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The problem of sleeping without sleeping (books.google.com)
76 points by zick on Nov 30, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

I am a borderline narcoleptic. I can basically will myself to pass the narcolepsy test, and so I've had the diagnosis overturned. As a result of this, I have some experience with sleep studies and I received some information from doctors about sleep. This information should cause one to be a bit skeptical about the sort of "sleep hacks" that come up often on HN.

The test for narcolepsy I took consists for lying in bed the morning-after of the overnight part of the sleep test, and falling asleep 4 times. If you can fall asleep 4 times, and if you go too quickly into REM sleep every single time, then you are a narcoleptic. Narcoleptics can fall asleep very easily and tend to go very quickly into REM, but they do not go very easily into the deepest stage of sleep, which is the stage the brain uses to rid itself of certain materials. So narcoleptics have a bit of a problem. Often, we can get what many would call a "decent" span of sleep. However, we may only spend a couple of minutes in the deepest stage of sleep, where we might really want more.

I own a Zeo sleep monitor, and the data that I got out of it corroborated what the sleep studies indicated: I get only a fraction as much of the deepest stage of sleep, compared to the average for my age.

So here's the problem: These "sleep hacks" that allow you to enter into REM sleep very quickly for "power naps" may be harmful to you in the long term. You may well never enter the deepest levels of sleep that serves important physiological functions for your brain.

Barbara Oakley talks about this in her talk at Google, "Learning How to Learn".


She says Edison did the same thing too, but had a handful of ball bearings instead of a key.

She also has a coursera course (that I'm going through right now) - https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn

How do you like that course? I was thinking about taking it.

To be honest it puts the video above into practice requiring some level of accountability. I would recommend it for anyone who is procrastination prone. There are some really solid techniques (that are based on most recent science) that has already had some impact on my life.

Do it!

This course is great, everyone how wants to improve his learnings techniques should do this course.

Indeed, this course was great. It's pretty much a summary of the state of the art of learning science.

Thanks for posting that. It's way more informative that this scanned book passage.

Thanks for linking this. Much better source than the OP.

As so often with Dali - /not sure if serious or trolling

Same. If I'd read this with no context whatsoever, I'd have guessed it was written by Italo Calvino and was entirely tongue in cheek.

I guess there isn't a "serious" Dali.

I've always been jealous of people who are able to take power naps. I can't do it, unless I've done something exceptionally exhausting or I barely slept the night before. I end up closing my eyes waiting to fall asleep, and then nothing happens.

There's nothing wrong with laying down and closing your eyes for 15 minutes even if you don't fall asleep.

Try meditation. I guess you are not supposed to fall asleep while meditating, but the breathing exercises I learnt from meditating always helped me fall asleep.

If the breathing exercises help you fall asleep and you want to fall asleep, then as far as anyone is concerned, it's working as intended. ;)

Now if you were falling asleep while trying to meditate then you might not be sleeping enough in general.

I'm not usually one to complain about this… but wow, this site is incredibly hard to read on mobile, at least on an iPhone. Zooming out is disabled, too.

You probably didn't notice this on mobile, but this is google books. The poorly rendered text is due to it being an actual scan of some book. What exactly is being linked to here is unclear though. The passage isn't too concrete on getting a point across...

The short and sweet version (and heavily paraphrased) version is:

If you're tired in the afternoon, you only need a literal moment of sleep to feel revived. You can do this by sitting in a chair, holding something in your hand (a key, in this book), palm down, with something beneath it on the floor (a plate, in this book) that will create some sound when hit. The instant you fall asleep, you drop the item onto the the thing on the floor, it wakes you up, you feel energized.

thank you for that concise explanation. i love Dali's flowery language but its awful for actually getting a point across.

that explains the text quality, but why disable zooming?

Wow, Google Books is awful on iPad. Completely unusable.

No worries, it's also awful in a browser.

I imagine you could also construct an electric buzzer with a spring loaded switch you hold in your hand.

I imagine there are all manner of over-engineered solutions to this problem.

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