‘Wake Enhancement’: Is sleep better than medicine?
Are well rested people happier and more productive people?
Generally anecdotal feedback from grinders, transhumanists and futurists that I have met with often get into the habit of loosing sleep, and depending on coffee or other nutropics like modafinil to get through the day – while this can help as a palliative to easing the effects of not getting enough sleep – they shouldn’t be seen as replacements to a full night of sleep. Perhaps at some stage in the future we will have technology that can effectively replace sleep – though as of 2016, it is not here yet.
According to the National Sleep Foundation in America, the recommended sleep time for adults from 18-65 is 7-9 hours and 7-8 hours for those over 65.
This video is the product of an unscripted conversation as part of an interview series with Oxford scholar Anders Sandberg – it turned out quite interesting.
* Also see other sections of the interview in this playlist!
The cycle of sleeping during the night and waking up at dawn is a natural part of human life that arguably has been with us and our ancestors for 100’s of thousands of years – yet very recently scientists begun to understand the relationship between daylight/darkness to the alternating cycle of sleep and waking. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body’s pineal gland which helps regulate sleep patterns – it is also found in some foods – and may be useful as a supplement to help get the body’s circadian rhythm. approval by the FDA).
The NSA has an article on Melatonin which says “For melatonin to be helpful, the correct dosage, method and time of day it is taken must be appropriate to the sleep problem. Taking it at the “wrong” time of day may reset your biological clock in an undesirable direction. How much to take, when to take it, and melatonin’s effectiveness, if any, for particular sleep disorders is only beginning to be understood.”
“[Referring to Melatonin pills] Now that’s useful because you can reset your diurnal rhythm. Now typically jet-lag is nasty because your brain is out of synch – it’s sending signals to the rest of the body on what it’s supposed to do that doesn’t fit your activity – so everything goes a bit haywire. Melatonins kind of good because it cuts in a reset signal – right now, it’s just after midnight.” – Anders Sandberg
The judicious use of Melatonin supplements can aid in helping your body adjust back into an effective sleeping pattern – and for most cases, is likely to be a wiser option than taking ‘sleeping pills‘.
11 Tips to help you achieve quality sleep
Here are 11 tips from the NSA to help you get some extra sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
- If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.
- Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
- Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner’s sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up
- During the night Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
- Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
- If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.
- If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a Sleep Diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.
Notes, References & Extra Reading
See Anders’ page on ‘Optimized Sleep‘
Consider reading Anders’ paper: ‘Sleep better than medicine? Ethical issues related to “wake enhancement”‘
Abstract: This paper deals with new pharmacological and technological developments in the manipulation and curtailment of our sleep needs. While humans have used various methods throughout history to lengthen diurnal wakefulness, recent advances have been achieved in manipulating the architecture of the brain states involved in sleep. The progress suggests that we will gradually become able to drastically manipulate our natural sleep-wake cycle. Our goal here is to promote discussion on the desirability and acceptability of enhancing our control over biological sleep, by illustrating various potential attendant ethical problems. We draw attention to the risks involved, possible conflicts of interests underlying the development of wake enhancement, and the potential impact on accountability for fatigue related errors.