Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Sleep Experiment

I've had many strange sleep schedules throughout the past few years and some enabling perspectives on what people call 'oversleeping.' I electronically stand here before you proclaiming, there is no such thing. What's that? A fan of Nietzsche? OVERSLEEPING IS DEAD.

A certain sci-fi book I read years ago gave me the foundational idea for the 'sleep experiment,' and a quick perusal of the interwebs does not reveal the title. Its jist was that aliens in a flying saucer came to earth during relatively primitive times compared to today. I cannot remember if the setting was a hundred years ago or a few hundred, but imagine pitchforks against aliens.... and the humans won! They took over the spaceship and flew back to the home planet, and won the battle there too [we're always to fight with aliens, it seems]. The rotation of their planet transpired in something substantially more than 24 hours, and the humans adapted to longer sleeping and waking periods.

During the almost-decade in which I ran competitively, it was apparent that consistent good amounts of sleep [and lack thereof] affected both the ability to rebound from hard workouts and performance in races. The ultimate proof came during college in which I was rebounding from a substantial injury and had no deep base of distance training from which to spring into harder workouts. While I had always focused on completing the coach's training plan entirely, I was now focused on on keeping a healthy circadian rhythm [and indulged in catching longer nights whenever possible]. In four months and with no base I was in the best shape of my life. In every event I ran I broke my pr [personal record/best].

The principle I tested was sleepHrs-to-awakeHrs proportions. 8hrs of sleep and 16hrs awake is considered a healthy proportion for a 24hr cycle, or 1:2. During that period of focus would often sleep 10-12 hours, which were the proportions 1:1.4 and 1:1, respectively. Lately, with getting back into running while biking a good amount each day, I've kept a 1.1:1.3 proportion typically, i.e. 11sleepHrs to 13awakeHrs. Springing from the sci-fi book's example, I decided to start an experiment with respect to the length of a sleepHrs-awakeHrs cycle and extend my cycle to 36 hours with one caveat: I only have the freedom to do this in the 72 hours beginning Fridays when I get up for work and ending Mondays when I wake up for work. I regret I cannot fully throw myself into this sleep strategy 36/(4 & 2/3). Alas! Work requirements stipulate otherwise.

Exercise will be a necessary part of this experiment. In order to sleep for such extended periods of time I will have to drain my body. The first two proposed 36hr cycles actually aligned quite well with the framework, this past weekend: 23½hrs awake, 12½hrs sleep [36hrs exactly, and not over-fraught with exercise so a typical sleepHrs-awakeHrs proportion, nigh 1:2], then 19½awakeHrs and 14½sleepHrs [only totalling 34 hours, but much closer to my aim for the 36hr cycle of a 1.1:1.3 proportion, or 19½-16½].

It is easy enough to talk quantities and theory of the experiment but I feel much safer about the qualitative side having gone through the first 72-turned-70hr period of testing it out. I was sleeping so often previously at the 1.1:1.3 ratio that staying up 23½hrs was tiring but easy compared to other times I've done it. Staying up for that long was only to try and instigate a longer period of sleeping to follow and hopefully I can more naturally assume a longer sleeping period in the future, as I continue the experiment on future weekends. I can say that today I felt physically great.

In the spirit of making language & definition your own, what do you think a 36hr cycle should be called? I am resisting the corny attempt to claim it a 'daay.' Something phonetically distinguishing would be probably be helpful.

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