Earlier today I saw a headline about a study that completely contradicted one of my major pride productivity principles in life: I operate off of 6 hours of sleep. To be clear, the article was titled “Why Six Hours Of Sleep Is As Bad As None At All” and it only slightly triggered me.
Scribbling Start Time: 1:42 AM
So, I’m in the process of getting back into blogging and starting a business where I consult people in areas of blogging and blog strategy. I’ve been putting long hours into building up processes, and I tend to work in sprints of work. It’s not a matter of “Let’s do 2 hours a day” so much as “I’ll take a week off my day job and then work 14+ hour project days back-to-back.”
I enjoy that style of working on my own personal projects (an important distinction). I always have – like, ever since I was a kid.
Getting back to what I said in the opening bit of this one, that approach has kind of engineered me to not need much sleep during the week (another important distinction). I regularly operate off of 5-6 hours of sleep, and if I get any more than that – I actually feel groggy and in a haze throughout my waking hours. There are only so many hours in the day, and considering I like to (deep breath) work out regularly, cook, see my friends and family, watch an hour of television, write, draw, read, pursue side hustles, study coding, AND maintain employment on top of all of that each day… something has to give.
And, honestly – I know it’s foolish to some, but I genuinely kinda’ feel like I can sleep when I’m dead.
While I won’t reiterate the entire article I read back to you, I just want to point out certain parts that bothered me given how I live my life.
This study was only based on 48 people.
Ok – I’ve worked as a consumer researcher in the past, and I’m currently a data analyst-by-day now. That just feels like a small audience (even for an in-depth study like I’m sure this one was) to come to a damning conclusion like the one found in the title of this post.
Do I think the copywriters knew how they were writing that title to get people like me to click? Yes. But still — people are VERY differentiated when it comes to their sleep patterns. I like to think of myself as a dude who has an East Coast internal morning/day clock, but a West Coast sleep clock (and it’s probably because I grew up in the Midwest).
Some people are early birds, others are night owls. If you try to force them to operate outside of those boundaries their body naturally sets for them – yes, you will break them.
The study “ran people like a treadmill”.
[Note that I said “like” and not “on” haha!] What I mean by that is it seems like people were forced to participate in this schedule in a way that NO ONE really sleeps unless they had to. People critical of treadmills make the same complaint about running on them. It feels weird because people naturally have a tendency to speed up and slow down when they DO NOT run on a treadmill vs. just slogging through at a constant unnatural pace when you’re tired on one.
Sure, when you test things you need a control group and you try to press some variable that you’re trying to test (in this case, number of hours slept)…
Wait – I just had one of those “Dear God I’m a Nerd” moments. It’s 2:03 AM and just take a look at the sentence I wrote prior to this one. Who the hell talks about variables and control groups at this hour?! Anyway – continuing.
…but it’s useless to test things in entirely unnatural states. For example, I would never test how people look through this website under hours of extreme temperatures (say 110 °F) because who IN THE HELL is just sitting in 118-degree heat surfing the web? No one sane. So why look at the study that way?
Doing things in scenarios that don’t somewhat mimic real situations just yields you obvious results that you didn’t need to test in the first place. In the case of my example, I’d likely find that people don’t operate the site well for a prolonged time in the heat, because – you guessed it – heat is hot, fam. In the case of this study (and seriously, read the article for this context) – they found out that people don’t operate well without sleep for long periods of time compared to people who slept more, because – you guessed it – we fucking need sleep!
This brings me to my next & final point that’s semi-related to this one…
The participants didn’t get a reset.
This seemed like a vital point in the tests that they applied to participants. Basically, the people being studied were only allotted a certain amount of sleep each night for a period of days (like 8-hours of rest, 6-hours, and 4-hours I think). And those conducting the study noticed that the “6-hours a day” people started to suck at things after 10 days of only getting 6-hours of sleep.
This ties to what I was ranting about the treadmill in the previous section. It’s a little unrealistic to just blitz away at a pace your body doesn’t like for a really long time, right? You don’t have to conduct a study to know that’s bad for you.
It is so well-known, and socially accepted, that we get weekends in the real world. FUCKING WEEKENDS!!!!
That’s our reset. People sleep in if they can. They take naps. They go to spas and stuff like that (if they’re ballin’).
These people didn’t get one! There was no reset!! What adult just stays up for 10 days or more in a row at hours they don’t like to sleep – tired – if they can actually help it?! NO ONE!!! If we’re tired, and we have the time to sleep — we likely do so… AT LEAST ONE DAY OF THE WEEK. That’s a reset in the real world. People say they “caught up on sleep over the weekend” for a reason! DAMMIT!
Bringing this rant to a close.
Look, I’m not saying to ignore this study. If you are someone who regularly operates on less sleep than the recommended 8-hours a night, but catches some major-z’s on the weekends. You’re good. If you workout and eat right and watch your vices (smoking, drinking, drugs, etc.) — you’re even better. The study reinforces that, but it just felt unnecessary to conduct a study on that as they did.
I normally sleep-in on weekends and make sure that I’m watching my diet and pacing myself through the week to avoid the road to burnout. When I stop enjoying a pursuit, I don’t just trudge through it — I take a break — I do things to keep my mind engaged.
I won’t get into specifics of the book here (b/c it’s 2:27 AM), but I will leave it at, “That’s a better source for stuff about sleep patterns and other things” and promise that I’ll do a review on the book at some point in the future.