Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paleolithic Sleep?

Yes, even that has a paleolithic model.  BLUF:  Sleep when the sun's down, and since NO ONE does that any more, at least sleep nine hours per night.  But I can't even fit that in most days, so ... what to do?

Nap, baby, or as we called it when underway on one of our nation's big grey fighting ships, "entering the horizontal time accelerator."

I've heard many a rumor about napping, such as "don't nap more than 45 minutes in order to avoid trouble waking up again."  I follow that one when I nap.  But I just read a short piece in the Costco Connection (June 2011, p. 67) which points to taking slightly longer naps to get a specific effect.

Naps lasting 30 to 60 minutes trigger slow wave sleep that helps brains recall information already stored there.  "To avoid sleep inertia, try to nap at least 50 minutes," says Mednick (author of "Take a Nap!  Change Your Life!), "It's good to sleep beyond the slow wave sleep, so you get past it and can wake up more easily."

Tim Ferriss, of Four Hour Body fame, included a chart that shows how you can 'buy back' decreased night time sleep through various nap strategies - including polyphasic sleep, by which you can sleep for 2 hours per day but feel well rested and still be mentally sharp.  The nugget for me was that my cat naps are not just a bandaid for not getting enough sleep, they may actually help meet my need for sleep.

One thing I've noticed by my own accidental experiments is that if I sleep more, my body stores less body fat.  The science, such as it is, supports that observation, due to the decreased disfunction of cortisol as sleep levels reach the best levels - and probably for other reasons too.  No doubt, sleep has a profound impact on many aspects of our health, as has been passionately articulated in "Lights Out."

I don't have any grandiose plans for how to design my life around a paleolithic caliber 11 hours of sleep daily - yet.  But I do follow a fairly paleolithic approach to sleep in that if I get sleepy, I work in a nap.  I set an alarm to keep them short enough, and whether or not they work like Mednick describes or not, and I thoroughly enjoy them.

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