Monthly Archives: February 2008

Sleep hacking

Since I’m living a very unscheduled life these days, it’s an ideal time for me to experiment with my sleeping habits. I haven’t yet found a sleeping schedule that’s a stable equilibirium: either I build up a sleep debt until it becomes unsustainable, or I get enough sleep that I’m too energetic in the evenings to fall asleep again at a regular hour. In the latter case, I’ll either not get enough sleep the next night, or I’ll sleep even later the next morning, and my schedule starts to creep forward by 30–60 minutes each day. (In my current situation this makes the 28-hour day schedule, explained in this xkcd strip, somewhat appealing. The downside is that I like to be up during the day, as sunlight tends to improve my mood, and if I sleep through the day and then am awake through the night I generally feel a little depressed.)
Lifehacker occasionally posts links to sleeping tips, and the latest, from the Four Hour Work Week blog, contains several I’ve never seen before and might try. One that was familiar was the point about 90-minute ultradian cycles; this is something I’ve paid some attention to for the past few months, trying to allocate my sleeping time in multiples of 90 minutes, plus an hour for sleep latency. However, my sleep latency is actually highly variable, and this plus the accumulated phase error (since the cycles aren’t exactly 90 minutes) leads me to be awakened at any point in the cycle anyway. I think the key here is that if I set my alarm for 8 am, but then happen to wake up naturally at (say) 7:15, I should just get up even if I’m still sleepy. But this has proved difficult.
A cold environment is definitely important for me to fall asleep, and when I do get insomnia it comes with a sense of being too hot (it’s not obvious if one causes the other). The ice baths mentioned in the linked post, however, sound both painful and a lot of work. Since it’s winter, and my heating system is on a timer for energy conservation purposes, I can experiment with the room temperature instead: allowing the bedroom to cool before I go to bed, and warm up in the morning to help wake me up.
That post also recommends reading fiction (and avoiding non-fiction) before bed. I frequently do this, but it can have the opposite effect: if I get to within about 150 pages of the end, and it’s a halfway decent book, I’ll frequently be compelled to read on through, thereby massively overshooting my target bedtime. And then I’ll lay awake thinking about how it ended, especially if there was a big reveal or twist.
Post your favorite sleep hacks in the comments…

Super Tuesday: a competitive election for once

Tomorrow’s Super Tuesday, so don’t forget to vote (if applicable)! I think it’s well-known at this point that this blog is endorsing Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. He’s more progressive on policy issues, and he has an ability to inspire people that I’ve rarely seen in politics. He’s also better positioned to make the case against John McCain, having opposed the Iraq war from the beginning—with the war as unpopular as it is now, it doesn’t make sense for the Democrats to nominate someone with Clinton’s record when an Iraq war opponent could make a major line of attack against the Republican nominee. Hillary isn’t too bad otherwise, and I’ll certainly support her in the general against McCain if she wins the nomination, but I find Obama to be better along almost all dimensions. (Plus having the presidency held by only two different families over 20+ years isn’t really a good thing.)
Candidates aside, it’s exciting to be involved in an election where the outcome isn’t known beforehand: when I’ve voted in primaries before, the nominee has already been established by Iowa/New Hampshire/South Carolina, and in general elections the direction of California’s electoral votes has never been in question. (Even going downballot, I live in one of the safest Democratic districts in the country.) But this time the Democratic race is far from over, and since delegates are assigned proportionally rather than winner-take-all it’ll likely go on after Tuesday. So be sure to vote!