How to Start Lucid Dreaming – Polyphasic Sleeping Schedules!

Lucid Dreaming
Photo curtousy of www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/

What is Lucid Dreaming?

Lucid dreaming is the ability to control what is happening in your dreams. Your imagination is the only thing limiting what you can do while you lucid dream.

Lucid Dreaming and Polyphasic Sleeping Schedule

Learning how to lucid dream works well with practicing a polyphasic sleeping schedule because you are able to immedietelly enter into REM sleep, which is the point in which we dream. By having such a short period of time between the start of sleep and achieving Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, you will be better able to realize that you are asleep. This is the first step to being able to realize you are in your dreamworld. You will also have much more opportunities to lucid dream, with 6 REM cycles per day with Uberman.

Is Lucid Dreaming it Real?

First, you might be very skeptical of being able develop such an amazing skill. You might say to yourself, “it can’t be real” because of previous experiences you have had while asleep, where things were totally out of your control.

Sleep EEG during Rem

However, many scientists who study the phenomenon of lucid dreaming believe it to be real. There have been some studies performed that provide credence to the belief that lucid dreaming is a real thing. People who claim to be able to lucid dream have been shown to have increased activity in the parietal lobes when sleeping, compared to those who are not trained to lucid dream. The parietal lobe is the portion of the brain responsible for understanding sensory information and understanding how to use objects.

I would like to point out that just because you are unable to lucid dream right now, does not mean you are unable to in the future.  It just means you aren’t trained to, yet.  This is a skill that you can learn, train, hone, and perfect, just like riding a bike.

Tips to Help you Learn How to Have a Lucid Dream?

This is the basics of the MILD Technique to learn to lucid dream:

  1. Start writing down what you dream.
  1. Do reality checks.
  1. Plan to have a lucid dream tonight! Picture an event or experience you want to have and think about it before you go to bed. Plan how it will go down. Imagine yourself becoming cognizant of the fact that you are dreaming

Performing Reality Checks

Reality checks are things you can do to check for inconsistencies when you are dreaming. The most often cited in movies are asking someone to pinch you. However this requires both the cooperation of a second individual, as well as the

Frequently cited reality checks are looking at a watch or clock, look away, then look again. If the time is significantly changed, you are dreaming. The second frequently mentioned check is to attempt to breathe with your mouth closed and a hand blocking your nose. If you can breathe like this, you are dreaming.

The very first night I decided to attempt to have one, I woke from sleep and began writing my dream down on a thin slip of paper using a red pencil I had found. Having finished writing down and recalling my dream, I went back to sleep and had two more extremely vivid dreams. The second time I woke up, I attempted to locate the slip of paper I had been using to write down my first dream.

I couldn’t find the slip of paper, nor the red pencil I had used. Realization slowly dawned upon me. I had dreamt writing down my first dream. I believe this is the first step to having a lucid dream, and I am going to keep at it. Last night I had a very vivid zombie/survival dream. Still no control while dreaming, but at least I am dream memory is much improved.

Another technique, which I have yet to try, but will in the future is the FILD Technique, or Finger Induced Lucid Dreaming.

Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

While initially it does appear that there are any particular benefits to being able to control your dreams, the truth is that lucid dreaming has had significant benefit to a specific group of people. Specifically, I am referrring to people that suffer fromAfraid of heights nightmares. After being trained how to lucid dream, sufferers of frequent nightmares were able to reduce the frequency of nightmares.  This alone would be enough to encourage people to attempt it, however other people have conquered phobias while dreaming as well.  Imagine being able to face your biggest fears in a perfectly controlled environment, your mind.

Are you afraid of heights?  Go fly for a bit, get familiar with how it feels looking down from the top.  You can smash spiders, address the nation.  The sky isn’t the limit when you are asleep.

YES! You can study for a test while dreaming!

A report by a reddit user stated that you can even study during dreams, but you have to be careful to know the correct information before attempting to study, as you can reinforce incorrect knowledge and get it wrong later. Facts seem to be easier to learn while lucid dreaming, whereas mathematical and chemical formulas seem to cause the symbols to morph.

Conclusion

Lucid dreaming appears to be a real thing, but even if it isn’t, paying attention to your dreams can give you insight into your innermost desires. Attempting to learn to lucid dream is, at worst, a waste of a small amount of time. At best, your wildest dreams can become a temporary reality. Lucid dreaming training, whether real or not, was shown to help reduce the number of nightmares that sufferers from PTSD had, improving sleep.

