Thoughts on Sleep

I slept for 4 hours straight last night – so refreshing! Now that I’ve officially finished the sleep challenge, I want to record some of the things I’ve learned about sleep.

1. You can change your sleep patterns

Sure it can be hard work and you might feel terrible at the start, but if you want to change, just do it. I don’t recommend a schedule of 20 minutes every 4 hours for everyone. It’s super punishing and your world has to revolve around sleep while you do it. I had a flexible work environment, no kids and a very supportive wife (thanks Cat Haydon), so it was a possibility for me. My brother swears he needs 11 hours sleep a night (and believe me he does), but I firmly believe the only reason he can’t change his sleep patterns is because he has never pushed through that debilitating fog that hits you when trying to do radical changes.

2. Sleep Tips

  • make sure your room is dark. Like REALLY dark. Light, even from your alarm clock disturbs your sleep.
  • set your alarm for the length of time you want to sleep
  • get into a comfortable position
  • relax, particularly your neck, shoulders, jaw and lower back
  • focus on your breathing – slow and steady is good
  • don’t move. At all. Even if you feel fidgety. Only move if you’re in actual pain.
  • just let your mind wander, but stay away from sport or highly emotionally charged conversations/situations
  • when you wake up, get up immediately (without thinking about it – just do it) and either turn the light on or open the curtains – whatever you need to do to get light to hit your eyes.

3. Be careful with stimulants

If you drink coffee because you enjoy it (I do), then by all means drink it, but don’t drink it if you need to stay up for an extra hour or two and are feeling a bit tired. Caffeine leaves your system like 6 hours after you ingest it, so when you do go to sleep you won’t be able to go straight into a deep sleep. I know a few people that claim to be able to go to sleep straight after drinking a strong coffee and that’s great, but you can sleep when you’re blind drunk – doesn’t mean you get a restful sleep.

4. Appreciate every sleep

Over the course of this challenge, I’ve met a number of people who are genuine insomniacs. As in there’s medical reasons for them not being able to sleep. That sucks and my heart goes out to them. If you think that could be you then please seek medical help – they’ve made some incredible advances in sleep therapy over the last few years. For everyone else – get off facebook at 3 am and put down the cans of Coke. Sleep is far too important to go without. Admittedly that probably sounds funny coming from me after the sleep challenge, but I wasn’t going without – just changing patterns. When you wake up, be thankful you were able to sleep.

5. Do your research

Google is your friend here. If you want to change your sleeping patterns, make sure you thoroughly do your research. There’s still a lot of unknowns when it comes to sleep and a lot of controversy. Do your research, make up your own mind, test and see what works for you.

Sleep Challenge Complete

So today marks the final day of my sleep challenge. Wow, what a ride.

Looking back over my log, I stuck to it with around 90% efficiency, which is pretty decent given what I was doing.

A few things interrupted the challenge, particularly driving 6 hours to & from Kalbarri and spraining my ankle. Both needed a lot more sleep time than I anticipated. People asked whether the sprained ankle was due to sleep deprivation, but anyone who knows me knows I get injured a lot – I play soccer pretty hard for someone my size (195cm, 105kg) and injuries go with the game.

Glad I did this challenge. Equally glad I’ve finished.

I learned a lot about myself and sleeping which I’ll share in another post.

Not sure what my next challenge will be, but it will probably be something fitness or writing related.

Thanks for coming along for the journey. Hopefully you learned a thing or two with me.

The Faulty Doorbell

My normal routine for going to sleep is to turn my iphone to Airplane Mode, get into bed, set the alarm, check the phone is in loud mode, then go to sleep. Sometimes however, things happen outside your control.

Just now I was woken up 2 minutes before the end of my 4pm scheduled sleep by our doorbell. There was no-one there. It’s impossible to ding-dong-ditch our house without being caught, so I knew it wasn’t that. Ok, it is possible, but it involves diving head first into a cactus, so I doubt that would ever happen 🙂

The doorbell sometimes goes off for no apparent reason. There must be interference from somewhere causing it to go off. Was a strange alarm, but once you’re up, you’re up. I don’t really mind. I’m just glad there was only 2 minutes to go. If there were 10 minutes left I would not be happy!

