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How to Sleep (theatlantic.com)
649 points by ALee on May 28, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 265 comments

My biggest struggle with sleep is that I'm always excited to do stuff, and always feel like I'm not done with my day. Exceptions are when something happens and I end up feeling very depressed during the day, and simply want to shut down and do nothing.

Usually, I get so infatuated with a script I'm writing, a new program I discovered, a bug that I need to resolve, a book that I'm reading, some concept that I'm thinking of, that my mind just keeps on being active, and wants to keep working. It's the worst when I'm working on my computer, due to the blue light (I've started wearing yellow sunglasses to minimize the effect), while it's a bit better when I'm reading or listening to music or thinking.

In any case, this is a great article. I feel like small amounts of sleep has been the greatest inhibitor of my performance in... anything really. Being dumb and young I felt like I could still function correctly, but I really started noticing that I had better tournament results when actually sleeping 8 hours, while my results on all other days were lackluster. I read up on a lot of things and convinced myself that sleeping enough is essential. I still slip up and don't even go on my bed at the right times, my sleep schedule goes all over the place for a lot of different reasons, but I'm really trying. I feel like I might need to seek some professional help on this, but I'll still take it as far as possible before that.

This is me, too. My wife complains that it's like I'm trying to have two or three lives instead of just the one. But I know I need the sleep I'm not getting, but I have a really hard time, once the kids are finally asleep, just going to bed myself. When everyone but me is asleep it's so peaceful and quiet, and I can read, slay work dragons, learn stuff, or just veg. Unfortunately this usually results in maybe six low quality hours of sleep. And I pay for it in distractibility, moodiness, not as smart as I am when well rested, etc. But overcoming the size of deficit I've got isn't pleasant either. I actually feel worse much of the time. More tired, speak less clearly, slow thought... It sucks. I probably just need to stick with it until my brain and body adjust and recover, but just haven't gotten to that point yet. My growing concern is that not enough sleep and poor quality of sleep can literally, indirectly, kill you (via things related or compounded by lack of sleep). Yikes! I'd like to grow old with my wife, and see our kids grow up. So... Gotta beat this problem somehow!

I used to think the evenings when the whole family is asleep was the best time to get in the zone as well. But then I would be up until 3am and have a hard time sleeping. Grogginess would linger around the next day, and my wife and kids would get the short, irritable side of me. I felt I was constantly fighting to be productive.

Now, I have an exercise routine in the mornings. I wake up with my 2 daughters (both under 3) at ~7am and immediately setup for a 30min workout video. The kids love routine, so they adapted very easily. I make breakfast after cooling down, my wife is able to have a peaceful shower, then around 9am she takes over. I think that moment to herself in the morning helps her to reset for another crazy day.

Now I hit the shower and my mind now starts to lock in. I start creating a mental agenda of what I need to get done. Feeling rejuvenated, I hit the ground running. Creativity and focus now flow naturally throughout the day. I usually feel super productive and accomplished by dinner time. It is easy to let go and be ready to join the family. Sometimes I continue working through dinner, but no screens after 10pm has given me massive productivity gains.

I used to be like this. And the problem was, because there was no pattern to my sleep, I found out extremely difficult to sleep, even when I wanted to.

A few things helped me. First, I started logging my sleep. It helped me analyze how much sleep I was really getting. Second, this sounds simplistic, but I first fixed the waking time. Irrespective of the time I sleep, I started waking up at the exact same time everyday. And finally, I stopping using all gadgets at least for 2 hours before my sleep time.

I see a marked improvement in the quality of my sleep these days. Hope you beat your problem too.

For the fixed wakeup time:

1. What do you do if in a situation where you'll get a low amount of sleep. Nap mid day? 2. What about social stuff? I'd love to get up at 8 am most days, but then any social event in the evening throws that off.

Naps might fix the latter, but I have trouble napping due to onset insomnia. Unless I'm extremelt fatigued.

Try having a kid ;)

Ours gets me up between 6 and 7am every day. If I'm up late the night before I just end up going to be super early the next day and things even out.

I get to bed at a fixed time. If I haven't had enough sleep then I take a 15 minute coffee nap in the afternoon. Try exercise daily. Disclaimer: I'm a reformed night owl.

Pick a time and stick to it. Doesn't matter how little sleep you get.

It also helps to have a meal as soon as you get up. And meal is anything with calories in it. I.e. a cabbage leaf is fine.

This helps reset your circadian rhythm (great for jetlag too).

I'm assuming this is just temporary and eventually it's just smooth sailing and you get sleepy?

What do you do with social events etc though. Nap? Just be tired? If they're 1-2x per week I guess I'd need a later fixed time.

> I'm assuming this is just temporary and eventually it's just smooth sailing and you get sleepy?

No, you pick something you want permanent and just do it.

Eating early after waking is helpful. I drink tea with L-Theanine before bed and reduce blue light. I take melatonin when I really need it, which is rare.


I'm not naturally an early riser.

> What do you do with social events etc though. Nap?

I eat low carb, I drink a lot of water and I exercise. Makes it a lot harder to be too tired to function. Only 4 hours of sleep? That's tough, rework your day to only do non creative things that don't require too much thinking. Admin, emails etc.

I also have a 10 month old which helps me avoid social situations that are not valuable.

I guess I should have added the caveat that I want to be getting eight hours fairly consistently. How often would you say you have less.

When doing heavy weight training, it's more or less a necessity.

(No kid at this point, I'm sure that will change things once I do have once)

> I guess I should have added the caveat that I want to be getting eight hours fairly consistently. How often would you say you have less.

Right now, I'm sleep training a baby, so less. My goal is 7 hours and I really enjoy 8. And I can get this consistently.

> When doing heavy weight training, it's more or less a necessity.

I've been a gym rat for many years and I can attest to this. Not enough sleep and your tanks are empty, no power.

> (No kid at this point, I'm sure that will change things once I do have once)

Kids make you focus. You cut out things you wasted time on and you're back to where you were. Less time wasty, more family and relationship. Works out well.

Thanks! I appreciate the detailed replies. Going to test this.

> I'm assuming this is just temporary and eventually it's just smooth sailing and you get sleepy?

After reading this again. Yes, the goal is a habit that puts you into a rhythm. The place you want to be is to not need an alarm to wake up and to wake up with light (natural or not). Now I like sleeping too much for this to work. I'll happily stay in bed for 10 hours. More than that and my body starts hurting...

( Artificial: http://www.usa.philips.com/c-m-li/light-therapy/wake-up-ligh... )

Skip the naps; take the tiredness as punishment, go to bed at a fixed time. The trick is consistency, and a nap will interrupt said consistency. Usually you can function fine with a few hours less sleep, as long as it's not a regular event.

Punishment for having a good time Friday night until 6am, then waking up at 7am your usual time? Seems unreasonable

You want to stick to a sleep schedule but also break it and still have it work the same? Seems unreasonable.

Was more referring to how he says don't nap. Why can't I wake up at 7 on Saturday and then have an afternoon nap

I don't need "punishment" for something I want to do (stay out on Friday)

those times its ok to sleep until 10 am. 4 hours of sleep will get you through the day. its important to not sleep too much or you will not be tired enough to fall asleep at night.

i also want to add thats its better to get 6 hours of deep sleep then trying to sleep and basically awake whole night.

and best tip to get tired is to wake up early and do some exercise during the day.

also eat at the same times every day.

routines x3

> When everyone but me is asleep it's so peaceful and quiet, and I can read, slay work dragons, learn stuff, or just veg. Unfortunately this usually results in maybe six low quality hours of sleep. And I pay for it in distractibility, moodiness, not as smart as I am when well rested, etc. ...I actually feel worse much of the time. More tired, speak less clearly, slow thought... It sucks.

Are you me?

I feel this way about getting up really early. It's a great feeling. And by around 9 I've made a LOT of progress. That feels even better...

I'd love to get a 9-5 sleep pattern. Sleep at 9pm, wake at 5am.

Two questions.


And why don't you?

No, he is me. :)

The question I used to ask myself, that helped me make a conscious decision: Are two extra hours a day worth operating poorly for the other 16? Even if you're at 90% of your normal operating capacity (understanding that the mind is not quite that easy to quantify), that means that you lose over three hours of productivity just to gain those extra two.

Thinking of it along those lines - valuing quality over quantity - helped encourage me to create a fixed sleeping schedule.