New medicines make you Fight Sleepiness and Stay Awake: Adrafinil, Modafinil, Armodafinil

New Wonder Drug to Fight sleepiness

Modafinil Chemical by Fuse809You probably have seen television advertisements for Shift Work Disorder (SWD) promoting Nuvigil and Provigil, new drugs developed by Cephalon, Inc. These new medications are doing wonderful things for people with narcolepsy and sleep apnea, but also excessive daytime sleepiness – but that isn’t the whole story.. They have some other amazing drug side effects which we will discuss after a little focus on the effects they have on sleep.

Provigil and Nuvigil are part of a class of medications called Eugeroics, or wakefulness promoting agents. Currently they are being prescribed m

Imagine being able to sleep every other day instead of every day. Just about everyone has pulled an “all-nighter” whether for school or work. These medications allow you to stay up late without the negative side effects of losing sleep. An extra 12 hours of useful wakefulness is hard to come by, no matter what steps you take. Everyone can attest to hitting a wall or barrier where you suddenly feel sleepy, slow, and needing to get some restful sleep. Unlike caffeine and nicotine, these medications do not just keep you awake, even if you are tired. They actually make that drowsiness disappear, giving you a clear head.

Armodafinil has also been approved for use for ADHD, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The mechanism of action for these medications is not well understood, yet – but more research is ongoing.

While Nuvigil and Provigil currently require prescriptions, Adrafinil is currently unregulated and available as a supplement through Amazon, among other places. Adrafinil gets metabolized into Modafinil (similar to the medication) in your liver.

A bit hard to stay awake

There have been some mixed reviews on whether Adrafinil works or not, so go with a reputable manufacturer, not a no-name brand, since supplements are basically unregulated by the FDA.

Drug side effects include headache, nausea, upset stomach and insomnia. Though I suppose the insomnia is more of the intended effect, it just works too well.

I promised earlier we would discuss some of the other effects of Modafinil.
Modafinil has many other effects that are currently being studied, probably the most interesting is that it makes you smarter. Studies have shown that Modafinil increases number retention and pattern recognition in most people, and even more areas were improved in people with “lower performing” scores initially.

It has also been shown as an effective treatment for ADHD, giving those who really need the extra focus a hand up with the cognitive benefits I just mentioned.

Modafinil acts as an exercise enhancer, and increases the amount of strenuous exercise you are able to do, as well as making that exercise feel easier.

Last, Modafinil has an appetite suppressent effect. That’s right, it most likely aids in weight loss. Participants ate 18% less, calorie wise when on only 200 mg of the drug, and a 38% decrease with 400 mg.

So, to sum up, when you take Modafinil you will have:

  1. You will have more hours in the day
  2. You will be smarter
  3. You will have more focus
  4. Your ability to exercise will be greater
  5. You will have better appetite control

Clearly, this looks like a wonder drug. There are certainly some drug side effects to taking this medicine, but the benefits seem to far outweigh the risks. Caution should be exercised, because it is a relatively new drug. Talk to your primary care doctor if you are interested.

Other names outside of the United States are Alertec, Modavigil, and Modiodal.

Exercise Before Bed, Is it Good for Sleep?

Soldier runningExercise before bed was always regarded as not good for your night’s sleep, however new research suggest otherwise. The new findings show that people who workout at any time of the day, or night, sleep better than those who don’t exercise.

Is Exercise Good for Sleep?

Yes, definitely exercise is one of the best ways to improve your sleep, and it has so many benefits for your sleep, that it is almost foolish to not have some sort of physical activity.

Regular physical exercise regulates hormonal activity, and this will have an impact on sleep. Exercise also helps reduce stress levels, and anxiety, this in turn will also improve your sleep.

Did you ever feel too tired to fall asleep? That only happens with mental tiredness, you will never say you are too tired after you unload a furniture truck, you’ll just fall asleep right away. People with regular physical activity fall asleep easier, and have a better sleep quality than those without. We always knew that after a good workout we sleep better, but now there is scientific research to support it. This study, (sleep and exercise), showed that exercising improves sleep.

I started exercising yesterday and I couldn’t fall asleep. That’s the problem with most people, they expect results immediately. The research study mentioned earlier, shows that for people in their sixties, sleep will only improve after 16 weeks. What it is even more interesting, is that on a short term, exercising is influenced by sleep. People who sleep less tend to exercise less, at the gym. So the two are in a very complex relationship, and not getting enough sleep, makes you less willing to exercise, and by not exercising enough, you have a poor sleep quality.

