lead to illness and memory loss?
  • Can you be just as productive will little sleep?
  • Are people adapting to busier lives by using something like caffine and neglecting sleep?
  • Does a higher stress level affect your sleeping patterns?
  • At what point do we all become so infused with caffine that our eyes will glow blue? :)
As programmers, I don't think we really have set hours, no 1st, 2nd, or 3rd shifts (although our bosses might seem to think so). We just program when we're awake.


I'm sure Edison turned himself a lot of colors before he invented the lightbulb. - H.S.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Sleeping Patterns
by KM (Priest) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:19 UTC
    I stopped by the Monastery last night, at about 1:30 AM, and noticed that there were a great many people still online.

    Remember, your 1:30 AM may be someone elses 12:30 PM :)

    I've recently seen some news reports that say Americans are getting less sleep than the recommended 8 hours.

    I would have to look it up, but I recall seeing somewhere that we really only need 6 hours(for adults.. children need more)

    How many hours of sleep do you get a night, and is it all at one time, or split into smaller chunks?

    I sleep roughly from midnight to 5:30 AM. I get up, eat, meditate, and go to work. Sometimes I am alseep earlier or later, and sometimes I may sleep in until 6 or 6:30 if I need to. I sleep in (until *maybe* 9) on Sundays.

    Do you have sleeping problems, and if so how do you cope with them?

    I have no problems.

    Do you feel that the studies on sleep are invalid and getting less sleep doesn't lead to illness and memory loss? *cough* huh? What was the question? *sneeze*

    Can you be just as productive will little sleep?

    As long as my body is used to the litte sleep. I find that I am more energetic and alert when I get less sleep. When I 'sleep in' until 9 on Sundays, I can sometimes be more groggy.

    Are people adapting to busier lives by using something like caffine and neglecting sleep?

    I use (but don't need) caffeine during the week, and for a cup of tea on the weekend days. But yes, I think peoples bodies adapt.

    Does a higher stress level affect your sleeping patterns?

    Well, maybe others. I don't get very stressed.

    At what point do we all become so infused with caffine that our eyes will glow blue? :)

    5 Jolt colas and half a box of No-Doze.


Re: Sleeping Patterns
by clemburg (Curate) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:34 UTC

    For those wanting to read more, Physiology of Behavior by Neil R. Carson has a very good chapter on sleep.

    Christian Lemburg
    Brainbench MVP for Perl

Re: Sleeping Patterns
by mrmick (Curate) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:15 UTC
    I've found that I require less sleep as I get older. If I get about 5 or 6 hours each night, that's enough. I also remember that I had to drag myself out of bed in the morning when I was younger after getting the 'recommended 8 hours' that we always hear about.

    I get up at about 5-5:30 am every day after going to bed around midnight. It's much easier for me these days and I feel better during the day than if I were to get 8 hours or more.

    I'm most creative early in the morning but sometimes I have inspiration late at night and work until about 3 am. Even then, if I get a few hours sleep I do well for the rest of the day.

    I don't have sleeping problems. I just like to be awake for more hours than I used to.

      I've noticed that too. Maybe it's a linear progression.. as a newborn you need 15 hours per day, then you go through the 8 hour high-school phase, then the 5 hour phase in mid-life, and maybe just 2 or 3 hours (in the form of midafternoon naps {grin}) when you get older. And when you hit 0, you die. {grin}

      -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

        The smallest documented amount of sleep that anyone needed was an old lady in England who needed 15 minutes per day. (Factoid out of a book on sleep I read a few years ago.)

        More facts.

        Most people if given the chance will sleep more than 8.

        The average soldier is able to function 48 hours straight in an emergency if they are well-rested.

        The average soldier can train themselves to go on 6 hours of sleep a night. Their self-reported estimate is that they are functioning normally. The wives of the married ones say that the soldier is a total wreck. Performance on a variety of ability and alertness tests suggests that she is right.

        If you are overweight, have a loud snore, and feel tired all of the time, you probably have sleep apnea. Literally in the middle of the night when you relax you cannot breathe, and the nightly struggle for oxygen causes the snore, and prevents you from getting a solid rest. This is a medical condition and you should see a doctor, but be warned that many doctors are unaware of sleep apnea, so find a doctor who knows what it is.