One other thing that helps - do things in stretches. 4 hours of slaying dragons once a week is a lot more fun than half an hour 7 times a week.

> But overcoming the size of deficit I've got isn't pleasant either. I actually feel worse much of the time.

I'm glad I'm not alone in this. On a stable, moderate sleep deficit (often 6 hours, like you), I feel ok. I'm used to it, I'm not exhausted, it's alright. I pay in attentiveness and memory, but it's bearable.

As I start to dig out, I feel like shit. I don't know if it's the changing schedule or some 'expectation' from my body of actually good sleep, but I feel groggy, distractable, and generally useless. It takes many days of consistent recovery (often ~9 hours) to shake that off, and only a few days of error to fall back into the routine.

Is ~6 hours low ? After I started working out before work I started getting up ~6-6:30 but I can't go to sleep much earlier than 12 (I just end up rolling around in bed) - but I've been doing this for so long now I can't really tell the difference. I sleep over on the weekends but I don't notice extra productivity or being rested.

I'll try to go to sleep at 22:30 this week to see if I feel different.

Personal needs vary, but also know that you can stabilize on chronic low sleep and not even know it. I did a few years getting ~6 hours most days, and felt ok. I eventually ended up getting 8-9 for quite a while (months), recovered, and now quite literally feel better than I knew I could.

A simple, funny example: I always thought I was prone to getting songs stuck in my head. It turns out I'm not unless I'm sleep deprived, but that was such a constant state that I never knew there was an alternative.

Yea, I've been feeling 'off' for a while now but so many moving things and any one could be it - will try sleeping more for a week to see if it makes a difference.

As the article mentioned, "low" is relative as different people require different amounts of sleep. 6 hours might be totally fine for you while someone else would be a complete zombie.

Wow, you just described my problem 100% accurately.

So, what do we do?!

Live with the choices you've made and get enough sleep. You can't do everything the world has to offer.

What about setting a bedtime for yourself? Treat it like other events, meetings, or work. Whether 10, or 11 or whatever time will give you the chance to sleep enough given whatever time you need to get up.

A lot of life org problems are good candidates for solving through scheduling ...

Save the game! I had the same issue because I was terrified of forgetting things...so I've started taking notes and reminders for the following day(s) in order to resume the mental processes. Even a to-do list using todoist would free you some CPU cycles and will make you sleep better.

But the game plays further in my head even after I shutdown the computer or write down the last note. I often find myself above a piece of paper that I wanted to scribble on, but my mind jumped and run around much faster than I could even start to write anything.

I just count my breaths to 10 to stop the endless thoughts from coming up. 1 while breathing-in, 1 while breathing out, 2 - in, 2 - out, 3, 3, 4, 4, and so on until I reach 10, then I start over from 1 again. If you do this for long enough, at some point your brain will learn to do this automatically. If that's the case. Increase the difficulty. Count to to 10 then back to 1 then back to 10, etc... Or count in multiple languages. This helps me to put myself to sleep (to stop endless train of thoughts) all the time. Of course, sometimes, you need to think things through. You need to learn to recognise when this need is present and give yourself into the reflection. What's so good about this technique, is that even when I reflect on stuff, I know that whenever I notice that the reflection is no longer meaningful, I can just switch the thinking off anytime by using the technique... Hope this helps.

Take up less things at once, or, try and focus on one thing, preferably finishing it at the end of the work day. Divide your tasks up into smaller, achievable subtasks, check it off, save the rest. It's okay to not do everything, you can't.

Ritual helps me shut down. Power off the computer, make tea, curl up on the couch and read, brush teeth, etc. Going from 60 to 0 instantly is never realistic.

Tea has caffeine, IIANM regular caffeine intake has long term effects on sleep.

Herbal teas often consumed at night don't normally contain caffeine.

I'm right there with you on not feeling like I'm done with the day. After my son goes to sleep I a precious few hours to myself, of which chores takes a fair chunk - so I might have only one hour of "me time" if I go to bed when I should. So often, that 1 hour is pushed out a wee bit. Brain works much better on at least 7 hours though, but that time at the end of the night is really my sweet spot and I savour it like nothing else.

At any rate, I find reading using the Kindle app on my OLED device (S8+ or S2 tab) with bluelight filter enabled (native filter on S8, app on S2 tab) with lowest brightness (white text/black background) to be great.

I'll start off with a bit of sci-fi, and if it gets too exciting I'll then switch to something less exciting - e.g. continue my work on the blue book (DDD) or something like that. ;)

Lifting weights in the gym also helps (e.g. 5x5 stronglifts), and not just for sleep either.

> I feel like I might need to seek some professional help on this, but I'll still take it as far as possible before that.

Please don't wait. It took me years to get help, and sleep is very easy to fix with such a tiny amount of medical care. The doctor literally gave me a look like "You've tried to live with this for a decade instead of spending $40 and a couple hours to fix it at any point during that time?", gave me a prescription for a simple sleep aid, and told me to call him if that didn't work within a week or two.

It could be that in your case, as in mine also, sleep schedule problems are masking something more important, like apnea, mood disorders, ADHD, or other issues. There's really no reason to suffer needlessly out of some misplaced sense of heroism.

Except that's not solving the problem, that's temporarily addressing the symptom. Hypnotics should not be taken lightly or for extended periods of time. Drugs may help at first but they're not the solution for sleep issues. You need to address the underlying problem.

Seeking medical attention is the first step to addressing the underlying problem though. You need to get the rest you need in order to work on deeper issues.

I'm in the same boat here actually. If I actually feel like going to sleep at the correct time I feel like I'm just not getting any value out of my life unless there's something that interests me at all times.

I just keep pounding caffeine and it really doesn't bug me. I'm sure my performance in just about everything has dropped significantly, but eh, I'm in a fairly secure situation now, so I feel like value out of my life vs performance in tasks I don't really like that much... I'll take the value usually.

I feel the same, and I always seem to be able to drop that rushed feeling after about 3-4 days of holiday. Just being in nature first make me feel I should be doing something useful but after a couple of days the more relaxed mindset kicks in. I become a nicer person to be around, I'm better at handling my kids (I'm less emotional, more calm) and I start to live more slowly. The relationship with my wife also flourishes under such circumstances. That feeling we create, of urgency, of pressure to perform, of setting the bar so high we almost always fail our own big plans, is really damaging I think. It's very healthy to feel content with oneself, to be proud and calm, to feel like you are doing well.

For me it is sometimes "excited to do stuff" but it also is often "life got in the way and I never got a chance to unwind."

I really need to unwind before bed, and if I don't get that time to turn off my brain, I'll be up all night. So I stay up late until I feel ready for bed, but I'm screwed either way at that point.

Yeah seems like I'm still on the good boat where I'm not actually forced to be concentrated on something all the time, I just do it because I'm like that, and have free time to focus and obsess over the stuff that I like.

Getting life in your way often seems to be way worse.

I have the same issue. My workaround is to lie in bed, count 1, 2, 3, 4 over and over again (in my mind) and try to focus on these numbers. My mind wanders away all the time but then I just try to get back to counting.

Might sound stupid but I guess after a while of thought-speeding my brain gets bored and calm down. Works for me at least.

Also no coffee after 4PM.

That's actually what we do in some schools of zen when we do zazen.

We begin to steady and stabilize the mind by counting the breath. We practice by counting each inhalation and each exhalation, beginning with one and counting up to ten. Inhale — at the end of the inhalation, count one. Exhale — at the end of the exhalation, count two. When you get to ten, come back to one and start all over. The only agreement that you make with yourself in this process is that if your mind begins to wander — if you become aware that what you’re doing is chasing thoughts – you will look at the thought, acknowledge it, and then deliberately and consciously let it go and begin the count again at one.

It eventually stills the mind and will help you, or at least me (the few times I have trouble falling asleep), to wander into zzzzz land.

> It eventually stills the mind and will help you

I does still the mind, but I have a problem that it makes me even more awake. A couple of times I tried that I ended up going back to my laptop and working through the night because I felt like I gained so much energy.

> I does still the mind, but I have a problem that it makes me even more awake.

Then skip the counting and just focus on your breathing (shikantaza). If that also is too much to focus on, do it for 20 minutes or so and then just try to sleep the regular way. Hopefully your brain wont be monkey minding as much as it did before the excercise.

