Sleeping patterns: update after nine months

I’m not sure how this post will be taken. The first update got 20 comments, the second one got zero. It does seem a bit self-indulgent. But I promised to keep you updated on the experiment so here it is.

If you missed the original posts, basically I made it my new years resolution to get my sleeping patterns in order. A big part of that is logging all sorts of information to do with my sleep so that I can see how things are progressing. I have already posted updates at the 3 month and 6 month marks. Today marks the end of the 9th month, and I am three quarters of the way through the experiment.

Sleep graph 1 after 9 months

As in the previous posts, these graphs all depict 7-day rolling averages. Hopefully the labels are self-explanatory. As you can see, my sleep still has these annoying cycles which I’m trying to shake off at the moment. I am still experimenting a bit, seeing what I can do to make the situation better.

At the beginning of August I decided I would go to bed quite early regardless of how tired I felt, no matter whether I thought I would get to sleep or not. The result was that I was actually getting to sleep later than I had been (as the blue line heads down, the red line heads up). By the end of the week I felt awful and I knew that I had wasted a lot of time just lying awake in bed. I think it is probably better to tire yourself out before you retire to bed.

Looking towards the end of the graph, it also seems as though the lines are beginning to flat-line rather than go in these peaks and troughs that I am trying to get rid of. There is a slow but definite drift upwards though due to a lack of commitments giving me little incentive to get up early.

Just now I am going to bed later than I have for a number of months and I am not getting up until after noon. So in the short term I’ll be working to bring those times back earlier again.

Sleep graph 2 after 9 months

In this graph you can quite clearly see the point where I tried going to bed early — the highest peak in the ‘insomnia’ graph all year. You can see the knock-on effect that had as a whole by the red and green peaks as well. All-in-all, I was spending almost 12 hours per day in bed. That’s not on as far as I’m concerned, and it’s good to see that the whole thing has calmed down a lot over the past couple of months, with a prolonged period where I was only spending 9 hours per day in bed. I’m aiming to keep this below 10 hours in the long run.

Slept in - 9 months One annoying feature of my sleeping patterns that has crept in over the past few months is waking up early for no apparent reason. The graph to the right demonstrates this.

The blue line shows the difference between the time I set my alarm for and the time I wake up every day. The red line is a 7-day rolling average and there is a grey trendline. As you can see, the spikes below zero are becoming more frequent than they were at the start of the year.

I think like most people I have always woken up in the middle of the night, but normally I am able to go straight back to sleep. More and more, I find myself unable to simply turn over and fall asleep again and I actually end up staying awake until I get up. Strangely, this seems to happen most often on Saturdays. That used to be the day when I slept in the most.

Alarm - 9 months What I also find amusing about the graphs is just how much you can tell about my life just by looking at them. Take the time I set my alarm for. You can see more or less the exact point where I finish university, when the regular early starts stop in March. You can even see that extra-evil exam when I had an extra-early start.

From then on, the time I set my alarm at more or less goes wherever my whim takes me. But you can still see little glimpses into my life. Those moments where I set my alarm at 0830 every two weeks or so? Formula 1 practice sessions. You can even see the point when it was the Canadian Grand Prix rather than a European race, the giveaway being that there is no early start for around four weeks in June. The line goes even further up because there was no early Sunday morning start for the GP2 race! The same happened when there was no F1 action for three weeks in August.

All-in-all, I’m pleased with my progress so far during the year. But the times have not become much earlier since I wrote my last update in July. Then I said my aim was to start getting up regularly at 1000. I have failed to do that and the trendline still rests above 1100. The times remain around an hour earlier than they were at the start of the year — the same as six months ago.

My target for the rest of the year now is to take all of the activity an hour earlier, then get rid of the ‘cycles’ so that I have a regular pattern. There are a couple of challenges ahead, namely the Japanese and Chinese Grands Prix which are coming up in a couple of weeks. That will inevitably cause havoc.

On my side, though, is the fact that the clocks change later this month. Essentially, my target therefore is to keep my sleeping patterns as they are. That might seem like a bit of a cop-out, but I’m sure most of this is psychological.

Perhaps unwisely, I didn’t take into account daylight savings time in my graphs. This means that instead of getting up (etc.) one hour earlier, I have really got up two hours earlier. But in a way I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, how much do I feel like I need to get up if I wake up at 1000? How different does that feel if I wake up at 1100? My aim is to start feeling like I should get up at 1000.

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