The mind is a very powerful tool. The body reacts to its beliefs. We have been told since childhood that we have to have eight hours of sleep straight, but, is it possible that our bodies can actually do with less sleep over a long period of time? You will say perhaps not. How can it be possible? One night without sleeping and your body feels so tired. The next day you sleep and all that fatigue is gone. So how can it be possible that we can actually get by sleeping less? The answer is simple: there are more things being discovered now than they have ever been in history.
In case you were wondering about its implications, let us tell you – Margaret Thatcher went throughout the day with just four hours of sleep, and she was not only known for being a daft politician, but also a free thinker. Another example is none other than Salvador Dali. He felt that sleep was just a waste of time. Come to think of it, it is a popular idea that we waste a third of our lives sleeping! Practically we feel fatigued without it and some scientists have confirmed that we could not go throughout the day with less sleep. So, how to make “less sleep, more productivity” possible? Some scientists might have cracked the sleep code.
Before telling you how to do it, let’s first understand that sleep hacking can be risky – but it is worth it because sleep hacking can make or break your productivity for the rest of the day, more so when you are planning on getting lesser sleep. So how do you do it?
To start sleeping less, you must really start sleeping less. This might sound as a no-brainer but according to the Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the City College of New York, Arthur Spielman, spending less time on bed reduces your stage 1 sleep and increases your stage 4 sleep. Stage 1 sleep is when you are falling asleep slowly; and stage 4 sleep is where your sleep is really very deep and you are getting the real benefits of a prolonged sleep.
When you are sleeping normally, you are taking your time to get the sleep. For example, you just lie on bed, and then you close your eyes and then after sometime you doze off to sleep. This puts you in second stage of sleeping very slowly, and then until the fourth stage of sleep comes, you are already being asked to remain awake. This is a much distorted form of sleeping. In fact, it is inefficient sleeping. The best sleeping process is when you can lower your sleeping time.
To practice sleeping less, you have to check if you have any sleep related diseases or not. If so, you could be needing a different treatment. For example, in some cases, people have a habit of snoring which makes their sleep less restful. This is why they should first look for ways to sleep more peacefully, and then apply this method to get to the fourth stage of sleep.
There have been many studies to show that sleeping 5 hours is better than sleeping 8 hours and that it is the quality of sleep that matters – not the quantity.
Cranial Electrical Simulation (or CES)
If you have trouble falling asleep, then the CES may be the thing you need.
CES is basically a device which is used to treat patients of insomnia to fall asleep quicker. It is actually FDA-approved and those who have used it have found that they could sleep better in the little time that they fell asleep. It works for many. If you are not an insomniac you might not need it; but sleep patterns are different for different people. You might need the CES not to fall asleep but to experience better sleep when you are falling asleep.
Since in the first stage we discussed about sleeping less, we have to actually try and fall asleep at the right time. Suppose you were sleeping 20-30 minutes later than your usual time, but you are an insomniac, and you just don’t get sleep, then CES could come to your aid in that situation.
Cut Back to Six Hours of Sleep a Night
Unless you are looking for two hours of sleep every night, you can claw your way out by cutting back two hours of sleep every day without losing on your health. If you have been sleeping eight hours a night, it is not advised that you suddenly change your schedule to sleeping four hours every night. Everything takes some time for the body to adjust. Do it one step at a time. Initially start with these following steps:
- Set your alarm at the same time everyday for the next seven days
- Week 1: Go to bed 20 minutes later
- Week 2: Go to bed 40 minutes later
- Week 3: Sleep after 1 hour
This way, continue delaying the sleep time by 20 minutes each week. This will help your body to adjust you to the changing sleep patterns and will not put a lot of pressure on your body at once. Doing this will also ensure that you get a good night’s sleep as you reach the fourth stage of sleep and stay there longer.
The Oxygen Hack
Oxygen plays a key role in getting sleep at night. The body uses a lot of oxygen at night when we sleep which is why sometimes we need more sleep than usual. The body needs oxygen for performing metabolic activities. In fact some people believe that you need lesser oxygen while sleeping – this is not so. Your oxygen requirement depends upon your metabolic rate, albeit while awake you are moving and doing other stuff for which your body requires more oxygen. But overall when you are lying – you’re still performing other bodily activities like maintaining the functioning of organs, hence the body needs an equal amount of oxygen then.
For a sound sleep however, you need proper oxygen supply to the brain. This is why it is said that if you exercise, you can sleep better, because when you exercise, your brain is supplied with more oxygen. But often you will see that after a heavy work out session in the morning you are still wide awake at night. So for this, it is advised that you workout in the afternoons. This will ensure that the effects of the sleep have stayed in your system and you fall asleep just at the right time at night.
Another thing that has shown to be more effective with this is Pranayam – a form of Yoga which mainly deals with breathing exercises. The breathing exercises performed in the form of yoga or sometimes in combination with formal yoga can sometimes bear heaps of benefits for your body. You will not only get better sleep, but your energy levels will remain intact.
Breathing and energy levels are very closely linked – so is sleep and oxygen. The better you sleep, the more oxygen you take and the more oxygen you intake, the better you perform throughout the day. Take the hint.
Can I Sleep for Less Than 6 Hours?
About 1-3% of the population has a special gene that helps them work with just 4 hours of sleep. These people are lean, optimistic and always energetic. Their enthusiasm is envious while the rest of us struggle to manage with lesser sleep every day.
We’ve managed to hack 6 hours of sleep every day, but can we really do with lesser sleep? Like 4 hours for example? In the long term it might not be a good idea for your health, but in emergency situations, we can train our bodies to sleep less.
Our bodies are very clever and yes, smaller naps do just as much as the long stretch does. Leonardo Da-Vinci was known to take a 15 minute nap after every hour. Normally, we need a continual sleep of a few hours combined with specific naps throughout the day.
A popular sleep protocol dubbed ‘Everyman’, suggests that we can do completely fine by sleeping 3 hours early in the morning and then sleeping 20 minutes throughout the day at regular intervals, keeping the entire sleep schedule unchanged.
It seems like Da Vinci had cracked this very code much earlier.
Sleeping this way suggests that we could actually do more by sleeping less. You can do this by calculating your personal sleep requirements. Meaning – if you need to sleep 7 hours every day, then you can get 4 hours of sleep every night and then take small naps throughout the day.
Sleeping less is an art – but make sure that you do it very slowly so you don’t harm yourself.