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Sleep Hacks: The Geek's Guide to Optimizing Sleep (scribd.com)
147 points by mathgladiator on Nov 30, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

It would be interesting to read but I have to say it's just too infuriating what that Scribd crap does to the web. They ruin a perfectly good way of displaying documents just so they can "solve" the problem they created themselves.

That's just ridiculous and I will never ever again click on or upvote anything that has a scribd URL. Scribd truely shows the ugliest face of the ad funded web. It's innovation turned on its head. Ruin something just to extract some money from "fixing" it in a horrible way. It's pathetic and it's an intellectual disgrace.

The trouble with Scribd is it tries to legitimize PDF for browsing. We'd be better served by a tool that rescues the text and images from the boneheaded universal print-derived layout that assumes a very high resolution portrait display and pointlessly huge margins. Google has a lot of trouble with this, but bless them for trying.

I find PDFs a pleasure to read. They are better typeset, the lines aren't ridiculously long, the fonts look beautiful and the pages give me a feel of how much I've read.

I've found in the discussion below a link to a non-scribd version and submitted that separately:


a pdf inside a zip file inside cnet?

that's just as bad, if not worse, than scribd.

In that case, also from further down in this same discussion, a direct link to a PDF:


Nah, if I want to download the pdf from scribd (to, for example, use a search function that actually works), I have to upload a document of my own or pay a subscription. Cnet is much less of a hassle.

I quit clicking on them because every single time I tried to load a Scribd page Firefox would lock up and then crash. I really hate them.

I agree, even though Scribd works pretty well in Chromium. In Firefox, it used to crash the browser all the time. I wish people would just use Google Docs as a PDF viewer on the web. Just prepend https://docs.google.com/viewer?url= to any PDF URL and there you go. Or even better, link to the PDF and give me the option to handle it as I want. I have a Chrome extension that uses Google Docs as a PDF Viewer, but also lets me download it. No more Adobe Reader, ... just Scribd still gets in the way.


Is there any way to simply "hide" and "show" the menu at the bottom? It seems like there's only an option for "auto-hide: off" which leaves the panel open the whole time, or "auto-hide: On" which means it keeps popping up and down the entire time I read the article, which is even more distracting.

I wonder why didn't the author use Google Docs or maybe a blog post.

if you want to download as a pdf, and object to creating account, then feel free to use the throwaway I created - nomail+12345@nomail.com nomail12345 pwd:12345

You're being melodramatic.

Great to hear you have an opinion on the way I express my opinion. Do you also have an opinion on the matter itself?

The matter itself is a list of sleep hacks.

The worst thing about Scribd is the way it obligates people to ruin perfectly good HN threads with meta-commentary.

You do have a point and I was aware of that unfortunate side-effect of my comment. I'm doing it rarely. But this is also a site for people who make decisions on how stuff is published on the web and how to monetize it, etc. So I think it's not completely useless to have that kind of meta debate sometimes.

While on the face of it it may qualify as a 'Geek's guide', there seems to be a fair amount of woo.

"It is estimated that 70% of the population is lactose intolerant (dairy). 33% have yeast sensitivity. 15% have gluten sensitivity (wheat). And 35% have fructose or sugar sensitivity."

Really? Any references to back that up?

"Some raw-foodists say they need less sleep on a raw food diet compared to a cooked food diet."

Again no evidence, or references. And they would say that wouldn't they?

One source he does link to (on the page the above quote comes from) is Stanley Bass, a proponent of Natural Hygiene, and Orthopathy - very much in the realms of alternative medicine (if you look at the website linked to - http://www.drbass.com/, it is obvious quackery,and an assault on the eyes).

At least for the lactose intolerance, it completely depends on the population. It's fairly well known (and studied) that Asian populations have much much higher rates of lactose intolerance (thus the love of soy milk). The wiki article on lactose intolerance puts 75% of the global adult population at some degree of lactose intolerance.

Of course, if the majority of the people you know are white (European), then of course 70% looks fudged.

It's likely the same for many of the other stats, though I can't say.

Nothing worked until I started exercising. Quality of sleep greatly improved.

I exercise regularly (by virtue of my job), but I found that waking up at the same time every day helped greatly. My work switched to winter hours (so that we're still going to work with some modicum of sunlight), but I found myself still waking up at 6am regardless of whether my alarm was set or not.

