Time in this life is short. That inherently implies that it’s precious. If you live to be 75 and sleep 8 hours each day, you’ll sleep 25 years of your life away. Much as I both enjoy and need rest, this concept horrifies me. It has for a long time. I suspect that’s been the driving force behind my efforts in life to shorten my sleep time.
Arriving at college, I immediately got away from an 8 hour sleep cycle. It was replaced with sporadic, often late bedtimes, coupled with early awakenings for class. Fully indoctrinated upon graduation, my sleep patterns have been irregular and abbreviated ever since. I doubt I’ve averaged more than 7 hours of sleep per night since cap-n-gown day.
No doubt this would be unimpressive in those rowdy sleep deprivation circles. However, I look at it as it is: over the course of a 75 year life, I might add 3 years of wakefulness. That thought has worked for me.
But for most of 2013, this old strategy hasn’t been working. My plate is full. I have several plates. Balancing and juggling them demands much time. Something had to give. Either I could cut back on outdoor mountain time, or I could cut back on time spent making a living. Neither sounded good; I’ve long since come to a place where attaining a work/play balance is almost as important to me as breathing. That’s because I’ve spent much time in my life where one or the other (usually work) has taken over and run wildly amok. Results of that approach have been disappointing at best.
So, striving for balance between work and mountains. But short on time. Cut something, but what? In the past, cutting out select mealtimes has saved me time and been a frequent default. (Call me ever so slightly touched by anorexia nervosa and I wouldn’t deny it.) I started that right after the college mealplan went away.. But with frequent mountain days getting longer and bigger, saving time by cutting calories wasn’t working. Pep drops, lethargy sets in… Unworkable.
What about sleep? Every athlete needs sleep. Those that consistently don’t get it don’t perform well over the long haul. At least, that’s usually been the case. And as I turned to greater and greater amounts of sleep deprivation, often getting three or four hours of sleep in a 24 hour period in order to work and play in a day, I felt it. In a big way. I couldn’t perform as well, and it was noticeable to me.
Exhausted, I started trying something new. The 24 hour day. A full day of mountain time, maybe an hour and a half of commuting to the local mountains, a shower, food, and then work. Often, as after the Triple Traverse which I followed up with work, I got to bed at the exact time I’d awoken the day before (4:06 a.m. in the case of the T.T.) Then, sleep, glorious sleep.
This extended schedule of wakefulness allows me to get a lot more done, while still affording (sometimes) 8 hours of bed rest. I don’t know if it’s an improvement health-wise over a 21 hour day culminating in 3 hours of sleep, but it’s what I’ve been trying of late.
I’m not going to try to calculate how much ‘awake’ time this method might add to my life. Ultimately, changing my sleep schedule in this fashion might prove unsustainable; I don’t know. I’ve had perhaps fifty 22-26 hour days so far in 2013. Only the last 15-20 have been followed by adequate sleep. What I do know is that if I actually manage 7 or 8 hours of bed rest, I feel pretty good upon awaking, even after a solid 24 hour day. Truly, it’s an experiment in progress.
Why, you ask? I may get to that…