I want to stress that this is not zazen — when doing zazen you should not fall asleep — but a method that I think can be useful also when we try to fall asleep.

That is a clear sign that you're overworking your brain.

Yes - I've come across the same breathing suggestions via Headspace.

audiobook player w/ sleep timer

> It's the worst when I'm working on my computer, due to the blue light (I've started wearing yellow sunglasses to minimize the effect)

If you are on Linux you should have a look at Redshift[0]. It allows you to adjust color temperature and brightness via command line. During daytime I put more blue and brightness into the screen, depending on the weather outside (5000K-6500K, 70%-100% brightness). I do this once when I start working. When it gets dark outside I turn the values down to something like 3000K-4000K and 50%-70% brightness, depending on the amount of light inside the room. This relaxes your eyes and puts you in a better (less tensive) mood, especially at night. Redshift really became essential to me.


Also, if iOS, Night Shift: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207570

Almost everything else, Flux: https://justgetflux.com/

Flux looks interesting, but it doesn't seem to support brightness adjustment. I think it's important to sync the brightness of your monitor with the brightness of its surrounding.

The Macbook and (I'm pretty sure) most modern laptops will also adjust backlight according to environment though.

But if you are using a workstation/external monitors you still gonna need it.

If you are on mac, you should check 'f.lux'. It will adjust the colors of the screen automatically to minify the effects of blue light.

There's f.lux for Linux as well, but you'll probably want to add a GUI [1]. f.lux runs on most desktops and phones.

Redshift seems to be the top choice for Linux users though, because f.lux lacks some basic features (like being able to turn it on during daylight hours). The trade-off is that f.lux is easier to install and has a smaller footprint.

Also worth noting is that Redshift is FOSS, and f.lux is not (though there are forks on githib, so I must be missing something).

[1] https://github.com/xflux-gui/xflux-gui

From macOS Sierra 10.12.4 onward, it's built in. Check Displays in System Preferences. Just tested now and it works with both internal display and external 4K screen.

I find getting rest, along with better diet and exercise, makes it easier to learn and do additional stuff outside of work. Flux is great for the blue light issue and cheaper than sunglasses. I've found music that makes thinking and relaxing at the same time before bed much easier.

My biggest struggle with sleep is existential anxiety. I'm not ready to "close" down the day and fast forward to the next day, so I "borrow" a lot of hours off my lifespan at a high interest rate just for the sake of making the "now" last a little bit longer. I'm not afraid to die. I just hate the mandatory fast forwarding of time.

You can use F.lux program to automatically remove blue light from the screen in the evening / at night.

One of the things I believe people like you have great success with, is routine and wind down. Set a bed time, and 1 hour before that you stop everything that'll keep you awake. Put on some quite music, e.g. easy listen or classic, and do something benign. Some people draw, some knit trivial stuff like blanket patches, others meditate. The important thing is that it is something your mind will not continue to work on after you put it down. This really helps myself, and my children wind down and get ready to sleep, and my day improved 10 fold when I got this procedure down.

I had huge issues falling asleep. I was unable to fall asleep before 1am and had to get up at 6am. So Monday - Friday was a downward spiral of sleep debt and all of stresses that come with that.

I eliminated blue light (mostly) after 8:00 and it help slightly but within the margin of error.

I then added 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation everyday at lunch. Nothing wooy just mindfulness.

Within 2 weeks i was naturally getting tired around 10:00 and able to fall asleep in less than five minutes.

Quit meditating (because its a pia to find the time, it shouldnt' be but it is) and sleep problems returned.

I didn't even attribute my sleep improvement to the daily practice until i noticed my sleep was all messed up again.

It works and its just 15 minutes. People's millage may very but it was life changing for me.

Good work, and pretty nice that something as seemingly simple as 15 minutes of mindfulness yielded great results.

Are you fast paced in general? It is my experience that mindfulness enables the brain to put things away easier throughout the day, but it is really difficult the first week or so, because you actively have to let thoughts fly away.

I am. Before meditation i was never present my head was in a million different places. I could be having dinner with my family but really i was solving a coding problem, thinking about an interaction i had at work, recalling <horrible thing i did when i was 6). It was hard the first week i used the headspace app and started at 10 minutes a day, got up to 30 minutes using the app but could never keep up with a daily habit. 15 minutes seemed to be the magic number for me. It was long enough to help and short enough that i was able to incorporate it daily.

Well, I would die of boredom not doing anything interesting for a whole hour.

That is kinda the point.

I know what you mean - Luckily I usually feel this kind of energy and urge to do stuff in the morning while preferring to wind down in the evening (which, admittedly, may still involve screens).

Maybe you could try to shift your tasks to fit a similar schedule. Use the evenings for thinking, reflecting, planning and theoretic concepts, preferably with some music, while executing those thoughts and ideas in the morning.

After I noted that I start making errors when I work late at night, I have learned to stop working at a reasonable time. For the times that I do work late, a red-light filter and adjusting the brightness of my screen to the minimum do wonders.

> It's the worst when I'm working on my computer, due to the blue light (I've started wearing yellow sunglasses to minimize the effect)


I've taken to excessive exercise to combat this. Really knocks me out at the end of the day and I wake up refreshed the next day.

>So either that is the amount of sleep that keeps people well, or that’s the amount that makes them least likely to lie about being sick when they want to skip work. Or maybe people who were already sick with some chronic condition were sleeping more than that—or less—as a result of their illness. Statistics are tough to interpret.

Love that, no lazy journalism, no ridiculous claims. Just the facts and some possible implications.

From The Atlantic, I expected a little more science and a little more suggestion from this article. This read more as a summary of all of the little sleep tips I've seen and heard anecdotally over the last few years rolled into one summary.

Not exactly on the same level as "When Your Child Is a Psychopath" or "My Family's Slave" (two very recent and exceptionally great articles from The Atlantic).

I really wonder about the "When Your Child is a Psychopath" one, it was a good story and all, but I wonder how many people read that article and like me left feeling like "I can relate". As a kid in pre-school, I pissed in another kids face. In elementary I ripped a kid's eyelid off, and pulled another kid's leg through a bike lock station and then broke it amongst many other things. I never hurt a teacher, but I was under a hundred pounds in gr.6. If I had matured earlier I can't say that I wouldn't have, since they definitely manhandled me after every fight I got into. I remember another parent saying that when I grew up I was either going to be in jail for mass murder, or the prime minister, as if there were no other option.

I wonder how many other people did similar things as a kid and turned out completely ordinary.

The article itself mentions that many kids presenting psychopathic traits end up as normal adults. (or at least normal on the surface)

What makes you ordinary?

Not old enough to be the prime minister yet.

I'm not an offender of any kind, let alone a violent offender.

I mean, there is a big difference between peeing on someone and trying to choke out one of your relatives. My family is full of mental health disorders and I've experienced the damage they cause first hand. For me, it was much more of a "so this is the complete extreme" experience -- it was a good example of "almost entirely far gone."

I have no mental health disorders though. I just had some completely off the handle reactions to people bullying me, or picking on me in any way. I was one of the smallest people in my class, and it never turned out well for the other person. I would blackout with rage. I've never remembered what happened in a fight, but can still remember every detail leading up to it.

Obviously I'm not in your head and I could be wrong, but I think what sets you apart from the kids described in the article is that you acted on emotions. The kids described had none. They knew what they were doing, they did not black out in rage. The harm they did was calculated.

It seems to me that you had bursts of violence because you felt hurt yourself and needed to make things 'right', not just because you found joy in harming others.

I guess, but I think when people read the article, the part that's scary is the violence. The lack of empathy is disturbing (i don't lack empathy). I guess I wonder how many people actually have one without the other, either the extreme violence or the lack of empathy without it, and whether it's the combination of the two?

I also have a really low resting heart rate, around 40 beats per minute.

I too would get very angry from being bullied. This is actually something that would entertain others at school - seeing how angry I got.

What you didn't mention in your original post was that you'd done most of those things out of retaliation - not premeditated. That's a major difference from being a psychopath.

However, I think my situation is much less severe - I've never caused anyone any more than bruises (nor had blackouts), I would certainly say that the anger I have is a mental health issue. Not at a criminal level, but certainly at a level that can cause problems with work/life relationships.

I've went to see a therapist for about a year and it's really unbelievably helpful.