In total I must have gotten 12 hours of sleep over the weekend due to family being in from out of town, but I still got up and worked a full day without an ounce of tiredness. It wasn't until around 10:30pm that my body demanded sleep.

I also noted that I have similar creative productivity at 6am as I used to at 1am when I was on night-owl hours. So I now use my extra morning time to get writing done that I find hard to get to later in the day.

I tried running, but it didn't help at all. the only thing that has worked, so far, has been a strict meal/sleep schedule and melatonin.

Have you tried lifting weights? That could be the physical exertion you need.

Running is way more exhausting than weight lifting. If you're not exhausted, run faster and longer. You can't do the same with weight lifting. You can get your arms tired, but your arms will give up long before you run out of energy.

If you're lifting weights with your arms, you're probably doing it wrong.

Try the olympics lifts: power cleans and snatches and squat cleans and snatches. Or their components: deadlifts, front squats, presses. Or back squats and thrusters. Do a bunch of those in rapid succession and your whole body will be much more tired than doing a 5k run, guaranteed.

This is not my experience. After a couple you won't be able to lift anymore, but you won't really be exhausted either. At least I can't lift any more just because my muscles fail. I don't regularly lift weights though, so perhaps if you're more experienced you can. That said, you don't need experience to get exhausted running (but the tendency of many people is to stop long before that point).

You're probably lifting too much weight, or leaving the gym too early. I know this isn't helpful, but you should be exhausted once you leave the gym.

How much weight should you lift? How long should you spend in the gym?

It's more complicated than a simple formula. If we're talking about olympic lifts (squats, deadlifts, clean & press), start with the bar and increase 5 lbs every day until you start hitting a limit.

Check out Mark Rippetoe's "Starting Strength" [1] for more info. Great program for anyone new to weightlifting.

[1] http://startingstrength.com/

Also, running on a track or anywhere that is not a treadmill is much more exhausting than using a treadmill. The treadmill does some of the work for you. It also makes you more prone to injuring yourself, as happened to me. In short, the are much better places to run than on a treadmill.

I haven't read the whole guide yet but on page 8 it mentions polyphasic sleep (with annotation that majority of people who try it fail). Isn't polyphasic considered a popular hoax? As far as I remember, mentioned in the presentation dr Wozniak actually believes it simply doesn't work. Also, I've read a few blogs of people who tried it and failed (some of them appeared on HN) and don't recall a single person that succeeded. Taking that into consideration it makes me feel sceptical towards this guide. Sure - some sleep patterns work for certain people and don't for other, but why include something that seems to work for noone?

I was polyphasic for about six months a number of years ago. My schedule was a fairly standard 6x20 minute naps (commonly called the Uberman schedule). After the initial (very, very difficult) adaptation period, I felt great nearly all of the time. I would get tired right before a nap, but by the end I didn't need an alarm to wake up after 20 minutes, and naps left me feeling completely refreshed and alert. I was in graduate school at the time, so my schedule was pretty flexible, and I had a mixture of cognitively demanding work (my research: a project in geophysical fluid dynamics) and less mentally demanding work (grading, family and home responsibilities). Again, after the adaptation period, I wasn't particularly cognitively impaired.

There is a lot of misinformation out on the web about polyphasic sleep, both by its proponents as well as its detractors. Some of the things that have been written (polyphasic sleepers only get REM, for example) are just false. One problem is that there isn't a very large body of peer reviewed literature on the subject; the canonical reference is a volume of conference proceedings from 1991 which can be hard to lay hands on. The fact that (a) adaptation takes a long time (on the order of weeks) and (b) the polyphasic schedule is incompatible with the way most people live their lives has made researching it difficult.

I'm currently involved in a polyphasic sleep experiment organized by the folks at Zeo. They asked for some volunteers to use their hardware to monitor our sleep as we either adapt to a polyphasic schedule or (for those already adapted) function on one. We're not following any kind of rigorous experimental protocol, so this isn't going to be publishable research, but it will at least provide us with some measured anecdotes.

People who say they managed to pull it off for a month or two keep popping up. They could be just pulling our leg of course. When I suspected the people who say they've successfully done polyphasic sleep are just making up stories aloud in IRC, someone on the channel told me they'd done polyphasic sleep for several weeks.

