Sleeping patterns: progress update

My first post about my sleeping patterns was a surprise hit. So I have decided to write a second update as I reach the halfway mark of my year-long experiment to keep data on my sleeping patterns.

The previous post ended on a bit of a cliffhanger as all my graphs were spiking up quite alarmingly. Since then I think progress has been quite good.

Here is graph 1 (data measured in clock times) updated to show the first six months (i.e. this year up to yesterday). As before, these are all seven day rolling averages.

Sleep graph 1 - 6 months

As you can see, the broad trend for all of the lines is for them to go in the right direction. In fact, very recently the ‘alarm’ and ‘slept until’ lines were at the lowest point they’ve been all year. However, since my sleeping patterns appear to be in cycles, that will be counterbalanced soon enough by a period where I wake up later. You can just see the start of that at the end of this graph.

The previous three months are very different to the first three months. The cut-off point for the last post came just after I had had my last class at university. Since then I have had far fewer regular engagements, but I have still had the odd activity to get up early for — exams, GP2 races, graduation ceremonies and what-have-you.

In general, I am still having a lot of trouble predicting how long I will sleep for. Choosing the right time to set the alarm for is the most difficult thing about getting my sleep under control. If I set it too late then that is useless, whereas if I set it too early I just go back to sleep, possibly not to be seen again until the afternoon!

The ‘morning’ lines (alarm, slept until, got up) have been much more unpredictable than the ‘night’ lines (bed at, slept from). In fact, the night time variables are remarkably flat, with only a little bulge a couple of weeks ago ruining an otherwise slow but relatively steady trend towards earlier times. It now feels weird to be up after, say, 0200 and I consciously try to avoid staying up beyond that time (which was otherwise commonplace for me).

Slept until - 6 months Having said that, although they fluctuate a lot, the morning variables are also going in the right direction — but very slowly. At the start of the year I was most likely to wake up at midday. Nowadays I’m more likely to wake up at 1030. Considering we have also had the clocks changing in that period, I am effectively waking up two and a half hours earlier than I was at the start of the year. Assuming I end up with a normal job though I will be looking to get up three or four hours earlier than even this.

Here is graph 2 — variables measured as lengths of time.

Sleep graph 2 - 6 months

This graph is still fluctuating quite a lot. As you can see, ‘insomnia’ is going down in general. But it is still causing me a headache. I seemingly can’t tell how tired I am, so sometimes I am unable to fall asleep for half an hour (which I consider to be normal), others for over four hours (as actually happened on one day and is distinctly abnormal).

Incidentally, the data for what I have called the ‘insomnia’ variable is slightly odd. The name is misleading. It measures the difference between the time when I go to bed and my estimate of when I fall asleep. But often I am sitting in bed reading a book before actually turning in. So perhaps you can knock, say, half an hour off the figures to get a better idea of my ‘insomnia’.

Another notable aspect of the graph is the fact that the area of green — which I have called ‘lazy’, the difference between the time when I wake up and when I get up — has increased. I think this is partly due to some advice I followed in the comments to the last post. Duncan2 and 4u1e both suggested putting my alarm at the other side of the room.

Lazy - 6 months I had tried that trick before, but with little success. Now I have put it at the complete opposite side of the room, a good 15 or so yards from my bed, and in an awkward position. At first it certainly had me waking up earlier — but I felt so awful that I just stayed in bed for ages! Hence the increase in ‘laziness’.

As you can see on the ‘lazy’ graph, it is pretty easy to pinpoint the moment when I started putting the alarm at the other side of the room, with a massive spike in early April. Since then the spikes have still happened from time to time. But they are getting smaller, suggesting that I am coping better with the scheme now. However, the ‘lazy’ graph is disappointingly the one graph where the trendline is going in the wrong direction. So that’s something for me to work on over the coming months.

Another point to note from the comments is that I have now extended my caffeine curfew. Beforehand I just banned coffee after around 1800. Now I have banned tea as well. Green tea is banned from about 2000 onwards except for when I am working until 2100, in which case I have that final mug of caffeine at the first opportunity I get. I used to be sceptical about whether cutting out caffeine was actually working for me. But since I started cutting out tea as well I have found that I am getting to sleep earlier.

I think overall the year so far has been positive in terms of getting my sleep under control. Now what I am aiming for is to start waking up regularly at 1000 without feeling rotten and hauling myself out of bed at that time as well!

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