T Nation

Questions About Sleep?

Sleep–how much needed and how to do well with less?

I’ve been reading a few articles on the topic and can’t get any complete details. I’m fine with sleep now, and have been for most of my life, but once grad school starts I have a feeling I’ll have a hard time doing everything I need to and want to do and sleep more than, say, 6 hours a night.

It seems like people need different amounts too, which is odd. And there’s that study that showed that about 6.5 is optimal and above or below that results in a higher death rate

I’m wondering as to:

  1. What do you guys think is optimal?
  2. How much harm is there for going down to 7 or 6 or 5?
  3. How would I minimize the hormonal and other body composition and strength harms of that sleep deprivation?
  4. How would I avoid damage to my concentration ability with less sleep?
  5. The above questions but for acute, rather than chronic sleep deprivation (like say I would get 6 hours on average, but then one night I have to do a project, or I pull a one-night-stand and end up sleeping very little, like 3 hours or so)

Note: I can never fall asleep in the day for a nap, regardless of how little sleep I’ve had, so that’s not really a good option, nor that feasible

You have made the choice to go to grad school, now you have to make the sacrifices to get through it.

When I was in grad school, I was working full-time and working out + mma 5-6 days a week. I made it happen.

From my experience, grad school was less difficult than undergrad.

i’ve found 8 hrs works well for me.Less than that and i’ll be groggy by mid afternoon. Coffee seems to help with that though.

When i don’t have to wake up for anything i naturally tend to sleep about 12-15 hours though.

Since I was 19 I have always been between 205 and 212 give or take. I had been pinched and was always between 11 and 13%. During my senior year of college I took 18 credits, including 25 hours a week at an unpaid internship as well as personal training at a studio, at clients houses, and out of my apartment for a total of around 30 or so hours a week.

I also continued to lift weights and kept my strength levels up. During this time my weight went from 210 to 226 and my bodyfat from 12-18.6% in 5 months as measured by DEXA scan. I averaged 5-6 hours a night down from at least 8.

Opinions:

1> Everybody needs a certain amount of sleep and it varies with the individual

2> People who naturally sleep less than what is usually recommended don’t need more.

3> People who get a lot more than what is usually recommended could, in most cases do fine with less.

4> To a point, consistently being to forced sleep somewhat less than you’re used to, again, to a point, that will also vary with the individual, will also force you to adapt and with time will become less troublesome.

5> An acute episode of little or even no sleep cannot be effectively remedied. Just live through it and begin sleeping normally the next night.

6> If forced to live a period of time with an actually inadequate amount of sleep sound nutrition is your best friend. Many times very busy people who don’t sleep enough also don’t take the time to eat right. That is the kiss of death.

7> Assuming sound nutrition you shouldn’t have to reduce your training, except where you didn’t get any at all or very little sleep the previous night. It may not be a bad idea to back off for that day.

8> Overindulgence in stimulants to remedy lack of sleep on an ongoing basis will burn your ass out and what once helped sharpen you up will now have the opposite effect.

I’m no doctor and have nothing beyond common sense and observation on which to base the above, but that’s how I see it for what it’s worth.

Chewie,
Obviously I don’t know how much time to sleep I’ll actually have but between class, work for class, TA-ship, a social life, lifting, and a few hobbies I doubt it’d be much. Grad school less difficult than undergrad though? That would be nice, I was generally able to do all that and sleep 7-9 most nights.

texasguy,
Coffee doesn’t do enough for me. Any experiences with other stimulants? (legal or otherwise, although is that kosher on this forum?)

Shadowzz,
That sucks. Did your diet suffer also?

Tribulus,
Interesting points. How do you think one would lower one’s requirement of sleep?

I definitely will be more strict with my diet. It’s hard to eat well in college, so I just did high-protein low-carb the entire time because that’s the healthiest thing I could do. I’ll be cooking my own meals and doing the Berardi bring a cooler around thing. Maybe that’ll end up lowering my sleep requirements, that’d be cool.

What about occasional use of stimulants on days from acute shortage? I’d hate to have to sacrifice a, say, ME lower body day just because life interfered the previous night

[quote]TheBlade wrote:
<<< Tribulus,
Interesting points. How do you think one would lower one’s requirement of sleep? >>>[/quote]

I can’t say it would be true everybody or the absolute long term effects, but I’ve known people who for instance went from 8-10 hours a night and for various reasons were forced to go to 6-8. At first, one guy in particular was just destroyed, but after a couple weeks he said he started to feel normal and it wasn’t a problem. Just as an example.

Only you can tell whether you should back off for a day or down a Spike Shooter and train like usual. I would personally recommend in very strong terms NOT to start down the road of compensating for lack of sleep with stimulants, legal or not, for very long at all. You will be in the land of severe CNS burnout before you realize how it happened, especially if you’re training hard too.

[quote]TheBlade wrote:
Grad school less difficult than undergrad though?
[/quote]

It was for me. It all depends on your load.

The thing that makes it easier is that it is a more in depth study of what you learned as an undergrad.

That does, however, depend on your major.

Oh yeah. Profs think highly of their grad students. You don’t get as much BS as an undergrad.

Diet suffered somewhat. Breakfast was usually on the go and not till I had been up for 2 1/2 hrs. Besides that very similar.

I heard that they determined the amount of sleep one needs is genetic, as in they identified a particular gene tht seems to determine this. This is why it varies so much from person to person.

One can adapt, as stated. I’m a 8-9 hour a night kinda guy. When I went to Basic Trainig, I think we got around 4 hours on average. At first, it was very rough. By the end, everyone had adjusted to that amount of sleep.

But, just as one can adjust to less, I find that your body still has that gentic setpoint that it prefers, and is optimum for that individual.

I think Trib made some great points, esp. IRT diet. If you just use stims here and there for those nights when you get 2-3 hours, you shouldn’t have a problem with them.