Exercise Before Bed, Is it Good, or Bad for my Sleep?

Working Out before bed

You know the saying that exercising just before bed might negatively impact your sleep. Is it true, or it is just a myth?

This article suggests that exercising just before bed, is not going to affect sleeping, so in other words the rule to exercise at least three hours before bed does not bear any support, and is not true.

My personal experience, and from interviewing people around me, is that exercise does affect your ability to sleep. The science behind it, is that your body needs to cool down before sleep, your body temperature drops a few degrees. By exercising you increase your body temperature, and it will take at least a couple of hours, if not three to get cooled down. This signals your brain that it is not the time for sleep, yet, so your brain doesn’t send the necessary chemicals to send you to sleep.

However, there are people who trained their brain to send sleep signals whenever they want, and this is an intuitive process, not necessarily a conscientious one, but it works for them. This is how people using the Uberman schedule get to sleep fast. For most of us though, going to sleep immediately after exercise, is going to be a struggle.

What if my schedule only allows me to exercise before bedtime?

Well, that sucks, but you are not the only one in this situation. But the reality, as underlined by the article mentioned before, is that it is better to exercise, and lose 60 minutes of poor sleep, and rest properly for the rest of the night.

You might even get used to this new situation, and start adjusting faster, from physical stress to relaxation mode. But even if you don’t, here are a couple of great tips to convince your body is sleep time:

Bring your bedroom at a very low temperature at bed time, and arrange your thermostat so it gradually raise the rooms temperature to normal after a little while.

Drink calming herbal teas, such as chamomile, linden, and valerian.

 

Geniuses with Polyphasic Sleep Schedules

A lot of people look at polyphasic sleep, and Uberman as an oddity, and not something that could actually be done. As it turns out, this belief is unfounded, and some of the greatest minds followed polyphasic sleeping schedules. These well known figures throughout history slept polyphasically. They would all leave their mark on the world, their contributions given between short naps.

A significant number of geniuses and inventors adopted odd sleeping schedules very similar to Uberman.

Nikola Tesla

One such inventor was Nikola Tesla, who is responsible for a large amount of the everyday conveniences we use today.Nikola Tesla polyphasic sleep schedule

If you haven’t heard of Nikola Tesla yet, you probably will soon. Tesla is getting a lot of recognition for his accomplishments lately, and we owe much of our modern world to him. Tesla is responsible for the development of alternating current (A/C) which runs through most homes today and powers just about everything that isn’t run on a battery.

He even developed a way to transport electricity wirelessly over 25 miles, lighting 200 lamp.

Light bulbs were said to glow, even when turned off nearby his lab.

How did he find the time to do all this?

Nikola Tesla slept less than 2 hours a day. He did admit to taking naps from time to time.

He followed a polyphasic sleep schedule.

Picture:  Unknown, circa 1939

Leonardo Da VinciVitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

Known to sleep about 1.5 to 2 hours per day, da Vinci had an astounding career, leaving his mark on nearly every scientific, engineering, and artistic form there is.  Between painting the Mona Lisa, creating weapons of war, and designing some of the very first flying machines, Leonardo took short naps.  The official “da Vinci” sleep schedule is a 10 minute nap every 2 hours, though some do 20 minute naps every 4 hours like the well known Uberman sleep schedule.

Pictured:  Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”

Salvador Dali

Famed painter Saldvador Dali was well known to hold a metal key over a plate while seated in a chair and nod off. Upon falling to sleep, the key would drop, striking the plate.  The resulting noise would re-awaken Dali, inspiring him to paint yet another masterpiece. He felt that sleep was a waste of time, except for the dreaming, which he utilized throughout his career.

Dali was known to call this method “slumber with a key” and described it quite artfully in his book, “50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship.”

Salvador Dali 1939 Library of CongressExcerpt:  “In order to make use of the slumber with a key, you must seat yourself in a bony armchair, preferably of a Spanish style, with your head tilted back and resting on the stretched leather back. Your two hands must hang beyond the arms of the chair, to which your own must be soldered in a supineness of complete relaxation. Your wrists must be held out in space and must have been previously lubricated with oil of aspic. This is intended to facilitate the benumbing of your hands at the moment when slumber approaches, inducing the tingling that is produced when one of your members goes to sleep—a tingling which is in reality a counter pitch, the physical ants, antidotes of the psychic ones of your redoubtable impatience to paint.

