Faking Sleep Affects Performance

By Anupum Pant

A couple of days back I talked about how standing for a few seconds in a superman position could increase your level of confidence and could help you ace interviews. Today it’s time again to look at a technique to increase performance by fooling your body.

First of all, you need to stop thinking you didn’t sleep well today. That is because the mere act of thinking you slept well makes you perform well. It’s been proven.

In a group where everyone got equal sleep, half of the people were just told by “experts” that they had 29% REM sleep (which is better) and the other half were told that they had only 16% REM sleep (that actually decreases performance). The catch was, they all had slept for equal times and everyone would have had more or less equal percentages of REM cycles. Only, they were told wrong things by “experts”.

This word of mouth coming from the “experts” actually affected the performance of these two groups. The group that was told they had a greater percentage of REM sleep performed well. And the group that was told they did sleep as well as the first group didn’t perform as good. I’m assuming both the groups were first informed about how the percentage of REM sleep affects performance.

So, stop cribbing about how tired and sleepy you  are.

A Disease That Doesn’t Let You Sleep And Kills

By Anupum Pant

Background

In my very first article on this website, I talked about a 17-year-old boy, Randy Gardner who remained awake for an incredible 11 days and set a world record which no one had beat for a very long time. And then, in the 90s, Toimi Soini, of Hamina, Finland, set a new record of 276 hours of sleeplessness.

Well, no one should even try to beat it because depriving yourself of sleep can have some serious health issues and can even kill you. The seriousness of health consequences associated with such attempts is the reason that these records are no longer recorded in the Guinness books.

The disease

Not always do people decide to voluntarily break sleeplessness records. Some times, they can be the victims of a horrific and an extremely rare disease called fatal familial insomnia (FFI) – A progressively worsening form of insomnia discovered only 10-15 years ago. When it affects someone, the person starts having bouts of insomnia at first and then they aren’t able to sleep at all. Hallucinations, delirium, and confusional states occur and a person usually dies within 18 months from the first insomnia. 

The disease is caused due to a defective gene and the people having it start seeing symptoms from the age of 30 (never at an early age). It has been believed to have originated from an Italian man in the year 1765 (not necessarily).

Symptoms in detail

  • For the first four months there is an onset of insomnia and the person starts getting panic attacks and unfounded phobias.
  • For the the next 5 months the hallucinations become severe.
  • In the next 3 months, rapid weight loss and serious deterioration of mental ability happens,
  • Next comes dementia, unresponsiveness, and may be death.
[A list of couple of people who never slept]

Here’s a 10 minute documentary which discusses FFI in detail.

[Everything else you need to know about it]

The Natural Segmented Sleep

By Anupum Pant

Background

The light bulb changed everything. Before it came, when the only practical sources of artificial light were candles & lamps, people did not often use candles to stay awake at night. These sources of artificial light costed a lot more per lumen hour. They were not always used. They were used only when artificial light was totally necessary. Normally, as the sun went down, people preferred sleeping. As bulbs came, they transformed the way we slept. Or, so argued the historian A. Roger Ekirch.

In his detailed published anthropological work – At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past – he mentions that the eight-hour single block of sleep is a recent change in our sleeping schedule. For many many years more than we’ve slept for eight hours in the night, our ancestors had practised a very different kind of sleep schedule which became the natural way of sleeping for humans. It was a segmented sleep.

The schedule went like this…

When the sun went down, there was more or less no artificial source of light. Due to this, our ancestors could do nothing useful. Bored with inactivity, they slept. Then somewhere in the mid-night, they woke up. For an hour or so, they remained awake and went back to sleep again till the morning.

The time for which these people remained awake, was probably the most relaxing and most calm time of their lives. Due to increased levels of pituitary hormone prolactin, people felt a lot at peace during this hour. During this time, people liked involving themselves in some kind of activity. Some preferred reading, others wrote. Some smoked, others visited their friends. And so on… The point is, people found themselves replenished during this time. It was apparently blissful.

This pattern of sleep became a natural way for us humans. Turns out, the eight-hour block of sleep is not the way we always used to sleep!

This sleep pattern has been observed to come back to today’s humans when they were completely deprived of any artificial light. This can be seen in the famous experiments of a psychiatrist, Thomas Wehr.

End

That waking hour of bliss – a fact of life before the industrial revolution came – was probably a period which I feel, needs to come back to cure the modern world’s rising anxiety, stress, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.

Some scientists believe that if you give your bodies a chance, they’d go back to a segmented sleep pattern. This is also bolstered by Wehr’s experiments. While others prescribe you sleeping pills if you tell them you wake up at night for an hour or so.

Just for the record, I’m writing this at 2:30 AM. I just woke up, and I’m off to sleep again.

[Read more] [Mastering Biphasic sleep] A detailed blogpost on the experience by Jayson Feltner…