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March 29, 2013

Power Sleep by Dr. James B. Maas

Sleep is one of the most basic human functions, yet in today’s non-stop society we need to study it and understand how to do it effectively within our busy schedules. Before the invention of the electric light, most people went to sleep shortly after sunset. Since many of us, use alarm clocks and caffinated drinks to hack our sleep schedules to conform with our daily responsibilities and desires, it’s good to a book that explicitly reminds us what sleep should be. The book starts by describing the effects of sleep debt on our mood, cognitive ability, creativity, and all other aspects of our consciousness. After covering why sleep is important, and what happens if you deprioritize sleep, Dr. Maas begins sections on giving advice on how to handle situation that cause fatigue: travel, new parents, caretakers, shift workers, etc.

On average how many hours does a person need per night? The answer is 10 hours. I know most people don’t even approach 10 hours per night, and are in fact closer to the 6-8 hour range. Some common patterns that occur in sleep deprived people are: requiring an alarm clock to wake, sleeping much longer than your usual wake up time on the weekends, and other more subtle examples. “One night of good sleep can not wipe out a long overdue sleep debt, anymore than a single day of diet and exercise can wipeout months/years of unhealthy eating.” The first step in improving sleep is to prioritize it, and to develop good sleep patterns and schedules. Like any new schedule, it takes some time for it to become a habit: usually a few weeks. It’s important to have your sleep environment as optimized towards good sleep as possible to maximize the effectiveness while minimizing the time. Some good sleep environment tips: invest in a good pillow, might be time for a new mattress, no TV/work/eating/computers in bed, 65F temperature, dark and quiet. Assuming you want to add more sleep to your busy schedule, it’s important to do it gradually, just adding as little as 1 hour to your existing sleep schedule will have a dramatic effect.

If you’re still not convinced of the dangers of not sleeping effectively, and carrying around a sleep debt, there are a dozen or so examples of tragedic outcomes to sleep deprevation in this book. There is also a short ‘self-test’ you can take to check your current level of sleep debt. The details of how sleep works, the various stages, and waveforms: alpha, beta, theta, and delta and their frequency and duration during a night’s sleep are also explained.

Jet lag tip: traveling east is harder than traveling west. Tips for handling jet lag: gradually adjust your home sleep schedule slowly toward your new destination’s sleep schedule. Use burst of daylight to adjust your biological clock to the new timezone.

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