“In this posture, you must hold a heavy key which you will keep suspended, delicately pressed between the extremities of the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Under the key you will previously have placed a plate upside down on the floor. Having made these preparations, you will have merely to let yourself be progressively invaded by a serene afternoon sleep, like the spiritual drop of anisette of your soul rising in the cube of sugar of your body. The moment the key drops from your fingers, you may be sure that the noise of its fall on the upside-down plate will awaken you, and you may be equally sure that this fugitive moment when you had barely lost consciousness and during which you cannot be assured of having really slept, is totally sufficient, inasmuch as not a second more is needed for your whole physical and psychic being to be revivified.”

Photo: Carl van Vechten

Buckminster FullerBuckminster Fuller by Dan Lindsay

Buckminster Fuller was known for quite a few things, one of which was a new word that he coined, Dymaxion. Dymaxion was said to be a combination of the words “Dynamic Maximum Tension.” Fuller would use this to help distinguish his work from other peoples. There was a Dymaxion car, dymaxion house, and Dymaxion award.

Buckminster Fuller slept polyphasically for about two years, per a TIME magazine article published in 1943.

He, however called it “Dymaxion sleep” and differed significantly from Uberman. Dymaxion sleep seperated the day into 4 parts, with 5.5 hours of wakefulness and then a 30 minute nap. He reported that the only reason he stopped sleeping this way was because it conflicted with his associates schedules.

Probably the most recognizable structure inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s work is the EPCOT “ball” at Walt Disney World.  The ball is actually a geodesic dome, which Buckminster Fuller popularized.  The ride inside Disney’s iconic monument is called “Spaceship Earth,” the name also inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s book “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.”

Photo: Dan Lindsay

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt PealeThomas Jefferson regularly woke with the sun, but also stayed up late, frequently working late into the night, leading to an average much shorter than the 7-9 hours recommended by doctors. Depending on how late he was working, he probably averaged 4 to 6 hours per day.

Besides being one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson was apointed to the 5 man committee to write the Declaration of Independence, and wrote the first drafts.  He helped solidify America’s resolution to seperate from Great Britain and form the United States of America.

Showing remarkable foresight, Thomas Jefferson had a paragraph in the Declaration of Independence blaming slavery on Great Britain, particularly King George III, and naming it an “abominable crime.”  The paragraph was subsequently removed by his constituents. Despite Jefferson’s abolishionist feelings, he did own slaves, though there is evidence that he had a romantic relationship with, and fathered 6 children with Sally Hemmings, a slave at Monticello.

Portrait: Rembrandt Peale

 

Napoleon BonaparteNapoleon Bonaparte

Known for frequent nap taking, Napoleon supposedly slept in 2 hour chunks at night, with a 30 minute nap in the afternoon, even during battle. 

Napoleon would have a 10 year reign as Emperor of France before becoming dethroned and sent to Elba, an island off the coast.  While housed there, he would sleep late into the day, even remaining in bed after being awoken.  

He would subsequently escape Elba and regain control of France for a short period of time.

Portrait: Jacques-Louis David

 

Thomas Edison

 Thomas EdisonKnown to sleep very little, or even not at all when inspiration struck, Thomas Edison worked tirelessly for days, only to crash afterwards and sleep for long stretches, sometimes longer than a day.  Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific inventors in history, with over 1,000 United States patents to his name.  The “Wizard of Menlo Park” would help to revolutionize the world.  Edison and Tesla, two great minds, would come into conflict during the “War of the Currents,” with Edison backing direct current and Tesla supporting alternating current.  You can still see DC in use today with batteries of all kinds, while your home and all appliances that are “plugged in” are powered by alternating current.

Photo by: Louis Bachrach, Bachrach Studios, restored by Michel Vuijlsteke

Winston Churchill

Probably one of the more documented polyphasic sleeper, Winston Churchill was a fairly standard biphasic sleeper. He would sleep at night, about 5 hours, then again between

Winston Churchilllunch and dinner, for an additional 1-3 hours. He was known for very long nights.

Winston Churchill would end the “appeasement” policy of Neville Chamberlain and pit Great Britain against the axis powers during World War II.  He was elected as prime minister twice, from 1940-1945 and 1951-1955.

