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Strategies for sleeping less: lessons from parenthood

Strategies for sleeping less: lessons from parenthood
By Chris Lovejoy • Issue #15 • View online
Hi everybody,
Continuing on with the theme of ‘productivity lessons learnt from parenthood’, this week I’m going to write about a couple of approaches to dealing with reduced sleep that I have found helpful.
While in my case these are applied specifically to parenthood, I think they could be useful for anybody who’s striving to get work done despite sleeping less than they normally would – whether it’s due to exams, a demanding job or any source of demand.
I’m going to describe two approaches to sleep that I have taken recently, which I’m going to call the time agnostic approach to sleep and the flexi-scheduled approach. Because I’m currently very sleep deprived, I’m not going to elaborate on these too much beyond the descriptions themselves. Perhaps I will in the future, but I hope describing them will still be somewhat interesting/useful.

The time agnostic approach
The time agnostic approach
This involves sleeping whenever conditions allow (in my case, when the baby is asleep or is with my partner), and then just working whenever I feel like it. For example, I may wake up at 3am and feel like working, so then I have a very productive session for a few hours. Or this period may come during the day. Essentially, it’s about working in opportune moments, regardless of the times of day that we would conventionally work.
It’s enabled by the fact I have a relatively flexible schedule, so I don’t have many e.g. mandatory morning meetings that I need to attend. Therefore, working in this way entirely will not be possible for those without the luxury of this flexibility. One disadvantage of this approach is the lack of a sleep routine, and the associated lethargy with this. Even when I’m getting a good number of total hours, I definitely feel less rested if they are obtained in the middle of the day rather than at night.
On the whole, this has enabled me to have numerous highly productive sessions.
Flexi-scheduled approach
I found that if I didn’t sleep much during a night, and then had a long lie in the next day, it would be hard to get on top of the day. Therefore, I conceived the following approach: no matter what happens, no matter how little sleep I get during the night, I will get up at 9am and stay up until at least 1pm. Outside of that, I would take the time agnostic approach described above.
I found this really helpful, to prevent the feeling of having lost the day that accompanies sleeping all morning. If it got to 1pm and I was really exhausted, I’d go to bed and take a nap, but it didn’t have the same negative impact that sleeping past 9/10/11 would have.
I found this to be an incremental improvement on the time agnostic approach.
Other approaches
Those are the two main approaches that I’ve tried, and have been pretty happy with. There are other approaches that I’m aware of, such as biphasic and polyphasic sleeping, but I’ve not been inclined to try them for several reasons. If interested, you can read about them here.
This email is shorter than usual, but it’s early, and I’m really tired, so I’m going to head to bed and grab some sleep.
This week's links
Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams
This week's video
This week's video
Have a great week :)
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Chris Lovejoy

Hi! I'm Chris, a Cambridge medicine graduate now working as a doctor in London and exploring a career applying machine learning to medicine. Every weekend I send out an email sharing my experiences, life lessons as I learn them, and links to my favourite things on the internet.


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