Re: Sleeping Patterns
by PsychoSpunk (Hermit) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:47 UTC
    Consider that an average person's sleep cycle consists of a 4 hour period. Ideally, with 8 hours you would go through 2 sleep cycles and wake up refreshed. From your post, it seems as if you get 36 to 44 hours of sleep a week. Once again, the ideal amount of sleep per week would run around 56 hours. Some of the reports that I've seen make analogous claims between lack of sleep and imbibing, which is to say that even though you feel refreshed and capable, you may in fact be in a slightly worsened condition than you expect. This supposed condition doesn't improve the longer you go on a "sleep deficit".

    Now, that being said, I don't get the "recommended" 56 hours per week. Keep in mind that all of these reports cover the average person. Keep in mind that the average family has 2.3 children. And finally keep in mind that no one has ever seen this reported 0.3 human being that seems to be so common. :)

    In response to your questions:

    I probably get about 7 hours of sleep a night. At one point in time, I was working a graveyard shift in a computer lab every other night of the week, so I ended up sleeping on 4 hour cycles whenever time permitted. This was actually very good for my habits, and I probably got more sleep than necessary, but it didn't limit my productive time.

    Nope. I suffer from occasional insomnia, but that's been very rare these days. The only way I cope is to make it through a night, work early the next day, and get home to find my way into bed immediately.

    See my statements above regarding validity.


    Perhaps. I don't know that life's any busier, since I don't have first hand experience of any of the halcyon days of yore. In other words, the comparison is flawed since it is completely subjective.

    Not that I've noticed.

    Hey, can you hook me up with some of that spice?


      I've read other things that indicate that the "average human sleep cycle" is actually one and a half hours. I've also read that a person who wakes up (or is waken up) in the middle of one of these cycles is likely to feel worse than if they woke up at one of the ends of the cycle.

      What that means to me is that if I know I'll be a little short on sleep, but have only 5 1/4 hours until I have to get up again, I'll probably feel better if I stay awake 45 minutes longer rather than going to sleep right now. (That will give me 4 1/2 hours, or 3 complete cycles, of sleep.)

      ...I know, I know; a little "off topic" for the perlmonks...<?p>

Re: Sleeping Patterns
by lemming (Priest) on Apr 25, 2001 at 22:57 UTC

    As chipmunk noted, a lot of this ground is covered by a recent poll. I find some relation to Maintaining one's focus as well since sometimes you can reach that proper state of mind from depriving oneself of sleep. Some of my best work was done during all nighters.

    • How many hours of sleep do you get a night, and is it all at one time, or split into smaller chunks?

    • I've been out of work and started finding I sleep from 1 am to 9 am. Usually in one go unless one of the cats uses me as a trampoline.
    • Do you have sleeping problems, and if so how do you cope with them?

    • I don't now.
    • Do you feel that the studies on sleep are invalid and getting less sleep doesn't lead to illness and memory loss?

    • You can find studies showing lots of different conclusions. In the Oregonian recently they had a study that showed people functioned better if they got a short nap around 2-4pm. I don't remember if they tied in how much sleep these people were getting during the night.
      One thing to note is that there are brainwashing and interogation methods using sleep deprivation.
    • Can you be just as productive with little sleep?

    • No. For short periods of time it could work, but eventually I would crash.
    • Are people adapting to busier lives by using something like caffeine and neglecting sleep?

    • People are trying. Caffeine is only going to keep you going for a bit. I've recently stopped drinking any caffeine for a diet I'm on, but I used to drink a lot. I do miss the aroma. Note: At "Job from Hell tm" my blood pressure was 150/110. Three weeks ago it was 120/80 and after stopping coffee intake it's now 102/64.
    • Does a higher stress level affect your sleeping patterns?