I'd consider polyphasic sleep as working if after within two weeks of starting the schedule a significant number of people could start going instantly into REM sleep when they nap and could stay reasonably alert and functional with these naps for several weeks. This should be easy enough to test in a lab.

My guesses are that it can really work (but I'm not sure if it can work for most or for not that many people) and that it's likely to impair mental performance a bit even after successful adaptation. I haven't read many polyphasic sleep accounts from people involved in seriously brainpower and creativity intensive work like mathematics research. Also, I'm a bit wary of cutting away non-REM sleep, since it seems to be the time when the body heals best. I keep thinking that the body might be using the NREM sleep to clean out cells turning into cancer in addition to healing wounds and fighting sickness, which would make long-term NREM deprivation life-expectancy shortening.

It's not so much that it doesn't work, but that it's at extreme odds with the rest of society. I can't say much for the Uberman, having tried it three times so far and failing each time, but I did do the Everyman for a period of a couple months with no ill effects. I tried again a while ago but I just can't keep it up when school is going (which was my reason for stopping before).

I'm not going to go dig up some research (though the PDF seems to agree we're at least biphasic) so you're free to take this as opinion, but I'm sure I've read some out there suggesting that humans are naturally polyphasic and evolved that way in the ancestral environment. A just-so story could be that those who slept less or in bursts avoided deadly danger better than those who got 8 solid hours each night.

There's also this man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Wright_%28sleep_deprivatio... whose theory is roughly that the left and right hemispheres of the brain have different sleep requirements, and you can operate on one while the other rests.

Edit: I should mention that my most successful sleep pattern (that is, me feeling my best) was with free-running sleep.

Steve Pavlina lived on a polyphasic sleep schedule for several months, fascinating reading:


All the accounts I have read seem to think it worked but go in the way of their lives to much. I doubt there are many out there which would be able to test this for a long period of time without anything at all getting in the way. From the sounds of it missing a single nap was extremely taxing.

One tip I don't see there is using supplments to aid sleep; I started taking zinc just before bedtime and found it helps me get to sleep better and feel more refreshed in the morning.

I take it as "ZMA", which is a blend of zinc/magnesium/vitamin B designed to help rest & recovery from physical activity, but the same sleep benefit comes from regular zinc tablets from the chemist.

+1 for this. It worked for me. Although (and there may have been other reasons for this), the effect fleeted with time.

The sleep bits are (probably - don't know very much about the topic) ok, but once it gets to diet, it goes right into la-la-land. It is riddled with misinformation and the belief that a "raw food diet" fixes all. A raw food diet might make you lose weight, and it might get you food poisoning, but that's about it. For more information, I recommend C0nc0rdance's youtube videos on raw food.

For other clearly wrong, or wrongly interpreted information: While 70% of the population is lactose intolerant, that doesn't mean you are. We do know that about 99% of the Chinese population is lactose intolerant (which proooobably skews the numbers a bit), yet, for example, only about 1% of Dutch people are lactose intolerant. Northern Europeans and other people from historically very dairy-rich cultures have a very high degree of lactose tolerance, and persistent lactase production (the enzyme that digests lactose and makes you lactose tolerant). Very interesting genetics topic :) Statistics will not say anything useful about whether you are likely to be lactose intolerant, but ethnicity will. Get tested if you are in doubt. It's a simple test. Just make sure you go to a qualified medical practitioner.

As for gluten insensitivity, this is called coeliac disease and is very serious. Thankfully, the highest estimate for prevalence is about 1%, not 15%. The anti-gluten brigade has been on it for years, but non-coeliac people can and should eat gluten. It's a good protein of high quality and makes your bread dough stick together. That's why it's hell trying to bake gluten-free bread or pizza dough.

Casein, a milk protein, is also not a bad protein. While there are many scare stories about casein (it being blamed for autism, cancer, et cetera), they don't hold up very well. Casein is a nice, slow-digesting protein with a very good quality, as any body builder who does the diet/protein thing will be able to tell you. Drink your milk if you can tolerate it, and eat more cheese :)

As for multiple sclerosis, we actually don't know what causes it other than that there likely is a genetic component, but that other factors also interfere. For the actual, REAL long term effects of coeliac disease, see here: http://celiacdisease.about.com/od/symptomsofceliacdisease/a/...