Picture: J.Russel and Sons, Library of Congress

The Polyphasic Sleep Schedule and You

Nap TimeThe Polyphasic Sleep Schedule and You

The Polyphasic sleep schedule is a departure from anything you’ve ever known about sleeping.

Most people sleep and night and work during the day. They’ve been told to try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but no nap. Most people know someone who really likes naps, and takes one almost every day, at about the same time. This is the beginning of a polyphasic sleep schedule.

Polyphasic sleep has been studied and found to provide many of the benefits of a full night’s rest, but at a fraction of the time. Polyphasic sleep practitioners have been able to decrease their sleep requirements down to 2 hours with some practice.

Uberman Sleep Schedule

The most extreme schedule is known as the “Uberman” sleep schedule. Uberman provides in 2 hours what most people achieve in 8 hours. By sleeping only 2 hours per day, you are, in effect, adding 6 hours of usefulness and productivity per day. This means that, over a week, you are adding 42 hours of productivity.

The Uberman sleep schedule is 3 hours and 40 minutes of wakefulness followed by a 20 minute nap. This means you will only be sleeping 2 hours per day, with 22 hours of wakefulness. While it sounds like this is nearly impossible, many people throughout history have adopted similar schedules quite successfully.

Initially it will be difficult to follow this schedule, especially with the very short naps that you must take frequently, but your body will adapt to your demands. Normally, the body takes a long time to get into REM sleep, and the first few days are difficult. Scientists found that REM sleep is the kind of sleep that gives rest, and is actually consists of only about 2 hours of the 8 hours most people sleep. By forcing your body to follow your schedule, you will get nearly 20 minutes of REM sleep every nap (20 minutes, 6 naps), which is equal to the 2 hours a monophasic (that is, someone who sleeps for 8 hours straight) sleeper gets.

With Uberman, your body will realize that it will only be getting those 2 hours of sleep and slips into REM sleep almost immedietelly. This allows you to stay awake much longer with much less rest.

What are some other sleep schedules?

Biphasic

With biphasic sleep, about halfway through the day a nap is taken. This nap can be long or short. Generally, a short nap means a longer “main” sleep while a longer nap means a shorter main sleep. Usually this will lead to about a 6 hour main sleep, saving you about 1-2 hours from your sleep requirements per day.

Segmented

Segmented sleep was widely considered to be “normal” before the 20th century. In segmented sleep, users would sleep for about 3.5 hours, then wake for a short period of time, then sleep again for another 3.5 hours.  See this post for a more information on the “natural” sleeping schedule.

Everyman

Everyman is a sleeping schedule where there is a relatively large main sleep followed by 2, 3, 4, or even 5 naps spaced evenly throughout the day. This allows for a large main sleep while still maintaining many of the benefits of a polyphasic sleep schedule.

Dymaxation

Buckminster Fuller followed this schedule for about 2 years, but stopped it because it conflicted with everyone else’s schedules.  Dymaxation is about 5 hours 30 minutes of wakefulness, followed by 30 minutes of sleep.  It will net you the same time saving qualities of Uberman, but with fewer naps per day.

How To Get Better Sleep – 5 Simple Tips to Sleep Better

5 Simple Tips to Sleeping Better

 1. Bright Lights Before Bed affects a Good Night’s SleepHow To Get Better Sleep

Turning out all the unnecessary lights in your house, and dim those that are necessary, if possible. Darkness is key for melatonin secretion, which is very important to go to sleep quickly and easily at the right time. Light a few candles around the house (but don’t leave them unattended, use a candleholder). This will help your body naturally get ready for sleep.

Through the years, our ancestors were dependent on our sun to light the way for them during the day. At night, they were dependent on the darkness to sleep. Many predators slept at night, so it was safer to rest then.

By following in the footsteps of our ancestors, you won’t be fighting your body for sleep, but instead working with it, getting you restful sleep.

2. Ambient light will keep you awake

Pull all your curtains to sleep better

Pulling your curtains closed prevents ambient light from your neighbors, passing cars, and other irritations through the night. These distractions can make restful sleep elusive, and harder to come by. Once you are asleep, bright light can trick your body into thinking that it is daytime.

Consider getting some black out curtains, like hotels frequently have. They are a bit more expensive than mini blinds or vertical blinds, but they will help keep light out of your bedroom.  A sleep mask or some other sort of eye coverings designed for sleeping will also help.