    • When I was heavily stressed from one job, I found I had problems sleeping. My mind would be racing around trying to solve issues that I had no control over, etc... until I just dropped from exhaustion. The lack of sleep made me rather jumpy and irritable as well.
    • At what point do we all become so infused with caffeine that our eyes will glow blue? :)

    • I once made coffee using Water Joe and Black Tiger beans. Black Tiger has 30% more caffeine than regular. Woke me up and I was fine until I had an Americano that afternoon. I was in a meeting trying to take notes, but my pencil kept shooting off the page. I did get a compliment about my eyes that day, hmmm.
Re: Sleeping Patterns
by t'mo (Pilgrim) on Apr 25, 2001 at 20:24 UTC

    I think the amount of exercise one gets is an important factor, and that the level of exercise and the quality and/or length of sleep are (somewhat) directly proportional. I get much less exercise now than I did a year ago, and find that it seems harder to fall asleep at nights.

    A year ago I was in my last year of school, and often didn't get eight hours of sleep a night because of homework (or playing around; it was college, right? :-). But I got some exercise: I walked to classes, to the library, etc. As a result, I think I slept better than I seem to now.

    Now, I drive to work, sit in my cube a good part of the day, and don't "play around" as much as I used to. The stresses are similar (programming computers at school isn't that different than programming them at work) and my lifestyle is similar in terms of home life. But I get no exercise to speak of.

    Do you have sleeping problems, and if so, how do you cope with them?

    I don't know if I have sleeping problems (haven't been to a doctor to ask), but it wouldn't surprise me if I did. Whether or not I do, I think it would be good for me to start riding my bike to commute to work, instead of driving the car.

    /me goes into the storage closet, looking for my bike, and bangs around for a while...

    Update: I also watch a lot more TV now than I did then...

Re: Sleeping Patterns
by chipmunk (Parson) on Apr 25, 2001 at 21:12 UTC
    This only answers the first part of your first question, but there was a poll last month on the topic Hours of sleep I get on an average weeknight.

    Recently I unthinkingly had a nice big cup of black tea shortly before going to bed (having been mostly avoiding caffeine for the last few years). I lay in bed all night unable to fall asleep. Not going to make that mistake again!

      Mate, I did that last night too. Dragged myself to work this morning with the eyes feeling like they were being pulled out of the sockets... ugh. I shoulda just stayed up and programmed something.

      Trying to avoid the caffeine today so I can sleep tonight. I think it's that getting older thing again. Used to be able to knock back bottles of the black stuff with no side effects. Then again, I would have been a poster child for ADD if they had known about it when I grew up.

      I didn't believe in evil until I dated it.

Re: (OT)Sleeping Patterns
by jynx (Priest) on Apr 26, 2001 at 01:07 UTC

    There were a lot of sleepless nights in my high school days. Since i had plenty of time, i looked up a little bit about sleep disorders and what's considered "healthy" as far as sleeping habits are concerned. The following are my recollections on the research, including intertwined snippets of personal experience.

    The sleep cycle is mostly a myth as far as i can tell. Basically it's created by you when you set the hours that you're going to go to sleep and wake up on a daily basis. The cycle is actually created by routinely following the same schedule for sleeping. Small deviations (30 minutes or less) don't make large differences in the short run, but multiple deviations will push the routine out of current synchronization. Large deviations, if not done often (say once every 3 months or so) will make far less impact, because your body knows it can make up for sleep the next evening.

    On the other hand, a random sleep schedule basically doesn't know what a small deviation is, because you just sleep whenever. Random sleep schedules don't lead to mental stability, in fact quite the opposite. Your body generally likes knowing that it has some rest coming up, and cataloging your day (a large part of what you do while you sleep) is very important to do regularly. Large deviations on a random sleep schedule put you on your back when they're done because your body doesn't know when it will next get sleep. This is my type of sleep pattern, mostly because i like chaos and randomness ;-)

    The main issue with getting little sleep is performance, both physical and mental. Deprivation will tell your body that it is performing up to standards and your brain will concur. You'll be completely wrong, but deprivation also makes the mind a bit more ornery. You wil refuse to see that you cannot perform normally.

