The human body needs seven or eight hours of sleep per day – that’s a largely accepted fact that we’ll use as a premise. Most people get their sleep during one stretch in the night, mostly because that’s the time when they’re not working or in school.
For me, though, I realized that this sleeping pattern may not be the most optimal. What I actually found is that spacing out the sleep worked much better for me. I still get seven hours or sleep or so in a twenty four hour period, but I moved my sleep periods apart to provide breathing space for all of the activities that I accomplish.
On an average day, I have four sleep periods. I take a one hour nap around noon (during my lunch break at work – I requested and received a longer lunch break in exchange for coming in a bit earlier), a one hour nap around five in the afternoon (directly following work), a two hour sleeping period between ten in the evening and midnight, and another period between three thirty and about six thirty in the morning. I’ve only recently adapted to this sleeping routine because it has freed up that patch in the middle of the night to write.
What’s the logic behind this pattern? For the most part, I discover that after I’m awake for about six hours, I hit a strong groggy period. When I would sleep a normal eight hour period at night, I would have a period in the early afternoon where I would be hit with incredibly intense grogginess, almost falling asleep when I should be productive.
I then implemented the noon nap, but then I found that the groggy period would hit in the middle of the evening when I’d want to be playing with my son, around six or seven o’clock. Thus, I figured out that I could come straight home from work and take a brief nap before he arrived home from daycare. This enabled me to be wide awake during the evening hours, then give me a few hours of alertness after he goes to bed to take care of household tasks.
Very recently, I’ve been actually waking up at midnight and working on writing for three hours. I tried, for a time, waking up early to write and this worked well, but then I would get groggy about ten in the morning at work.
Why do this? It enables me to get a lot of things done that I wouldn’t ordinarily have time to do. The two periods where I nap were often unproductive – the first one was usually around lunchtime, when there’s a lot of water cooler talk, and the second one was during that post-work vegetative time where I would normally “unwind” from the day, which I’m just doing more intensely now. This has freed up a block of time in the middle of the night where the house is quiet and I can focus on my writing.
Doesn’t this interfere with other activities? On the weekend, the only part of this that interferes with a “normal” day is the five o’clock nap, which I sometimes skip if the situation calls for it and head to bed early. During the week, this pattern rarely interferes with anything at all.
Defining your own napping schedule Look for regular patterns during your day where you’re low on energy or when you always do something vegetative, like watching a television program right after work or getting drowsy right after lunch. Maybe for you it’s watching an hour of television in the evening before bed.
Whatever the case, when you identify those periods, look carefully for opportunities to nap at that time or just before it. Request a longer lunch break, for starters, to take a nap during lunch. See if you can go home before picking up your child from daycare for an hour and get a nap in there. Go to bed when your child does, then rise early and take advantage of the quiet.
The purpose is to sleep short periods more often, where the regular flow of life sees a valley. That way, you’re alert and ready for those times when there’s things to do and you’ll not find yourself getting behind. By converting to this, I found hours of alertness that enabled me to really chase my writing dreams.