I wish going to see a psychotherapist was as easy for people to do as going to see a physiotherapist.

I wasn't trying to say I was a psychopath, just simply that I could relate to the stories being told.

I've never seen a therapist, and don't know what anger does to you, but for me it's not a mental health issue.

Part of it I'm sure is that I don't bottle anything up any more, and the other is that I'm not a kid and being picked on is just laughable. I think knowing that it's okay to be angry, that it is a normal thing that is perfectly okay, was probably the biggest revelation.

Playing devil's advocate. A lack of a criminal record doesn't make you completely ordinary.

The people you spend most of your time with and your therapist might have a different opinion of you than yourself.

I've never needed a therapist.

Sorry, I didn't mean you personally. Hypothetically speaking.

You confessed to several violent offenses in your first post

Did eyelid kid get it re-attached okay?

Yeah, no real ill effects.

When did you stop being a psychopath? Were you aware of the change?

If you truly believed I was a psychopath, why would you try to antagonize someone like that?

The Atlantic stopped publishing serious research article several years ago.

The two examples you​ list are personal essays/confessions

Can you give examples of what we've been missing in recent years? I count the Atlantic among only a few news publications that are worth a damn.

No small art is it to sleep: it is necessary for that purpose to keep awake all day.

Ten times a day must thou overcome thyself: that causeth wholesome weariness, and is poppy to the soul.

Ten times must thou reconcile again with thyself; for overcoming is bitterness, and badly sleep the unreconciled.

Ten truths must thou find during the day; otherwise wilt thou seek truth during the night, and thy soul will have been hungry.

Ten times must thou laugh during the day, and be cheerful; otherwise thy stomach, the father of affliction, will disturb thee in the night.

When night cometh, then take I good care not to summon sleep. It disliketh to be summoned—sleep, the lord of the virtues!

But I think of what I have done and thought during the day. Thus ruminating, patient as a cow, I ask myself: What were thy ten overcomings?

And what were the ten reconciliations, and the ten truths, and the ten laughters with which my heart enjoyed itself? Thus pondering, and cradled by forty thoughts, it overtaketh me all at once—sleep, the unsummoned, the lord of the virtues.


I could write an essay about my battle with sleep. I'm in my 30's and I finally think it's solved.

Sleeping meds, sleep studies, CBT-I, you name it - I've done it.

My ultimate solution ended up being:

- Earplugs

- Exercise

- Waking up the same time every single day, no matter how late I stay up. CBT-I had me wake up at 6:30 am every morning, and go to bed at 1 am. After a week of exhaustion, I started falling asleep like a rock. Then my therapist gradually had me go to sleep earlier and earlier until my time-to-sleep was still short and I had few awakenings during the night, but felt refreshed the next day. Turned out to be just around 6.5 hours a night

- No coffee after 3 pm

There are still nights where I have an active mind and have trouble sleeping, but I'll just let it happen without constantly worrying "oh no, I'm not gonna get ___ hours of sleep tonight". Because the minute you try to force yourself to sleep, it's over.

Earplugs are my #1 life changer when it comes to sleep. I found these really soft ones that don't really get in the way when you're lying on one ear, they filter pretty much all of the sound and when I take them out the next day, my ears don't hurt. As it turns out my wife's breathing kept me kind of awake, and traffic sounds too. And now that I got used to it, thanks to the associativity of the brain, these days I fall asleep within 10 minutes of putting them in. Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes I do need sleep meds to just tip me over into actual sleep. But if there's one thing I can recommend to other people is to spend some time to really find your own suitable ear plugs. I'm just lucky my wife is ok with it, she doesn't have these sleeping problems and is on stanby for if our boy might wake up in the night... Which almost never happens.

Could you tell me which earplugs you use and how you went about finding the right ones?

Easy enough, the right ones are the custom molds earplugs, plugs made from and for your ear canal.

They're not cheap but they fit snugly and tight, plus they last a long time. I got mine from a recommendation from a sound tech frien. There are different kinds with filters, for example to remove the bang from a gunshot or filter out snoring but not the alarm clock or the full plug to cancel all sounds.

While taking the print for the molds I experienced total silence for the first time and enjoyed the slight tinnitus I never noticed I had.

I searched for years for the right fit in earplugs, purchasing perhaps a dozen types along the way. In hindsight I would suggest purchasing a variety pack. I think it would have saved me a lot of time and money.

Something like: http://www.earplugstore.com/foearpltrpa2.html

My personal favorites: 3M E-A-R Classic Soft Earplugs

I'm in the Netherlands - these are the right ones for me:


I just chose the pair that dampened the most and irritated the least. These are extremely soft so it's not annoying to lie on one ear. But when they're decompressed they filter so much that the only sound I still hear are my breathing, and my long time friend mister Tinnitus. (I can distinguish​ 8 or 9 tones and pitches so my tinnitus is really heavy I guess)

I use one pair for about 1 or 2 weeks depending on how much wax is released from my ears. If the plugs get too waxy, I replace the plugs.

These aren't cheap, but they are the best imo.

I have tried about 10 different kinds and the ones that work best for me -- by about a mile -- are the 3M 1100 [1].

They have a light coating that makes them "stick" just a little bit in the ear (but not uncomfortably). This closes sound gaps that exist with other plugs and makes them way more effective.

[1] http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_EU/PPE_SafetySoluti...

I'm using earplugs to sleep (and to focus) for more than 25 years now. For a long time I've used the Quies Natural Wax earplugs. Some years ago I switched to Oropax Classic earplugs. Both are made of natural wax. Wax earplugs are easy to fit in your ear and don't press against your inner ear like foam earplugs. Oropax earplugs are a bit bigger than Quies, so they don't just seal your inner ear canal but also a small part of your auricle, providing an extra buffer against sound while still being comfortable.

I use the foam earplugs from Quies.


Earplugs are a must if I am sleeping on an airplane. When I use them in bed, they always end up falling out during the night.

I've also had persistent sleep problems over the years. Tried pretty much every behavioral approach (including the ones you've listed), as well as melatonin, marijuana, anti-histamines.

Those things maybe helped to an extent, but they contributed to an overall attitude that sleep was something I could _induce_ if only I did the right things, took the right pills, exercised at the right times, avoided the wrong things.

The thing that really seemed to begin to improve my sleep pattern was meditation. Gradually I've become more comfortable with not falling asleep quickly, which has the funny effect of often allowing the mind to fall sleep quicker. I still follow the conventional behavioral advice, but I think reframing my attitude towards sleep via meditation/mindfulness was really the most important step for me.

As if it was some sort of a neat evolutionary filter to weed out those that are too self-aware (judging by sleep awareness).

This seems very similar to my current trajectory, though my "therapy" consisted of flying around the world to visit family back home once a year (EU->AU). I found that while the jet lag would wear off after a few days, my sleep regimen would reset itself quite wonderfully and my usual 2-3 hours of laying in bed waiting to sleep would be reduced to 30 mins or less.

I am similarly sensitive to caffeine and also bought some rather pricey but comfy earplugs to silence my other half's incessant and irritating need to breathe.

While my current life circumstances don't allow for it, I am looking forward to the near future when I can sleep in my own room again, in a house quiet enough to not need ear plugs, and with a regular enough working schedule to make the routine easier (plus wearing me out a bit more each day).

Mine is

- Good sleeping mask that doesn't press on my eyeballs

- Good earplugs

- Not doing anything crazy for a few hours before sleep

- No coffee/caffeine if possible

Does the timing of exercise seem to make a difference? Also, how do you wake up at the same time daily? If you use earplugs, how would you use an alarm?

No food in the hours before bedtime is something I practice in addition to this list.

I'm not sure what the long term effects of chronic melatonin supplementation are, but I'll find out eventually. I've been taking between 3-6mg of melatonin every night for the past few years (2011?) It's almost required. Without it my sleep cycle seems fine at first, but then gets out of whack as I can't seem to keep a circadian rhythm in line with the rest of society / the earth's rotation.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I can't function mentally without caffeine. I tried going off caffeine a few times, and while the withdrawal effects were horrible, they eventually passed and everything felt great except my ability to concentrate on anything. Sadly I can't afford to see a doctor for my ADHD meds. While caffeine helps, it still leaves much to be desired.

Exercise helps immensely, both in terms of sleep and ability to concentrate, but at some point I injured my upper back (rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles), so I can't get the same level of exercise I had before.

