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Sleep minimization: to what extent is it possible?

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Ok, so we all know that Gail Wynand "rarely slept more than four hours a night during his adult life," and that "the boys" (Ragnar, Frisco, and John) went many sleepless nights at the University. They are fictional, though, so let me throw out a few real-life examples:

1) The great 20th-century mathematician Paul Erdos, who frequently slept only five hours a night. Then again, I think he regularly took speed or something like it. Even so, he still managed to live to 80.

2) Napoleon Bonaparte. (Hmmmmmmmmmm....note the similarity between him and Wynand. Power over others must be really intoxicating!)

3) The legendary Johann von Neumann--mathematician, inventor, and economist extrodinaire. I think he had mostly four-hour nights as well.

So, my questions are:

1) How many of you out there can (and do) function fully on, say, six hours or less a night?

2) I understand that sleep needs vary with age and among individuals, but what are some general techniques (i.e. regular habits) one can employ to minimize the amount of sleep one needs? I think keeping in shape helps, although too much exercise (esp. weight training) actually require more sleep. (Though I'm pretty sure that Erdos and von Neumann weren't really big into exercise. How they did it, I just don't know.)

Ideas?

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I'd love to be able to sleep for less and still function properly, but I always feel tired if I get less than 6 hours sleep for a few days in a row :D I'm sure I recall reading somewhere that a lot of the famous light sleepers used to take several 1-2 hour naps during the day rather than getting a long sleep at night, but I'm unsure if this is true.

And yeah, when you're weight training, lots of sleep is generally recommended in order to maximise muscle growth.

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2) Napoleon Bonaparte.  (Hmmmmmmmmmm....note the similarity between him and Wynand.  Power over others must be really intoxicating!)

Just a side note, but how do you know they weren't kept up at night with worry? Power over others is the most fleeting and transient kind of power. Not the kind one sleeps well with...

And I tend to need 8 hours or thereabouts or else I am sore, cranky, and barely alert. I can cheat every now and then, but it will catch up with me.

I have gone without sleep for more than 48 hours before and it is strange. It messes with your memory and reaction time.

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1) How many of you out there can (and do) function fully on, say, six hours or less a night?

:D At my school it is part of the culture to stay up until midnight and almost everyone has a seven thirty class. So its pretty much six hours a night all the time. Though I'm more willing to do it because at least the classes are semi interesting.

I've heard meditation for about 15 minutes before sleep helps, I've never tried it.

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I've heard meditation for about 15 minutes before sleep helps, I've never tried it.

What is "meditation"? Is it a particular mental technique?

At age 60, I generally sleep about five hours per night, but an hour in the afternoon.

I find that two factors lessen my need for sleep compared to most of my peers:

1. General good health due to regular moderate exercise plus a lean (low fat, low protein) diet.

2. Clearly defined lifetime goals that stimulate me during the day and motivate my subconscious to say after about five hours of sleep, "Enough is enough! Awake!" Perhaps this is what short-sleeping power-lusters and great inventors have in common: Motivation to be awake.

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What is "meditation"? Is it a particular mental technique?

At age 60, I generally sleep about five hours per night, but an hour in the afternoon.

I find that two factors lessen my need for sleep compared to most of my peers:

1. General good health due to regular moderate exercise plus a lean (low fat, low protein) diet.

2. Clearly defined lifetime goals that stimulate me during the day and motivate my subconscious to say after about five hours of sleep, "Enough is enough! Awake!" Perhaps this is what short-sleeping power-lusters and great inventors have in common: Motivation to be awake.

Well in the article I read they appeared to define it as deep breathinga and trying to clear your mind and think calm thoughts. It's rather vague. I would look up articles on stress management.

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I function pretty well on roughly 5.5 hours of sleep. (Go to sleep at 2:30-3:00AM, wake up at 8:00AM for class).

But, on the weekends I get about 8 hours.

Also, I don't drink coffee.

Some thoughts...

Just from my general observations, when I excercise I don't require as much sleep. For about a month, instead of going to sleep at 1:30AM, I'd hit the gym for an hour. Now, I don't finish studying until around 2:30AM, so I can't go to the gym as much; I've noticed that under these conditions I end up being more tired.

If you're going to try reducing the amount of time you sleep, I suggest taking a multivitamin. I always used to get sick when I didn't sleep enough. Now I'm taking a multivitamin and I haven't been sick at all this semester.

I'm also interested in learning more about what others have to say on this topic. After school, I'm planning on going into investment banking, which means I'll be lucky to get on average 4-5 hours of sleep per night during my first 2-3 years.

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Six hours sounds about right during the school week, but on weekends I try to sleep in at least one day.

It's really funny that I stumbled onto this thread right now because I have a really early flight tomorrow (I have to leave my house at 4am) and I still have to write an essay, pack, and clean my room. Yet for some reason I'm still here. :)

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I think BurgessLau is onto something. Motivation to be awake.

I went through a period of fairly low self esteem and depression, and of course I slept and slept and never felt like getting up...

After doing a 180 on my my selfesteem, happiness and motivation levels, I now have no problems getting up at 5.30 eager to see what I can acheive and improve on.