Thermometer3. Temperature Affects Your Sleep

One of the physiological processes involved with going to sleep is that your body lowers your temperature by a few degrees. The optimal temperature for sleep is in the 60 to 70 degree range. If you normally prefer a warmer environment, you may be sabotaging your sleep. When your body is getting ready for sleep, (without you knowing it), it naturally drops your core temperature a bit. This is a completely normal part of going to sleep. The lowest core temperature usually hits about 4:30 in the morning.

Now, I am not talking about dropping your thermostat to 40 degrees and freezing. Just a slight decrease in temperature is all that is needed, enough that your body isn’t fighting to get cooler.

4.  Don’t forget the rest of your lights.

So, you have turned off most or all of the lights, and are curled up in your bed to watch Dancing with the Stars. It seems however, that you have forgotten a light. As it turns out, your television has either a LED or fluorescent lightbulb in it, so that you can see the colors. What’s more, the light produced by your television is most certainly one of the worst kinds of light to prevent sleepiness.  Follow the link to learn how important darkness is for sleep.

The same goes for your computer monitor. And yes, your phone as well. Put your phone in a drawer and turn the ringer off unless there is some important call you are expecting in the middle of the night.

Coffee Cup5. Effect of Caffeine and Alcohol on sleep.

Caffeine will keep you awake

Coffee affects your sleep whether you stay awake during the night or not. Caffeine spends a remarkably long time in your body, all things considered. The half-life of caffeine is 5 hours, which means if you have a Starbuck’s at 5 PM, you will have about half of the amount of caffeine still in your system at bedtime. Even if you sleep through the night, and you think that it doesn’t affect you, the quality of sleep is poor, when you have an extra cup of joe, and this will impact your activity next day. Cut out caffeine in the afternoon, and hopefully your mind won’t be overly stimulated at 10 PM.

Alcohol and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. 1 to 2 drinks before bed will help you go to sleep, but may increase sleep apnea symptoms, if you have any. Further drinking may cause nausea, vomiting, and other unpleasant effects that will hurt your attempts at a good nights. Try to taper off your drinking near the end of the day, and drink lots of water or possibly sports drink to replenish electrolytes, hopefully preventing a hangover the next morning.

By following these simple 5 steps, you can improve your sleep tonight and feel more rested and energetic tomorrow morning, ready to attack the day.

Lightbulb Photo: KMJ

What you should understand before starting any Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

Darkness is critical to achieve restful sleep.

Why Darkness is Critical to get a good night's sleep

This may seem contrary to the goal of this site, to stay awake more, but it is actually the crux of everything we’ve done here. Quality, restful sleep in as little time as possible. Polyphasic sleep, and the uberman sleep schedule are all based on the idea that frequent sleeping on a schedule can achieve similar results to a traditional monophasic night’s rest. Darkness, or rather the absence of light, is extremely important to achieve that rest. More on that later. Before you attempt a polyphasic sleep schedule like uberman, you should figure out how to get a real night’s rest normally, without having to go to extremes sleeping schedules.

Melatonin is a very important in the process of going to sleep, as it increases drowsiness and lowers body temperature. Melatonin does a lot more than help you sleep. Melatonin deficiencies have been linked to autism aging, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. So, to say that we, as humans, have a vested interest in understanding melatonin, how it works, and how to emphasize its benefits is an understatement.

Why is light, or rather the absence of light important for sleep? Light of all kinds inhibits the release of melatonin. The worst offenders were the colors with shorter wavelengths, like blue and green. Red had the least effect on melatonin secretion. So, dimming or turning off all your lights around your house is very important. You knew that, but you are probably forgetting about quite a few lights around your house.

The invention of the lightbulb was one of the worst things for humans, as far as sleep is involved.

Dark Room bright TV screen

Artificial light has been wreaking havoc with our internal clocks since the 19th century, unbeknownst to most of us. The common light bulb enabled us to stay up later for both work and play, but also get up earlier. No longer were we tethered to the rise and fall of the sun for illumination. While this did benefit us in many ways, still to this day, no other invention has had such an all-encompassing assault on our natural sleeping patterns.  Before the lightbulb, only candles were used, and only the very rich could afford to have enough light to regularly stay up late into the night.  Most people slept when it was dark out because there wasn’t much else that could be done with the lights out.  Today, unless you have blackout curtains, light from outside of your bedroom, from your neighbors, is leaking in around your mini-blinds, wrecking your sleep, and keeping you from a good night’s rest.