Gwern has an extensive write up on melatonin at https://www.gwern.net/Melatonin

Personally if I'm off caffeine for too long the resulting metabolism strangeness takes me out for about a day, but the next time that happens I'm going to try a good amount of water and salt to see if that can combat it. Probably something around 1L/6g salt. Other things to consider with caffeine: adding l-theanine to temper the jitters. [ Search for l-theanine caffeine stack for other information on this. ]

Exercise definitely helps with concentration. I believe that it was only recently "discovered" that the brain is a giant lymph node and the only times it appears to be able to clear the decks of waste are when you're asleep or when you're pumping blood with a good exertion. [ http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v523/n7560/full/nature1... ]

I take melatonin for sleep only as necessary. I work a physically demanding job that requires approximately 50% computer time, so I find the mixed physical & mental effort of work tiring.

What I found help immensely with regaining my focus and mental clarity after coming off caffeine, and before that methamphetamine 4 days out of 7 for nearly a year, is taking a multi B vitamin plus 1000mcg methylcobalamin (also known as 'Activated B12') sublingually, and 200mg B6 once or twice a day, along with eating fewer sweet things and more protein and raw fats (butter and coconut oil). Plus chiropractic / osteopathic adjustments to deal with my crooked postural habits.

I also find Liquorice root as strong decoction immensely restorative.

That's what has worked for me. N=1 and all that.

Full disclosure: I hold a Diploma in Western Herbal Medicine and an Advanced Diploma in Clinical Nutrition. For what it's worth.

This is interesting. I'll chime in w/ one additional anecdata point - recently I've started supplementing Methyl Folate, B6 and B12 and saw significant increase in my energy levels; not in a jittery stimulant-like way, but more like w/ calmness and clarity.

Have you experienced any negative side effects? Any advise on what to be cautious for?

Busy at work, hit me up on the email in my profile if you like.

You might be interest in Henry Osiecki's The Nutrient Bible, https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Henry-Osiecki

Vitamins are a complete scam. They aren't even FDA regulated. After I read about their ineffectiveness and possible harm, I threw all of my bottles into the garbage can.


The placebo effect is powerful.

I highly recommend reading Topol's "The Creative Destruction of Medicine" for more information.

While there's a lot of placebo and less-than-truth-in-advertising regarding vitamins, they do make a difference to some people:

See gwern on vitamin D[0], which shows it's likely not a placebo, (n=1, of course, but coincides with a lot of not-quite-as-well-executed self experiments from other people)

Iron and/or vitamin B3 (Niacin) make a huge difference for RLS[1]; You'll find some peer reviewed reference for iron, mostly anecdotal for B3 (some better executed than others).

As a general rule, if you eat a variety of foods, some of which are grown naturally and not processed to death, and have decent exposure to the sun, then - no, you don't need vitamins. But among my peers it seems that this rather simple set of requirements is often not satisfied, and vitamin supplements are needed (usually B12, D, and Iron deficits are found for whoever does testing).

[0] https://www.gwern.net/zeo/Vitamin%20D

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restless_legs_syndrome

What ever roasts your goat.

It's well proven that Folate during pregnancy significantly reduces the incidents or neural-tube defects.

It's well proven that putting some B vitamins back in the flour after it's milled significantly reduces psychiatric presentations.

Sounds like you've made your mind up though.

The one vitamin worth taking for anyone living in a northern climate is D, particularly if, like me, you don't consume a lot of dairy. Beyond that, I agree, vitamins are entirely unnecessary.

Also those who suffer from Celiac Disease, like myself, are often low on Iron and are recommended to take iron supplements to prevent anemia.

Yeah I think it's fair to say that prescribed vitamins for those with a medical condition are probably worth taking. ;)

That's... a lot (of melatonin). You might try much smaller doses and see if you get the same benefits.

It has an odd efficacy curve, if sites like longecity are to be believed. But if that's the case, you may be as well off with way less; like 0.5 to 1mg.

Melatonin doesn't seem to be ideal for me. I'm taking 3mg and while it does knock me out fairly quickly, I'll wake up only a few hours later and find it almost impossible to get back to sleep again. I'm usually even more tired than I would have been without it.

I've cut caffeine completely out of my diet and I'm finding it very difficult to concentrate, theres a fog in my brain which only occasionally lifts (and on those days I get loads done)

I've been taking melatonin most nights for about ten years. I haven't noticed any negative effects, other than I'm not sure if it really helps me anymore. I started early in college when I realized my high school sleep schedule (less than 5 hours on week nights) wasn't going to work with more demanding academics. It quickly "solved" my sleep issues, but I've continued to take it most nights. My sleep schedule now is pretty regular and great, and I forget to take melatonin every so often and never really notice a difference. So it could be that I have tolerance, but it just doesn't matter since my routine is effective at maintaining good sleep.

I agree with exercise helping immensely, but I don't drink any caffeine so I can't comment on that.

I took melatonin for years (low dose 500mcg). In retrospect, after taking melatonin I don't recall any dreams. I'd only dream after not taking it for a day or two then taking a dose of melatonin.

About two weeks after stopping melatonin altogether, I now recall dreams every night. Stopped taking it due to insomnia getting worse and worse and figure I'd see what would happen without it. First week was rough, back to normal after that.

Meaningless anecdote about what is most likely placebo, but I found it a bit interesting. Forgot what it was like to dream every night. Not planning on taking it again.

I take a mix of melatonin, l-theanine, and 5-htp almost every night to go to sleep, and I've definitely found that if I don't take it for a couple days (usually Fri and Sat night) then take it again, my dreams are overly vivid and memorable.

While I'm on it, they're pretty suppressed. I used to take 10mg of melatonin every night and the effects were the same I'd say, so it doesn't seem to matter on dosage.

I share the habits (melatonin, caffeine and exercise) and eventual strategies (coffee withdrawal from time to time).

Would you care to elaborate on your methods? (What time do you take melatonin, how much and at what time do you take coffee?)


For caffeine, I'm probably consuming way too much. I use french roast (less caffeine + less acid) with an espresso machine (course grind folgers rather than fine grind). I think it comes out to roughly slightly less than 1.5 cups (12 fluid ounces) per dose.

I take a dose within about 1 - 1.5 hours of waking up and another dose half way through the day. I need to start taking the second dose earlier so 1) I don't experience the mid day crash and 2) there's less in my system when I go to bed.

For melatonin I take 3mg about an hour or two before going to bed and another 3mg right before going to bed. Sleep is generally good, but not as much as I would like, which I think is partly due to going to bed too late, thus light entering my room due to insufficient window blackout methods.

Something weird I notice about melatonin is that it helps me get work done just before bed, because my mind thinks less about it and just does it, but this probably isn't the best way to work.

Try Theanine with your caffeine...it makes you less jittery, and mostly prevents withdrawal symptoms.

If your sleep cycle goes out of whack without melatonin, that sounds like a dysfunctional pineal gland. What are you doing in terms of diet? Consider working with a doctor who practices functional medicine that will look for underlying causes like chemical imbalances/deficiencies (like nutrients and minerals)

For the most part, my diet is generally on the healthy-ish side; brown rice, beans, eggs, protein shakes with lactose-free milk, oats, cocoa powder, and activia.

Veggies include onions, carrots, cabbage, split peas, lentils, and broccoli / collard greens.

Also natural peanut butter and sunflower seeds to varying degrees.

You're taking way too much.

>>"According to our research, the physiological dose of melatonin of about 0.3 milligrams restores sleep in adults over the age of 50," said Wurtman, lead investigator in the study. "The adults who would normally wake up during the second and third thirds of the night were able to sleep through the night with the 0.3 milligram dosage." The researchers also discovered that the typical health food store dosage of melatonin, which is about three milligrams (or 10 times the dosage in the study), is less effective in treating insomnia. [1]

Personally, I take about .1 mg every night sublingually.

1. http://news.mit.edu/2001/melatonin-1017

Personally the change that has helped me the most has been mental. I used to feel "guilty" of going to bed early, not working to exhaustion. Now I view sleep as something to enjoy. Just letting go of that guilt has me sleep a lot better. From being a light sleeper I have gone to be able to sleep through my housemates blaring loud music.

