Day 20: Conclusions

It's over. Today I finished the first leg of my sleep experiment - Segmented Sleep. I kept a log of the hours I actually 'slept.' I put slept in quotations there because what I really did was log when I went to sleep. I didn't actually fall asleep at these minutes. I could never record that without someone watching me and recording it for me. As I said in the introduction - "I am not an expert," nor did I do this in a lab. I did it out of sheer curiosity. Below are my conclusions:

Log of actual bedtime and waketime hours during my experiment.

Log of actual bedtime and waketime hours during my experiment.

As you can see above, I went to bed each night between 9PM and 10:30PM. Much of this hinged on how my day was going - what was I involved in doing that day, who I was hanging out with, or where I was other than at home. You may also be able to see that I began getting out of bed later and later in the morning. I have found that my body - my female circadian rhythm - does not care at all that the sun has come up. She wants to sleep in the morning. There is little I can apparently do about this. I am not an earlier riser and likely never will be. 

Interestingly, and quite surprisingly, I found that getting up in the middle of the night - that nameless wake time between first and second sleep - was very easy. I woke up naturally 5 out of 20 of the nights. You can see that I indicated 'natural wake up' with an uppercase 'N.' I hypothesize I would have woken up naturally more often, had I continued to go to sleep earlier. 

Probably the most surprising conclusion I came to during this study was that I didn't feel I needed to force my body very often to wake up or to sleep. While I did use alarms, I used soothing alarms so I wouldn't startle myself out of a REM cycle unnaturally. This ended up meaning that I was more aware of my cycles during first sleep. And, like studies have shown, I slept deeper during second sleep, and had my most vivid dreams in the morning hours. 

Right from the beginning of the study, I wondered whether or not waking with others - family or communally - would make the process easier. I didn't have the pleasure of doing this communally, but I did find a friend who would participate in my mid-wake hours. And it is hard to place a value comparison on waking alone versus waking with another human. I enjoyed both quite immensely. I enjoyed the quiet reflective time in the night alone. And I equally enjoyed talking with someone. Last night, for my last purposeful wake time, I went out and had a beer with a friend. It was interesting because I felt like we were out much earlier, yet we were surrounded by the 1AM crowd, complete with drunk girls dancing near a pool table, and an ambulance showing up for some patio ruckus. The experience, while enjoyable because I was with a friend, was strange. I assume that if most people slept in segments, the 1AM crowd would be calmer, perhaps less drunk, and the experience would seem less artificial on my end. 

Over the course of the next few days, I'm curious to find out if I will wake in the night on my own, even though I will have no alarms or reminders set, I'll no longer be keeping a log, and no longer be writing about it. One thing I'm really looking forward to is having social time in the night, and not having to tell other adults that my bedtime is at 8:51PM. 

I plan on taking a week off from my experiment. I need a break from science. Please do check back, as I will likely have a follow up post on here soon. And I will be planning the 30 hour cycle as soon as I'm ready to experiment on myself again. 

Day 10 - The Halfway Mark

I thought that by now I would start waking up naturally. It's only sort of happening. 

As you know from my recent narratives, I have been waking up in the middle of the night with little problem. But it's seriously getting old. I'm running out of things to do in the middle of the night. I've finished a novel, read several magazines, written rather extensively in my journal... I now TOTALLY understand the phrase 'burning the midnight oil.' 

As both a social person AND a night owl, it's hard not to succumb to peer pressure and quit this thing at day 14 instead of 20. 

I haven't decided what to do with myself tonight. I'm sort of edgy. I sort of want to break up with this experiment. But I won't. Instead - I'm going on hiatus for one night. 

Tonight. I stay out after dark. 

Day 2 - Candles, Neighbors, and Toast

I go to bed in 2 hours. That's really weird to me. I can't remember the last time I went to bed before midnight if I wasn't sick or going to Disneyland the next day. In preparation for the segmented sleep section of this experiment, I made a log of sunrise and sunset, and added some extra details (length of night, how long I might be awake in between, etc). 

Segmented Sleep Log - estimations 

Segmented Sleep Log - estimations 

I was surprised to discover that the time the sun sets doesn't change much. As you can see, it only varies by about 2 minutes the entire 20 days. If you want a more detailed report of sunrise and sunset in Atlanta, click here

So how did it go? 

It went better than I expected. As I stated in the last entry, I have a hard time falling asleep because I have so much energy. But I've been reading that a lot of that may have to do with light. And even though I bashed a little on yesterday's article, it turns out that the recommendation that you turn your computer off because it reduces your melatonin. As if I need that at night. Here's a little clip of the advice:

So I didn't turn my lights on as the sun began to set. Instead, I lit a few candles I picked up the day before and did some reading in my favorite spot in my house. It was really relaxing. But I learned something that seems like it shouldn't be surprising - sunset does not equal darkness. I'm guessing that the assumption that people went to sleep with the sun was not exactly literal. So instead of going to bed at 8:50PM, as planned, I waited until almost 9:30PM for darkness. I closed my blinds, did all the before bed stuff (including setting several alarms with low tones), and climbed into safety. 