    Unfortunately, lack of sleep is common. Getting 8 hours an evening really is beneficial. Your mind will be clearer and your day will seem brighter just because your body is truly (not fakely) refreshed. You can cope with less, and everything will seem fine, but things will be slightly fuzzier. Personally, i make certain not to get enough sleep, i like feeling my thoughts like continental drift.

    As for the mental side, it has been claimed that you lose 25% of current mental power for every 24 hours you stay awake. So after the first day you're at 75%. After the second you're about 56% there. It gets worse from there. i don't know how intelligent i was, but i have stayed up for a solid week before. i am still an insomniac, but it's getting easier over time...

    Finally, i don't know if this one is confirmed, but in theory if you stay awake for two weeks you will die from sleep deprivation. After about 4 days you're supposed to start hallucinating, and 10 days later, for no reason deducible, you die. That's what i've heard, but it might just be hearsay.

    Lack of sleep does drop your body's defenses, you will probably have a higher chance of getting sick, but tension and stress also give you a higher chance of getting sick, so sickness is common these days. i don't think there's any one best way to deal with sleeping problems. We're all unique. On the other hand, one can also die of caffeine poisoning, but i'm guessing our eyes would only glow blue if we started giving coffee transfusions starting in pre-K so the little workers could code for us...(joking, joking :-)

    nuf evah,

      I am not up to date on this, but I know that research into biorhythms has proven conclusively that sleep cycles are real.

      As you say, minor variations are not a problem for most people. (There was a case in Israel where a young man simply could not deviate, causing him enormous trouble in doing things like attending classes.) In fact very few people have exactly a 24 hour cycle, so you are "varying" from your ideal every day. Morning people have something under 24 hours (they get up earlier and earlier until they have a reason to stay up) while night-owls have a cycle over 24 hours (stay up later and later until they have a reason to get up).

      The average is about 25 hours, and one of the best reset triggers is light.

      The people most affected by this are those who do shift work. In studies (first carried out IIRC in the 70's) companies that adopted shift work cycles of 3 weeks, each week moving you to a later shift, had significant increases in productivity, reductions in accidents, and improvements in worker morale. Traditional shift work schedules give just as much opportunities for sleep, but they don't give opportunities that fit in the biological clock so well.

      FWIW I followed this schedule for about 2 months once while I was working very hard on something and had no external scheduling restraints. It worked very well for me...

      A year ago I watched some docu an TV about staying up long. In the sixties or seventies there was a radio guy who stayed up very long(for his show). Don't know how long anymore. But he went bananas :)

      And after sleeping an living for a while he died!

      There was also a real insomniac who couldn't sleep anymore. And I mean he never sleeped, well he died to after going bananas...

      My opinions may have changed,
      but not the fact that I am right

Re: Sleeping Patterns
by Ugly (Beadle) on Apr 25, 2001 at 19:58 UTC
    Severe sleep depravation has definite links to illness and memory loss although there are documented exceptions.

    Strange but I seem to be the opposite of other people in this thread, I used to need less sleep that I do now, or at least I used to get by without feeling too tired. I have a sneaking feeling that this has something to do with parenthood rather than ageing.

    Over here in the UK you can now get a brand of coffee called 'rocket fuel' which has added caffiene, on some mornings it's a must at the moment.

    -- The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

      Hi, where can I find this Rocket Fuel? Sounds good. Feed the caffeine junkie!

      It's 2:30 am now - where I am. I'm not sure what day it is because I've messed up my sleep pattern by working an 18 hour shift, coming home and sleeping until evening. I seem to do this once or twice a week, meaning that even though I work 3 day weeks, I spend a lot more time at work that anyone else.

      They're doing a National Census over here in the UK at the mo' and I think I might need to lie where it asks how many hours I work a week!

      Anyway, back to the main question - I get more work done when there are less distractions, i.e. phones ringing, people asking me questions all the time. This tends to be early mornings and nights. Hence my messed up sleeping pattern.

      Anyway, I've been awake a few hours now - going to catch a couple of sleep cycles now to beat the morning traffic into work.

      P.S. I'm serious, where can I find this Rocket Fuel!!?

      $ perldoc perldoc

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