I guess it's once again time for my standard PSA response to this genre: various chronic medical conditions can interfere with sleep. If you consistently have trouble sleeping or sleeping well over an extended period of time, it very well could be something more than "poor sleep habits".

And it very well couldn't. Slapping medical name to everything is not a solution either. Sometimes sleep disorder is as little as the wrong diet.

Sometimes people are speaking from direct experience with well-validated medical conditions fucking up their lives for multiple decades until someone eventually bothered to actually order the relevant diagnostic test.

Like sleep apnea: A lot of doctors mistakenly think that only overweight people can have sleep apnea.

I am 6' 150 lbs and was tired my whole life until I INSISTED I get a sleep study. Turns out I had severe sleep apnea.

And the solution is to sleep with a CPAP? Could I just rent one and check if I wake up more rested? Does snoring correlate with sleep apnea?

Snoring definitely correlates with apnea (your airway is already narrowing enough to "snore"). You could rent one but you wouldn't know the optimal pressure settings without a titration sleep study. You could try renting an auto adjusting machine and set the window wide open so that min pressure is the lowest possible value and Max pressure is the highest. Then if you look at the data and see that the machine had to increase the pressure while you slept with it on, you know you had a disordered breathing event(s). The machine reports back AHI but it really means that you stopped breathing and the machine couldn't treat you effectively because the pressure wasn't set correctly, but it doesn't report apneas that you would have had without wearing the machine to begin with because at pressure, it has no way of knowing/measuring them, if that makes sense.


In some ways, it's a metaphor for our own lives.

Obviously people should discuss any sleep issue with their Primary. However, it doesn't hurt to look at habits that may be affecting sleep.

I'm 30 years old now.

I was able to live on 4-6 hrs of sleep a night all the way up to age 25-28. That's when sleep started becoming a problem.

At age 30, I absolutely need 8 hours of sleep minimum average of sleep, but that average has to be accumulated over the course of a week! That means that a single night of sleeping less and doing strenuous tasks on a linux terminal now takes a toll on me in ways that I have never felt before in my youth.

Full disclaimer: I am a blue collar worker at a non-computer job who physically excerts myself and am very fit as a result of my job. This is part of why sleep is mandatory for me.

The older you get, the more sleep you need and the less alcohol your body can handle. This is a universal truth that people <age 25 have a hard time accepting because everybody has to be a superman of course.

> The older you get, the more sleep you need

This isn't true. Need for sleep declines with age. Youth masks the effects of poor sleep in the same way it masks poor eating and lack of exercise. But young people need more sleep, not less.

It actually does not tell how to sleep, it only discusses common sense strategies like taking melatonine and avoiding (or not) caffeine. Kind of a let down.

I don't have a computer at home any more.

Granted, the office is at walking distance, and I can go there 24/7, but not having a computer at home recently made a huge difference.

Once I go back home, I don't have the temptation of hacking something really quick, which will eventually last longer that expected, and I'll then keep thinking about it all night long.

Verdict? Better sleep. And I can get up earlier. Overall I feel better and more productive, if only because there is a better separation between work (including on OSS projects) and personal life.

> The original studies seemed to say yes. But when the military put soldiers in a lab to make certain they stayed awake, performance suffered.

One minor piece of anecdotal evidence here. I have done a few 5-6 day sleep deprivation experiments in my life. I've stayed up for 3 days more times than I can count. I also used to regularly sleep every other day for long chunks of time. It's something that I could do much better when I was younger, and I try to avoid this now as I regularly get sick when I don't sleep for extended periods of time nowadays.

Firstly, performance (particularly my short term memory) always suffered. Sometimes if not active, or sitting for long periods of time I'd also get pain in my joints. Typically, when I fall asleep or start feeling tired it's because I enter a small boring, quiet homely environment (i.e. go home, or sit in a quiet room, or watch tv). My secret to staying awake was constant activity like walking around, talking to people, hydrating (water), small snacks, and walking some more, etc.

I feel that the effects of sleep deprivation hit the hardest when I'm not being stimulated physically. As such, I think dragging someone into a lab would have a harsh effect on one's performance. While I think no matter what you will suffer from performance degradation, I would love to see some contrast between performance given different environments/habits.

1) no glowing screens at all after the sun goes down.

2) no glowing screens at all after the sun goes down.

3) no glowing screens at all after the sun goes down.

4) very low candle-temperature lighting only after dark. Especially try to keep it out of your direct line of sight.

It'll work, but 1-3 are hard.

I mean, what am I supposed to do in my leisure time if I can't look at glowing screens? Just sit around and pretend I'm in the 90s?

Read. Study. Listen to music or radio shows (podcasts). Play music. Board games. Prep food for the next day (pizza dough ought to rest at least overnight, for instance). Tidy and clean so you don't have to do that while the sun's up.

Generally, get tired and go to sleep much earlier because you're not hyper-stimulated late into the night by glowing rectangles.

The 90s? That can't be the dark ages already :) How about listening the radio, podcast, music? I wonder what the effects of audio are on sleep.

We watched TV in the 90s. Lots and lots. Try the 40s.

Maybe not the 40s, I know who's been there and says it was not the best times to be around.

Hmm, can people reasonably do 1-3 in places where the sun sets at like 6PM?

There are tools that reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen. They essentially turn your screen orange. The difference it makes is large enough that you wonder how you managed before it. The most well known is f.lux, but it's also natively supported in some phone OSes.

Also available in GNOME 3, on Linux, under the name of 'Night Light'[0].

[0] https://www.gnome.org/news/2017/03/gnome-3-24-released/attac...

Native in iOS, OSX, and windows now. Probably on android.

I use f.lux, it's fantastic: https://justgetflux.com/

Much better than the native solutions that come with operating systems nowadays

For Chrome, there is a plugin Dark Reader that works pretty well for inverting colors / dimming webpages.


Windows 10 also has this feature built in, called Night light, in the Display settings.

Not that long ago, everyone did 1-3 all the time.

Until ~20 years ago "screen time" was at least mostly limited to a (by modern standards) tiny CRT TV on the other side of the room for most people. Glowing screens filling a big part of one's FOV such a large percentage of the day is a fairly recent thing.

This would be impossible to follow at higher latitudes - I used to live in Stockholm where from october to mid-january sundown is 4pm

I sleep on my left side usually or back.

A lot of times I just fall asleep watching something on my laptop which also standing on its side a little away from me (not at full brightness though; but in general I keep my computer screens brightness to moderate). I just close the lid and push it away while falling asleep. Never bothered me really.

3) seems the hardest.

I would also recommend using f.lux or similar for your phone. I think it helps quite a bit, and it's the same principle as the candle-temperature lighting for your light bulbs.

>3) no glowing screens at all after the sun goes down.

Or wear strong blue blocking glasses after the Sun goes down.

1. Room temperature should be between 60 - 67 degrees F.

2. No electronics, games, and minimal to no blue light 30min to 1hour before sleep.

3. Do not exercise less than 3 hours before sleep. Exception: sex.

4. Coffee and other stimulants before 12pm, not after.

5. Avoid naps longer than 15 minutes day of.

6. Stretch before going to sleep, particularly if you experience minor restless legs or periodic leg movements.

7. Avoid alcohol, will reduce sleep quality.

8. Avoid stimulating TV, conversations or books before sleep.

9. Controversial: Sleep in late if you can. Adequate sleep is more important than consistent sleep rhythm. My opinion only.

1. I am surprised how 15-19°C could be the temperature range for sleeping. That's just too cold; at least here in India. It's usually around 22°C (72°F) minimum people who have ACs, or the room temperature in temperate places like Pune and Bangalore. My friends say the same thing about SF at least. Is it common to sleep at this relatively cold (15-19°C) temperature in the USA? Also, there must be places/states where people don't use ACs, right?

3. I used to run at night for almost a year. Around 2-4 hours before sleep and very light dinnner after cooling down and then read a bit or so, or listen to soft/light music and fall asleep like a baby at around ~11PM and wake up at ~7pm (never set any alarms; still don't unless I've to catch an early flight or so). That was my best sleeping routine in a long time and I used to feel so awesome throughout the day. I've known people go for for a walk or so and then fall asleep after dinner.