On the 90 day challenge front, I’m nearing the end and can see myself keeping this up, or at least a form of it, for the foreseeable future. It’s perfect for my lifestyle and gives me enough flexibility to be worthwhile. As I’ve said before, it opens up the possibility of actually attending webinars in American time, which often occurs several times a week. I love that I can do my regular amount of work and still have plenty of time to spend with other people or reading without feeling guilty for “wasting” my time.

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough in understanding how to go to sleep quickly, which I’ll post probably tomorrow. It’s stuff that once you hear it it makes sense, but it’s made the world of difference to me.

The only part that I’m yet to nail to my satisfaction is the 4am sleep. I go to sleep no worries, but it’s really tough to get out of bed at 4:20 am when it’s nice and warm and my wife is sleepily begging me to stay just a little longer. I’ve got to get out of the habit of re-setting my alarm for another 20 minutes, because when I do that I almost always manage to sleep through it. Any early-riser-readers have tips on how you combat that?

Temperature and Sleep

I’ve often wondered whether the tendency to sleep longer in Winter is due to less daylight or a decrease in temperature.

Over the last few days my experience has led me to the temperature being the cause. It’s been about 5 degrees Celsius overnight here in Perth for the last week. We don’t have central heating, so each room is generally a different temperature.

Given my sleeping habits on this challenge and the fact that I spend most of my time with the lights on, I think I can sufficiently control against the action of daylight. Obviously it would take a much longer experiment to be certain, but at this stage, I think its effect is negligible.

I noticed this week that when I’m in my study, where the heater is, I’m not unusually sleepy, but if I stay in the lounge room where it’s cold, I get really sleepy, really quickly and can’t snap out of it.

This obviously matches up with what we know of the circadian rhythm, where there’s been a noticeable change in internal body temperature coinciding with the two times we generally feel most drowsy (night time and early afternoon – think “siesta”).

It also explains why it’s so hard to fall asleep on hot Summer nights when it might be over 30 degrees Celsius (we don’t have air conditioning either). I also remember hearing stories of how people caught in snow blizzards would feel uncontrollable urges to fall asleep.

Another thing that’s very obvious – night caps (the cloth variety, not the alcoholic one lol) might really help you to go to and stay asleep. The standard configuration of pillow and rugs doesn’t seem to account for the loss of heat through an extremely exposed head. During the sleep challenge I generally sleep with all my clothes on (why get changed if you’re only going to be up 20 minutes later?) and most of my jumpers have hoods on, so I’ve been sleeping with a hood on.

Anyway, just a few interesting observations I thought I’d share.


It’s amazing how holistic we are. One area of our lives affects others, etc.

I’ve had to deal with a few things over the last few days that have massively drained my emotional juice. I’ve had to be strong, which is fine, but it has taken its toll more than I realized. I guess also with the rigors of readjusting to the sleep challenge, willpower has been in short supply.

It was kind of a strange feeling this morning. I went to sleep as usual at 4 am and woke up 20 minutes later with my alarm. I was fully awake and ready to go, except I couldn’t get myself to get off the couch (I sleep on the couch for my 4am sleep so I don’t disturb Cat). I didn’t need to go to sleep, but I couldn’t manage to do anything else, so I set my alarm for another 20 minutes and went back to sleep. I then repeated that another two times. The last one I didn’t wake up to my alarm and slept tile 8, when I set my alarm for 20 minutes, slept and got up feeling totally drained.

It was weird.

I wasn’t snoozing. I was genuinely waking up and making a conscious decision to go back to sleep, even though I had the heater on in the study (so it was nice and warm) and was freezing on the couch. That’d normally be enough to motivate anyone to get up.

It leads me to think that this willpower thing might be more important than energy. I had plenty of energy, just not the willpower to use it. I don’t think I’ve been in that situation before.