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I think BurgessLau is onto something. Motivation to be awake.

I went through a period of fairly low self esteem and depression, and of course I slept and slept and never felt like getting up...

After doing a 180 on my my selfesteem, happiness and motivation levels, I now have no problems getting up at 5.30 eager to see what I can acheive and improve on.

Motivation is all well and good and certainly how well you're feeling determines when you subjectively decide you can/will get up, but people definitely have set points for the amount of sleep their body prefers which are not easy to alter. You also get microsleeps during days in which you stay up, which are sort of waking states when your brain waves look as if they are sleeping. Consider that we could just as well be sleeping 1.5 hr intervals 5 times a day, its not feasible mainly because of the diurnal cycle. A tactic many people try is to get an hour or so nap toward the middle of the day when body rhythms have slowed down. When this is done regularly you could reduce the amount of sleep you need at night, in one sitting, which would be required to be awake in any substantive sense of the word.

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Motivation is all well and good and certainly how well you're feeling determines when you subjectively decide you can/will get up, but people definitely have set points for the amount of sleep their body prefers which are not easy to alter. [...]

Why do you say "subjectively decide" rather than "objectively decide"?

In this forum, "objective" has a very definite meaning. Are you using the terms in other ways?

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Why do you say "subjectively decide" rather than "objectively decide"?

In this forum, "objective" has a very definite meaning. Are you using the terms in other ways?

I'm using it in a very lay way, ie, last night I subjectively decided that I should sleep at 12, my body/the conditions surrounding my sleep decided objectively be more like 1.

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At a forum I go to, I know someone who has managed to reduce sleeping time with acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) and l-theanine in conjunction together. The thread is fairly primitive, because most users were just experimenting with ALCAR at the time before alot of studies were payed for to view. A better profile on it would be David Tolson's, in the second link:

http://forum.avantlabs.com/?act=ST&f=2&t=3815&st=0

http://www.1fast400.com/?ingredients_id=23

Most other reports of a sleep reducing effect are from adaptogens like rhodeola rhosea, which cause an increase in the beginning and then a slow decrease in sleep over a period. Another aproach would be to improve memory, energy, and clarity during the day time, through nootropics, so one functions better with less sleep.

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What about those who sleep because they like to sleep ? I enjoy sleeping 10-12 hours once in a while. And it is espacially good when you have a nice and confortable bed.

As for taking substances to stay awake, it can be good once or twice but I will remind you that the famous french Writter Honore de Balzac was sleeping 4 hours per night and working 20 (and working hard according to the studies and research I made) and he died at 50, all burnt inside because of the coffee. Maybe he would have produce even more wrk by staying alive for 30 more years but by sleeping 6 hours a day.

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Thanks for all the replies. I think the most important thing, aside from general health, is what Burgess suggested: having clear motivation, purpose, and (in my case, at least) a clear plan (for the day, week, etc.) Earlier this semester I was having a few bouts with my old nemesis Depression, but now that my goals in career and hobby are becoming clearer, I've been doing mostly 5 to 7 hour nights, with no naps! (I did several 5-ers in a row, but it eventually caught up with me.)

A few things I think I'll experiment with:

-Nap techniques (i.e. disciplining myself to take "power naps," sleeping no more than 20 or 30 minutes, maybe an hour, if I do need a nap.) I think this might only be necessary later in my life, though, from what I hear here and elsewhere.

-Switching from a single cup of coffee in the morning to several cups of tea throughout the day (green tea is probably healthier than coffee, too, though perhaps not for the colon.)

I also might consider diet changes later, for I did not know that a low fat, low protein diet will require less sleep (although now that I think about it, it makes sense, for fat and protein are "energy storage" molecules, or building blocks. Hence, the body requires sleep in order to construct/reconstruct organs etc. with these.)

For now, I'll stay away from the drugs. (Of course, caffeine is one, too, but not in the pharmaceutical sense of the word if you only take it through basic drinks.)

Hmmm..."enjoy" sleep? How could I enjoy being unconscious, when there is so much life to be lived? But I realize that I should not *worry* that some sleep is required. It is a necessity of life, not to be escaped, and so I shall "enjoy" getting the minimum amount required in order to live.

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During school semesters, I average between 4 and 6 hours of sleep per night, depending on the difficulty of semester (from junior year of HS through this, my junior year of college). My longest running streak of non-sleep was ~3.5 days (three nights and about half way through the last day) when I had three really major (>20 page) projects due on a Thursday & Friday.

I must concur with Mr. Laughlin that motivation is very key. The times I've slept in the 4-hour range regularly were times I loved the classes I was in and studying with almost all my free time. When I am not so interested in my classes so much, I tend to not be able to sleep less than 6 hours per night on a regular basis.

An important thing for both long-range and short-range sleep-avoidance is not drinking caffeine until you're close to being able to sleep (at least that's how it's been in my case). When you drink lots of caffeine, you get a nice burst of energy but it makes you _really_ tired when that wears off. On my long streak of 3 nights, I didn't drink caffeine till the third night. It seems that caffeine works for a bit, but it also makes me take more sleep to recover from it...then I want to drink more mountain dew to keep me up to a normal time the next night, etc.