5. Couldn't agree more. If I fall sleep during day it just pushes my sleeping rhythm off the track like anything. Very short naps (esp. after lunch or heavy lunch are quite nice)

9. That I have noticed in many people. I myself though could never really sleep in late, after college (in college or before I could sleep whenever I had an opportunity or wanted - like a lecture, bus, pillion riding etc - what blissfull times!), except some scenarios on some days that I could never pinpoint the reason for sleeping in late (but I feel exceptionally good on those days). So generally I am wide awake by 6.45-7.15AM no matter how late I fall asleep like an alarm clock :( So I try to fall sleep by 11PM.

Are these points your own observations like I've listed mine or established results from research?

Re: 1. I don't think it's a set temp as much as a difference from the daytime temps.

So for us average Americans, 15-19C (59 to 66F) would probably work well, depending on where you live in America.

The given temperature range tries to cover the optimal condition for a broad range of people. Optimal here means that below that many muscles that have to rest in the sleeping state are instead working to compensate the loss of heat (and with them also a bunch of neurons), above that you are kind of forced to move constantly to cool off by exposing the overheated parts of body. 15°C may be too cold for most, but it's ideal for overweight and obese people.

60-67F? That's cold. I live in Fl so if I were to let myself get used to that temp I would literally melt when I went outside.

76F is more reasonable here.

Easy in the winter, crack a window if necessary.

In the summer the A/C bill would be outrageous.

I find the humidity matters a lot, if its 73F and 95% humid I am uncomfortable. If its 75F with 30% I am fine. Also a ceiling fan really helps.

I wonder if it's the absolute temperature that's important or the delta.

3 seems controversial. Vigorous exercise before bed seems OK based on what I've been seeing:



"less than 3 hours"

I typically have to sleep with the TV on. I put on some boring documentary with a droning narrator. Otherwise my thoughts just keep me awake until I finally fall asleep from exhaustion.

My sense is that needing a TV to sleep is a sign of a deeper issue, that of some underlying dissatisfaction or depression or boredom with life.

What? Preferring white noise like background TV has nothing to do with "underlying deep depression". I think anyone who suggests such a thing might be projecting their own issues of that nature.

That is a possibility

The more likely possibility is that the background TV acts as "noise canceller", allowing your focus to hover between non-specific environmental sound, and your internal thoughts. Neither wins your attention, so your mind is at rest and you sleep.

The echo of our internal thoughts darting around as we approach sleep is quite normal. In the absence of TV background noise, the trick would be to not focus or chase or indulge the thoughts but "allow" them to simmer without your involvement, or allow them to pass by without looking at each one in depth; be indifferent from a distance. That's a technique not difficult to master, but is basically how to still your mind and go to sleep.

You can achieve the same effect as the documentary by focusing on your breathing. Starting at 100, you count down with each breath. I've never gotten to zero after years of trying. Amusingly the stereotypical sheep counting method works wonders as well when your thoughts won't give you a break.

This may work for you but it doesn't work for me and a lot of others. Particularly after a stressful day the basic "10 tips" etc don't work. I've "counted" 300 sheep and gave up. I've counted down from 100. I've tried multiple youtube sleep hypnosis videos. Nothing seems to work after stressful days.

You can try the Fibonacci sequence instead, it's what I use during stressful moments in the daytime. I also focus on how the bed feels, since this draws attention away from the mentality of getting to sleep as a goal (which is counterproductive for the same reason that forcing yourself not to think about something doesn't work).

I hope this post doesn't sound patronizing as that is not my intention at all. I can definitely relate to the frustration you've described, but for other issues. Based on my own anecdotal experience, it's quite unlikely that you've exhausted all the possible solutions. At the very least, you don't have much to lose in trying one new thing.

I found a surprising source of motivation in books about the Eastern Front of WWII. I figure that if Soviet soldiers managed to survive in those circumstances, I can stay calm and collected in much more favorable conditions.

Don't worry the post didn't sound patronizing at all. I don't always have problems sleeping but I definitely believe I have a harder time than most people even on regular, mostly care-free nights. I definitely don't think I've exhausted all the solutions. I've tried many and they seem to work on "regular" days but they seem to become less effective the more I use them (or just not work on bad days). I sleep eventually either way though so I'm better off than others I think.

Have you tried ASMR videos?

Never heard of it until now. It's an interesting concept and sounded a little far-fetched but considering there's a reddit subreddit with 128k users I will definitely try it out.

Those creepy whisper videos make me cringe. Each to their own.

I can't help bursting out laughing after a while so it's not the best for sleep!

I can count a long way down by ones. The pattern is too obvious -- as it also is with even numbers, three, five, nine, ten. I find that counting down by 7s from 1000 does the trick. I can never get to 600 like that before I am asleep.

Yeah, or as someone else suggested too, reasonably easy math formulas like Fibonacci. I also used to advice this to my mates if they had too much to drink and became nauseous when trying to fall asleep.

This is simple advice, but was effective for me after some practice. For months, I had to fall asleep listening to podcasts because my brain would be thinking about work. I just couldn't shut it off.

I decided I couldn't live that way, so I worked on breathing techniques like this. After a couple of weeks, I could finally focus on breathing long enough to fall asleep.

I still have nights where it just doesn't work, but it's made a big difference in my life.

> 8. Avoid stimulating TV, conversations or books before sleep.

That's no fun!

3- unless one is a woman. From my limited understanding, men get sleepy and women get 'activated' (lack for a better word).

I've seen a good number of data points to the contrary in one particular situation. There was an article about a vibrator alarm clock promoting starting the day with an orgasm, and pretty much every women commenting on the article mentioned how stupid an idea that seemed because they said it would put them right back to sleep.

I figured as much, that's why I said "my limited understanding" (for those who love downvoting and not explaining).

For the commenters below, true. Thanks for the replies all of you.

My "observations" from a "few" samples with a lot of data points is that females get very sleepy after quality #3.

You need a larger sample size. Get to work.

As an anecdotal contrast, I (male) get activated even when I'm very tired beforehand.

I break literally every single rule in your list regularly, and sleep amazingly well.

It's a list for people that have trouble sleeping. Just because A implies B, it doesn't mean that "not A" implies "not B".

What are your recommendations for dealing with noisy roommates/hallmates?

There have been nights where I had to put on my ANC headphones to get some peace and quiet. (I've heard a good pair of earplugs may work?)

A fan.

I sleep like a baby with an extremely loud fan roaring in my face, as long as the noise is consistent. Sort of like being in an airplane.

Would you fall asleep with someone whispering in your ear? Earplugs can only reduce the intensity of sounds, but the distracting part is the detail/variation/information in them. Even in a quiet room, putting in earplugs guarantees I will stay awake listening to my own heartbeat and blood flow in excruciating detail. shudder.

A sufficiently loud drone noise, on the other hand, drowns out any of the more variable noises that would keep me awake.

If you have sox (free, cross platform, open source) installed, you can run e.g.:

     play -n synth 08:00:00 pinknoise 
for 8 hours of noise -- you might prefer either whitenoise or brownnoise, and maybe play around with the eq or other effect options to modulate the output if you want a little variation. If you skip the duration it'll play til you ^C.

Or ocean waves with sox:

    play -n synth brownnoise synth pinknoise mix synth sine amod 0.3 10
Via: https://askubuntu.com/a/789472/111115

Agreed, I contribute a good chunk of the quality of my sleep to my fan.

People have mentioned headphones/earphones and earplugs, but you can actually combine the two.

Take in-ear earphones, take off the thin rubber plugs on their end. Cut off the earplugs to the size (or 1.5x) of those rubber plugs. Then compress the earplugs to coin-flatness, and punch a thin hole through them 2mm or so. Put them on the earphones. As with earplugs, press them before inserting, then wait a few seconds for them to decompress in your ears.

I've used that in the past before I got Bose active noise cancelling phones. They work basically as good as unpunched earplugs, but you can add white noise or music or whatever on top of that.

Edit: Found that (of course) someone made a video of that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0m_RseMrok

I have sleep mask with earphones with a rain loop playing, and sometimes I put ear buds in too.



Earplugs take away a lot of the noise, the only thing might be that if they don't fit, i.e. are a bit too big, then they can be somewhat uncomfortable after half the night.

I would definitely try that if I was you :) For reference, I'm currently using them most nights because I'm on exchange and am sharing a dorm room with another guy that snores at night -.-....

In terms of comfort, if you lie on your side it sometimes works well enough to just wear one ear-plug, with your other ear on the pillow.

Personally I get irritated ears if I use earplugs for a few nights in a row.

