T Nation

Effect of Sleep Schedules on Health/Performance?


#1

Since there is no clear forum for this, and most of the health folk hang out in this forum, I thought I'd ask it here. Mods, feel free to move to whatever forum you feel is appropriate.

So my question is: Is there a clearly significant advantage, regarding health and performance (physical and mental), to sleeping a solid 8 hours? I ask, because with my current school schedule, a sleep schedule of 2AM to 7AM, and then 5PM to 8PM would be ideal.

However, I've heard that hormone production is optimized on a straight 8 hour schedule and memory encoding is superior with uninterrupted sleep.

Thoughts?


#2

No takers?


#3

I am by no means an expert but from I've read/heard, all that's required is you get enough sleep for YOUR BODY to recover fully. Sleep requirements are a highly individual thing, so shoot for the average (8hrs) and adjust your sleep time based on how you feel throughout the day.

Personally I'd much rather get my sleep all in one block - what sort of school schedule requires you to go to bed no earlier than 2am?


#4

Partying Lab from 10-2. :wink:


#5

Haha, no it's kind of just what works for me. I'm in law school, so not much partying anymore.

I tend to like to stay up late AND wake up early because just before sleeping and just prior to waking are my most productive time periods, so I kind of do it by default to a degree already.

Plus I get done with class around 4:30 and am always exhausted when I get done, so it would be nice to crash out then.


#6

I have almost that exact sleep schedule, I'm usually asleep by 230 AM and wake up @ 8 or 9 then take a nap from 630-8, I've still been able to operate at a high level in the gym. As far as mentally? I'm an undergrad so my school work is going to be much less demanding than a law grad but I don't notice any ill effects their either.


#7

I, too, had a similar sleep schedule as an undergrad. It seemed to suit me just fine.

I would be up until 2 am or so at the practice buildings, then sleep until 7:30-8 am to go to class around 9. Then rehearsal all afternoon, until around 4:30-5:00. I'd go home, sleep for a couple of hours, wake up, eat, and then head off to the practice rooms or the library.

I wasn't a lifter in college (which I am trying to rectify now), but I was a double major, and I didn't have too many problems with the motor skills on my instrument, or having lots of music memorized, or working my way through philosophy texts.

If it works for you, do it.

My $0.02.


#8

I have a bit of experience in both researching and practicing different sleep patterns. My recommendations are:

Minimum 2 hours REM sleep
1-2h of deep sleep

Often you can catch up on REM sleep by napping. Sustained deep sleep only occurs in longer periods of sleep such as 3h+. It is true that hormone release is optimized by long periods of unbroken sleep.

To give you an idea of how sleep works:
A cycle goes for around 1.5h
Each cycle covers all 4 stages of sleep. Stage 1 is brief and stage 2 occupies 45% to 55% of total sleep in adults. Stage 3 and 4 are dreamless sleeps, also known as 'deep sleep', and goes for about 20% of a cycle, and the immune system and most night-hormones are secreted in these stages.
REM sleep occupies about 20% of a cycle. REM sleep reconfigures the brain, and is what keeps you refreshed and alert, with a healthy memory.

There are 2 common deprivations: REM deprivation, and Deep Sleep deprivation. Someone suffering from REM sleep will wake up in the mornings feeling like crap in the head, and will feel brain-fog. This is the most dangerous deprivation and can lead to depression, or a declining memory.
Deep Sleep deprivation usually makes the person feel like their body is not recovering from the most basic exercise (such as walking). You may wake up stiff and out of energy.

I have heard of many different sleeping patterns working. What you guys do is called a Siesta Sleep Cycle, which is probably the most common sleep pattern in a non-American/Australian/English society.

Because all stages of sleep occur within a sleeping cycle, if you get interrupted sleep you will be cut short from getting a portion of your later stages of sleep such as Deep and REM. Fortunately you can teach your body to shorten it's natural cycle length from 1.5h down to anything between 45min and 15min.

You can change your circadian cycle (the process that tells your brain when it is day or night), so sleeping in the day or night does not often make a difference, though without proper stimulus it is hard to change it.
The most important thing to remember is to keep a regular schedule. Even on the weekends, you should get up at the same time every day. The more variation in your sleeping timetable, the more 'distracted' your circadian cycle is going to get, and the worse quality sleep you will get. With a regular timetable your circadian cycle will change your sleeping cycle lengths to optimize the amount of Deep and REM sleep it gets.

If you take ages to get to sleep, spend less time in bed in one sitting, and sleep more often.

There is heaps of information out there, you just gotta read up on it, or just ask questions.