At the same time, though, I hardly spent a night last summer that I didn't sleep at least 7 hours (avg ~8). Being away from most of my family and friends, working at a job I didn't really enjoy, and recovering from my long year of little sleep made for a lot of much enjoyed rest.

When I was in shape and exercising regularly (soccer), I had to sleep more. Now that I'm focused on school and really have made little time for that, I am able to sleep less. Perhaps light exercise would be good for sleeping times, but I don't have any personal experience with that so I can't say.

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By the way, there is also a narcoleptic drug called modafinil which is making inroads in colleges or places where people have to study. It's actions are very different from caffeine, if you lie down and try to fall asleep you can do it with relative ease. If you want to stay awake, you stay awake for hours, without a stimulant or jittery feeling comparable to caffeine. It's still rather expensive right now.

Air Force Testing "New" Anti-Fatigue Drug

Modafinil can allegedly keep people awake up to 88 hours without sleep and leave the user free of the jittery irritability associated with amphetamines. Some Pen-tagon officials say its time to upgrade to a safer stimulant, like Modafinil.
Modafinil is a memory-improving and mood-brightening psycho-stimulant that en-hances wakefulness and vigilance, according to the Drug Guide. The guide says the drug is notably different from amphetamines, cocaine and methylphenidates -- like Ritalin.

The drug, commercially known as Provigil, has been shown to increase both wakefulness and "vigilance." Researchers define "vigilance" as the ability to stay on task, think clearly and function normally.
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I sleep 5-6 hours a night and wish I could get by with less because there aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do.

When I was in college I got by with 2-4 hours a night and a one-hour nap after lunch. I could probably do that again, but my current work schedule doesn't allow for a "siesta." Darn!

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I need at least 8 hours of sleep in order not to be cranky in the morning, and I savor my sleeping experience a whole lot. :lol: Why would I want to minimize it? Sleeping rocks!! Man I feel sleepy right now, early wake up. I can't wait till I get some sleep tonight :santa:

Couldn't agree with you more! In high school I used to pull a lot of all nighters and on average slept 5-6 hours. However I was usually stressed and irritated a lot. I love sleeping as well. Plan to get a great down comforter with one of those memory foam mattress beds one day. After a good night's sleep of 8 to 9 hours I wake up looking great (no bags under the eyes) and feeling like I can climb a mountain...ready to conquer the world. :D

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  • 5 weeks later...
How could I enjoy being unconscious, when there is so much life to be lived?

I suggest you take another look at this statement, Randrew. Are you really unconscious while you sleep?

For any of you who think that sleep is simply superfluous, try experimenting with lucid dreams. If reality is exciting now, just imagine what it could be like if it was commanded by your every thought and desire.

In a lucid dream, you are aware that you are dreaming, and the capabilities you have are basically unlimited--that is, anything within the realm of your imagination. So far I've only been able to be completely lucid throughout one dream, and it was a kick in the butt. And this is no hooey; scientific experiments have been done to show that lucid dreaming is a reality ;)

If you're not into having some extravagant fun now and then while you sleep, you could substitute wanton debauchery for some hard core Objectivism studying.

If interested, start writing down your dreams as soon as you wake up from them, and every night right before you fall asleep remind yourself that you want to dream and that you will have full control of your dream. Recalling your dreams is the first step to lucidity.

If anyone else is interested, I have a few more tips for lucidly dreaming.

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If anyone else is interested, I have a few more tips for lucidly dreaming.

Over the years I have read several papers on the subject, and spoken with several people who claim lucid dreaming, and have tried a whole shopping list of suggestions, but I have never been able to have a lucid dream. There are people who claim they can control their dream as if they were turning a knob on a screen where the images were being viewed. I am somewhat skeptical of the process as being under as much control as some claim, but I do not rule it out.

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I'm with Free Capitalist: give me eight hours. I may not get cranky, but I will feel dull both physically and mentally. When I was younger, though, I could---and did---get by on much less, and all-nighters when working to meet a deadline were not uncommon (though dreaded). Given the variety of responses here, it's simply an individual thing: I was tempted to say it was related to age, but then Burgess and Betsy blew that theory.

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Over the years I have read several papers on the subject, and spoken with several people who claim lucid dreaming, and have tried a whole shopping list of suggestions, but I have never been able to have a lucid dream. There are people who claim they can control their dream as if they were turning a knob on a screen where the images were being viewed. I am somewhat skeptical of the process as being under as much control as some claim, but I do not rule it out.

I have always had very vivid dreams, but only occasionally do I realize while I am dreaming that I am dreaming, and then I can control it to a certain extent. It is interesting. It becomes a neccessity if you have night terrors, and/or nightmares, which I used to have all the time. I do not go to sleep though attempting to have a lucid dream, I just find myself there occassionally, and when I wake I try to write down what happened. Dreaming does teach you alot about the workings of your consciousness, such as what things you might be suppressing, what things might need closer examination. I have no doubt that with effort one could increase control over their dreams, but I would prefer to sleep soundly through the night. A lucid dream is not a particularly restful experience. Nothing some conscious introspection couldn't achieve.

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