And then my neighbors decided to have a screaming match. I mean holy cow. Tonight?? This is not one of those neighbor situations where it's normal that they scream and yell and slam doors very often, so when they do, it makes me kind of nervous. I even heard someone slap someone else through the floor - yes - these were my downstairs neighbors. Suffice it to say, it took a while to get my heart rate down once one of them finally stormed out. 

I chose to wake up at 12:30 with a very subtle alarm called "Neon." I chose 12:30 for several reasons:

1. I had zero idea what I would want to do when I woke up. 12:30 is early enough that I could go out and get a beer, or a late night snack. Also, I live on the east coast, so I could still call a friend on the west coast and chat on the phone. 

2. I didn't want to 1/2 and 1/2 the night because it is difficult for me to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. I wanted to give myself that extra hour to snuggle in. 

The alarm went off and I got up - and it was really easy. It wasn't AT ALL like the morning when I'm like "nope. No. I don't want to get out of bed... 5 more minutes.... Self!" But I got right up, lit all the candles in my house - sticking with the no bulbs theme - and made some toast. I didn't know what else to do. I made toast and I read a magazine article. It was incredibly pleasant. I stayed awake for about an hour and a half - I did do a little facebook checking on my phone, I admit. But the screen didn't seem to affect my ability to go back to sleep. 

It took a little bit, but probably not more than 10 minutes, to get back to sleep and I slept until the morning. My 6:27AM alarm went off - this one's called "Argon," and I did NOT pop out of bed like I did after First Sleep. I hit snooze a bunch until I started to feel guilty. When I was awake, I reopened the blinds so the morning light could get in. As I learned from sunset - sunrise does not mean lots of light. I actually got up closer to 7:30AM - even though by then it was totally daylight out. So much for the cool morning run I had planned. It gets too hot to outdoor run pretty quickly here.

My findings so far: 

This is way easier than I thought it would be. 

I am also taking a few notes as I wonder things and I'll leave you with 2 questions:

1. Might segmenting sleep make me more aware of my own sleep/REM cycles? 

  • I ask this because during First Sleep, each time I went through a REM cycle, I began to wake up, and I checked the clock to see how close I was to 12:30AM. Each time, I knew that I had cycled.

2. So far, I find I'm motivated to do fun things like read a novel and eat toast, rather work on anything. I also wished I had a glass of wine. Will this persist through the experiment? 

I guess we'll just have to wait and find out...


Sleep Experiment Introduction

Over the last year or so, I have become rather obsessed with time. My dissertation involves theories directly connected with time. And I often struggle with my status as an 'adult' given the fact that I refuse to use time the way a traditional western adult is expected to. I refuse to get up before 9AM. And why should I? I do my best work in the afternoon. 

Last summer, 2013, I took a post-Marxisms course in the Communication department from Ted Friedman. I fell in love with Marx that summer and he still haunts my daydreams. One of the things we discussed in the class was the nature of sleep. One student brought up the idea that humans didn't always sleep 8 hours straight through the night. The claim was that this style of sleep is in fact, an invention of the industrial age. I haven't stopped thinking about this since. 

This summer I don't teach, take courses, or adhere to a work schedule. I have the distinct pleasure of working on my dissertation proposal and dissertation at whatever hours I chose. I also work for the Center for Instructional Innovation at Georgia State, assisting professors with making multimedia projects come to fruition. I can schedule that time however I need to as well. Because I find myself in such a specific spot - a spot that will likely never come again - I have decided to conduct an experiment. On myself. 

Monday, June 16th, 2014, I begin my sleep experiment.

Here's how I plan to make the whole thing go down:

The experiment will happen in 2 distinct parts. First, I will practice segmented sleep. Segmented sleep is the idea that humans are supposed to sleep in 2 shifts - First sleep and second sleep, with a short awake break in the middle (1-3 hours). I have little idea how this is supposed to work, and so I will be conducting research as I conduct the experiment. I will post every day on this blog for 20 days. Every other day I will document an article or chapter I read about sleep (preferably specifically about segmented sleep) and the rest of the days, I will write a narrative about how the experiment is going - how I feel, struggles, and successes I am experiencing. 

The second half of the experiment is based on a half-concocted idea I came up with for myself - that I would work best on a 30-hour day. Hence, I will be awake for 20 hours, and sleep for 10. I will do this for 20 days, and I will document it in much the same way. For these 20 days, I plan to read an article or book chapter based on sleep in general, and the other days I plan to narratively document my experiences. 

Suffice it to say - I am not an expert, but I may just be at the end of all this. I promise nothing. I expect little. But I hope that I will begin to understand more about time, my own body, and how my friends and family will react to my strange schedules this summer. 

At the very least, I hope this is interesting.