Your cell phone has a light in it, and probably produces the worst kind of light for sleep, blue. So does your computer monitor and television. Most older flat screen televisions use fluorescent light bars to light the screen, which emit very short wavelength light, plus some ultraviolet light. Newer LED based screens have two ways of creating white light. One is by combining red, green and blue, the second by using a blue or UV light and converting it to white light. The light from these devices can suppress more than 65% of your normal amount of melatonin secretion. Even the LEDs on your VCR can be bright if you leave them on.

Even once you are asleep, light can prevent true restful sleep. Someone driving through your neighborhood shines their lights inside your window, briefly lighting up your room. You groggily look around, realize it is a car, and go back to bed. Seems innocuous, if annoying, but this actually disturbed your normal brain wave pattern for sleep. Your significant other watching television after you fall asleep is not okay. The light (and sound!) from the television disturbs your sleep patterns, even if you can snooze through Craig Ferguson.

Steps to take to create a house that will help you get to sleep:

Computer and iPhone/iPad: Get f.lux. F.lux is a program that adapts your computer screen based on what time of day it is in your area.. It will be brighter in the morning and darker at night. It is touted that it makes your computer screen look like the room you are in. You shouldn’t be looking at screen the color of daylight late at night. F.lux is free, and is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and iPad/iPhone

Lighting: Start dimming your lights around dinner time. With the advent of compact fluorescent lightbulbs or lamps (CFL – the ones that look twisted) and LED lighting, you might consider having a “normal” incandescent light bulb around to use before bed.

Windows: Pull your curtains to stop outside lights from coming through. Most street lamps are sodium vapor lamps, and produce yellowish light, but it can still effect your sleep.

TV: Move the television out of your bedroom and into the living room. Flat screen televisions use either LED lights or fluorescent bulbs, which both give off blue light, suppressing melatonin secretion, keeping you alert

Finally, consider buying a sleep mask or some other sort of eye covering device to block out any and all remaining light.

Streetlight photo: Wyn van Devanter

Screen Photo: Chris Dlugosz

Polyphasic Sleep: The Natural Sleeping Schedule

Man SleepingWith all this information about sleeping and the myriad different sleeping schedules, you might wonder what the natural or normal sleeping schedule is. As it turns out, it isn’t as simple as “we are awake during the day, sleep at night” – not by a long shot.

Newborns practice a form of polyphasic sleeping. They are awake for short periods, and sleep for nearly two-thirds of the day. Most people will point to the “circadian rhythm” when talking about sleep schedules, indicating that the normal 24-hour period is “normal.”

Altering the circadian rhythm

As it turns out, the circadian rhythm is remarkably adaptable. Humans have been trained to both shorten and lengthen the time their bodies expect a day to last, according to this.  Studies have been performed to both shorten the circadian rhythm to 23.5 hours as well as lengthen rhythm to 24 hours, 40 minutes (incidentally, the length of a day on Mars). Studies have also been done which eliminate all external lighting cues for sleep and found that humans will slowly adapt a 25 hour “day” given no stimulus.

Sleep Schedules before the modern world

In the 1600s, it was widely considered normal to have a “first sleep” and “second sleep” with a 1 to 2 hour period of wakefulness between. People might wake, use the restroom, converse, and perform other activities, according to this article.  By the 1700s, this first/second sleep idea had mostly disappeared. The take away from all this is that humans are very adaptable, and that different sleep schedules are very possible. Over the course of human history, many different sleep schedules evolved naturally, and that how and when you sleep can be modified as you would like.

Photo: Chad Fitz

Newborns Follow Polyphasic Sleeping Schedules

Baby SleepingFrom birth to 3 months, most babies sleep for two thirds or more of a 24 hour period. The problem is, they don’t sleep all the way through, but instead wake up about every 3 hours for nourishment. This is actually perfectly normal. Babies follow a polyphasic sleep schedule, but will slowly begin to sleep longer at night and awake more during the day. It is quite normal for a newborn to wake up every 2, 3, or 4 hours to eat, unfortunately. If you are using formula, consider putting all the pieces together so that you won’t have to think too hard in the early morning hours. A vented bottle system helped my wife and me to keep gas to a minimum. We also used simethicone (Mylecon) quite a bit as well, for those hard to produce gas bubbles in babies’ belly. Source: “Typical Sleep Pattern for Newborns”

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