As for cortisol, your body regulates this itself. If you're stressed, stress down. But if your body doesn't regulate itself, you have a huge problem and need to see a doctor right away.

While "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" is very good advice, there's also another piece of advice that has been forgotten: "You are probably not sick, and your body can take care if it." Just eat a normal, healthy diet.

Man. That was long. Sorry about that, but I had to get some facts out.

Gluten sensitivity ranges from the coeliac disease on the extreme end of the continuum down to mild inflammation of the small intestine. Gluten sensitivity is NOT just about coeliac disease. There is a growing body of evidence that gluten is in fact a problem in our diets and it's not as clear cut as you present that if you don't have coeliac, you can eat all the wheat you want. I'm not sure there's any "should" to eating wheat/gluten. There are other more nutritional ways to get protein.

Since this is an article on hacking sleep, I think it's worth mentioning. Try dropping gluten/wheat/bread from your diet for 30 days and see if your sleep improves. I know that mine has. If it doesn't, great, you are golden. If it does, you've learned something.

Facts or not, the article is about improving your sleep. Some people are sensitive to dairy and wheat. Try going without them for 30 days and see what happens. It's all a big experiment.


In the U.S. at least, a normal, healthy diet is something of a contradiction. Michael Pollan wouldn't need to promote "eat food, not too much, mostly plants" if people were doing it already. I agree with you completely on your other points, but telling some people to eat a "normal" diet will be interpreted as, "eat out of fast food restaurants and freezer cases," because for many in the U.S., that is a normal diet.

Oh, a "normal" diet varies a lot depending where you are. Myself, I'm in Norway, and the diet here is fairly healthy if somewhat short on vegetables (especially during the winter). I'm sure most other "normal" diets in the world are quite ok, as well. Might need some added vegetables, depending on where you are (the Dutch probably don't need any extra), but mostly, people who are able to afford normal amounts of food will eat better than one would expect given the media hype. They might want to cut down on the amounts, and cut out the sugary drinks, but I think that's it.

Is kale available in Norway? According to most sources (for example, this simple comparison chart: www.wholefoodsmarket.com/pdfs/superfoods.pdf), kale is a super food, and in the US at least, grows well during the winter months.

If you consider a normal, healthy diet as "eat out of fast food restaurants and freezer cases," then sleeping problems are probably not what you should focus on first.

Does anyone have a download link to this?

I would greatly prefer to read this on my Nook instead, but it seems you can't download from Scribd without a subscription..


Shorter answer: Eat fewer calories.

I have been having sleep problems for a decade, but any time I run a calorie deficit I sleep like a baby.

Wanted to correct a mistake I noticed: Seth Roberts (as far as I know) has never documented trying a raw, whole foods diet. If you search his blog, you'll see that he has been tracking other things to see how they effect his sleep. Eating animal fat, standing on one leg, and sunlight are all examples.


edit: Maybe he's referring to this post? http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2008/06/09/less-carbs-better...

Problem today is we spend a lot of time in front of back lit devices like smart phones, laptops/pcs & tv's before bed time. Therefore our melatonin levels stay low. I've been supplementing with melatonin tables to help with sleep before bed and I get an awesome night sleep.

Also things already covered like regular exercise (w/ weights), sleeping in a pitch dark room and consistent sleep & wake time work wonders.

I blogged about some of this last year here: http://blog.ernestsemerda.com/2009/09/24/sleep-less-and-have...

Enjoy. ~ Ernest

What helped me was f.lux <http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/>, a tool that adjusts the color temperature of your screens during the day, following the natural daylight pattern. It's available for Windows, OS X and Linux, and it's free, so I recommend trying it out.

About a year ago I had lucid dreams on regular bases and they where amazing I have been trying to recreate the same experience again to no avail. All of a sudden my lucid dreams stopped about a year ago and not knowing that they where called I couldn't research them but now after reading this short ebook I finally know what they where and how I can induce them more consistently.

I have an infant son and only sleep 1 - 4 hour stretches at a time. I feel like I am getting a higher quality sleep than I have in years. Also, when you have a reason that you cannot ignore (crying baby), it is much easier to leap out of bed and start doing things.

I really need that :).

Too tired to read and apply them now, too insomniac to sleep.

Has anyone tried the suggested 28 hour day (hack 3)? Does it work? What are the advantages/disadvantages?

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