Friday, 20 January 2012

Not enough hours in the day.

I'm certain that when I was a small child there were far more than sixty seconds in every minute. Or, if you like, that every second lasted much longer than they do nowadays.

Of course, the world doesn't speed up as we get older, but we have more responsibilities, sometimes more than we can humanly fit into the working day. Clock time, being a human invention can mean different things to us, depending on what we're doing. A week is a long time in politics. My whole life flashed by in an instant. Every minute felt like an hour. A watched pot never boils.

Over the Christmas holiday, time seemed to slow down because there wasn't so much we had to do. Now it's speeding up again. There's the school run, going to work and visiting the gym to fit in. How are we to make time for the other, enjoyable things we got used to doing during the holiday? I was grumbling about this when my son said "Ever heard of the uberman sleep schedule?"
Well, no, actually I hadn't. Seemingly it goes something like this. REM sleep, the sleep our brains need, takes only a fraction of the time we spend asleep. It's possible to train ourselves to get by on REM sleep alone, and still to function adequately. There are various ways to limit your sleep, uberman being probably the most extreme. You can read more about it here

My son decided to give it a go, purely out of interest. It wouldn't be easy to fit into a normal working day, as uberman demands that you sleep for twenty minutes every four hours. He needed to try it before he went back to work. There is a lot of information on the internet about the possible health risks, so it's not something to undertake lightly, or for too long, but he felt that a short experiment wouldn't do too much lasting damage.

I was cast in the role of interested observer, although in the first stages (from midnight until 8am) I left him to it while I maintained my own usual sleep pattern. By morning he'd had three twenty minute naps, and had been awake for the rest of the night. How did he feel? Okay. Surprisingly un-sleepy. And what had he achieved during those extra waking hours? Well, actually not a lot, but if he kept it up he'd have about eleven extra years to do it in!

It was weird, seeing him doze off for twenty minutes every four hours. To my surprise he awoke each time looking quite refreshed, although he'd needed the alarm to wake him. And he was alert enough to do his tax return towards the end of the twenty-four hour experiment!

Of course twenty-four hours isn't anything like long enough to establish a pattern, or prove anything. And it's doubtful if he actually did achieve much REM sleep because he didn't report any dreams, which I would have expected. However, he decided that although not something he'd want to make a habit of, in special circumstances uberman could be very useful. And he didn't need vast quantities of 'catch-up' sleep. At the end of the experiment he woke naturally after nine hours. Not enough hours in the day? How about twenty-two usable hours out of twenty-four?

Seb Goffe's latest book, Zero to Hero is out in February with A & C Black. Although possibly ubercool it was not written while he was being an uberman.

Cindy Jefferies


Penny Dolan said...

An interesting experiment, though where do the anxieties that wake one at 3am go? Or does this give you so much time (in a bright, cheerful and productive state) that you get everything done?

madwippitt said...

Did he know you were going to publish the pics of him falling asleep in various places? :-)))))

Cindy Jefferies said...

He doesn't seem to suffer from many anxieties that wake him up Penny, so i can't really answer that! And madwippitt...those 'sleeping' pictures were staged after the experiment was over and we were having coffee in a nearby cafe! In fact he lay down in a darkened room for each of his twenty minutes.

Stephen Davies said...

Great article - thank you. I remember reading about Uberman Sleep Schedule on the Lifehacker blog a couple years ago, and thinking Yes that would be useful to try sometime. Lifehacker said it's hell for three days and then suddenly gets easier. You son clearly has a strong constitution!

Cindy Jefferies said...

I think he was just well rested before he began! It was definitely an interesting experiment though.

Linda Newbery said...

Well done, Seb! How amazing. And could he actually sleep for the required twenty minutes each time he lay down in the darkened room?

rachel said...