It's strange to think you heard anything in regard to good earplugs.

Howard Leight MAX earplugs have the highest noise cancellation rating in dB that I've seen, and they were the best ones I've tried.

Works for me, I live right below my landlord who has an uncarpeted wooden floor with kids, where otherwise I'd have the sound of incessant stomping upstairs as a very reliable daily alarm clock.

Get a white noise machine.

Something along these lines I recommend is a loud HEPA filter fan, so you get fresh air + white noise.

Currently living in China and this is a godsend

Use pink noise instead of white noise, if you can. It's less "sharp". Personally, I can't stand more than few moments of white noise, while I can listen to pink noise for hours (it reminds me of sea waves crashing into the shore).

Install sox and you might not need one. See my reply up-thread for details.

I had success with earplugs combined with whitenoise. For white noise, you can used an air purifier, a fan, or a noise machine like https://www.marpac.com/

What are your recommendations for dealing with noisy roommates/hallmates?

Try these. Cheap and can easily be reused for a week even though they are "disposable": http://www.homedepot.com/p/3M-Orange-Disposable-Earplugs-7-P...

I was forced into using them by an inconsiderate neighbor. He kept putting his dog out into the back yard very early every morning ... in response the dog would loudly whine and bark until let back in. Thankfully the dog is long gone.

Throwing a cup of water over barking dogs tends to shut them up.

The article mentions William Dement, one of the pioneer researchers on sleep. His book The Promise of Sleep is a great and easy read, and I absolutely recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about the subject and the history behind the study of sleep.

Is nobody else concerned with the implications of what losing sleep does to the doctor going through residency? I've always thought that was insane. The author even admits to having observed the detrimental effects first-hand, yet never suggests that this practice should be abandoned - why is that!?

I as a patient have enough of a problem giving myself into the care of a doctor-in-training, why does s/he have to sleep-deprived on top of not being fully trained? Is this some sort of macho thing, or a "well, I went through this hazing, so you gotta do it, too" kind of thing?

Somebody please enlighten me as to what the point of this seemingly counter-productive practice is!

My experience with Melatonin is that about 1.5 mg per night is a game changer. I travel across the Pacific Ocean several times per year and it got to where I was a stick of dynamite temper wise for a week after each trip, just not able to cope with any irritations, due to Jetlag. On top of that, just the general stress of being an entrepreneur resulted in bad sleep. For some reason, I bought the melatonin, and I'm very glad I did it. Now, I sleep like I did when I was in elementary school. Lots of dreams and even wake up with solutions to problems that I went to bed thinking about.

My "One Simple Trick" to help limit active thinking when in bed, and thus make it easier to sleep is to write the thoughts down, pen on paper.

By thinking I mean things like being excited about an event, going over a conversation, thinking about some code, an idea, things to do tomorrow, errands etc. All things that can be literally dumped onto paper and stored. In my experience I have found that pen and paper work better than typing into a device.

Now, I still seem to wake up multiple times during the night, but it's not because my brain is excited anymore.

> In 2013, a 24-year-old advertising copywriter in Indonesia died after prolonged sleep deprivation, collapsing a few hours after tweeting “30 hours of working and still going strooong.” She went into a coma and died the next morning.

Things like this always slightly scare me.

I have been awake consecutively for far longer, and on several occasions. But does that mean I just can - or would I really be risking death each time?

The article suggests his death was due to a combination of too much energy drinks and a preexisting mild heart condition. If you get regular checkups you should be probably mostly fine for a while until you get weakened by old age and can't do it any more.

That is not to say that it's at all recommended. I personally absolutely cannot stay awake for more than 20 hours.

"Or, sometimes preferable, read something on paper.". Now, to read on paper we need light, so the problem is not solved (altought the ligth is not directly from the device into the eyes). But the real question is, if I use the kindle with its light that lights up the screen, will it be the same as using a phone? or what?

Kindle Paperwhite as well as latest Kobos and other advanced e-readers are totally different from phone or tablet screens by the way they illuminate.

The color temperature of a phone backlight and ordinary household lighting are fairly different

Ordinary household lighting is more and more being replaced by LEDs, though.

William Dement gave a Google Tech talk on September 23, 2008. Dement recalls that Randy Gardner who stayed awake for 11 days in 1964, when asked some 40years later "would you do this again?" he replied "No way would I do this again" [0]

Very interesting from Dement's talk is that equilibrium daily average sleep for completely health young adults is 8:15 ± 50min [1]. Most people I meet contest these results and state that they can work optimal with less than 7h25m daily sleep.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hAw1z8GdE8&t=1310

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hAw1z8GdE8&t=28m29s

I've had great luck with these videos.



I went through a phase a few years ago where I'd fall asleep only to wake up a short time later with mind racing, then be up half the night and tired the next day. This went on for some months and was very annoying.

These videos cured that phase right away. I don't listen to them much anymore but they really worked. It wasn't just staying asleep that was cured, the quality of the sleep seemed much better. Still listen on occasion if having trouble getting in "sleep mode".

This is my favorite,


Had severe insomnia a few years ago. The video is soothing and the self talk helped calm me down, so even if I didn't sleep I experienced less stress (which helped me sleep).

Is it weird that these videos never work for me? I haven't tried these particular ones, but I've had tons of troubles sleeping through the years, and hypnosis audios never works. It actually gets me frustrated and keeps me up longer.

No it's not. Me too

How not to sleep:


I read this article 8 hours ago. Now I'm in bed, staring at this screen, typing this comment at 5 AM.

Actually, you are only dreaming this :-)

I consider myself one of those short-sleepers. Ever since I was a kid I averaged 5-6h of sleep a day.

While the differences perceived (which can always be misleading) from sleeping 6 or 8 hours weren't noticeable, if I slept 4-5 for a week my short term memory would suffer, reflexes and split second decision making (think fast passed multiplayer shooters) would also suffer.

But what I noticed was that although the split second decision process would come back after a good night sleep, short memory would take me a whole 3-4 days to come back at its finest.

Obviously this is all what I observed and not to be taken seriously, because as we know observing and understanding oneself is one of the hardest tasks out there.

Just my 2c

Interesting 2c about observations - because according the article, people who have less sleep may perform worse objectively, but to themselves they report no noticeable difference.

Short term memory variation is very obvious to me when coding. And as the GP mentioned, reflex variation can be obvious when playing FPS games.

I wonder what tasks the subjects were given in the studies.

slightly related - I seem to remember a study on the performance of hungover people. Hungover people self-reported that they performed worse, but objectively there was no negative change! (edits...or thinking about it some more, maybe the thing was that they had Common Colds)

"Dolphins are said to sleep with only half their brain at a time, keeping partially alert for predators. Many of us spend much of our lives in a similar state." This is definitely deep.

>In one study published in the journal Sleep, researchers kept people just slightly sleep deprived—allowing them only six hours to sleep each night—and watched the subjects’ performance on cognitive tests plummet. The crucial finding was that throughout their time in the study, the sixers thought they were functioning perfectly well.

>Effective sleep habits, like many things, seem to come back to self-awareness.

One of the things I've noticed is that it's really hard to police your own sleep schedule, especially if you aren't aware of the consequences of losing a few hours of sleep. I'm working on a bot that helps you get to bed earlier, and our power users often come to us with a really clear understanding of what happens when they don't get enough sleep (e.g. "I perform way worse on my Army fitness test", "I'm not focused enough to do my side project after work") and still need to set up systems to keep themselves accountable on a daily basis.

That said, I think there's a much larger "zombie population" of the "sixers" described above that isn't getting enough sleep and simply isn't particularly aware of it. From a population health standpoint, the question then becomes: How do we get people to appreciate the effect of getting a full 7-9 hours of sleep when they don't explicitly feel the effects on a daily basis? Not only that, but how do we get them to unwind and prioritize getting good night's sleep at the time of day when willpower is low and Netflix temptations are high.

The CEO of Netflix somewhat flippantly declared sleep their biggest competition, and I think they're crushing the competition right now.


On the bright side there are people who have used our product and seen it make a pretty big difference. The trick was getting them to start with a very unambitious bedtime goal relative to their average bedtime, and gradually make the bedtime earlier week over week until they've dismantled their bad sleep habits.

A recent TED I watched linked sleep deprivation with the speed one can develop Alzheimer


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