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I'm Tav, a 29yr old from London. I enjoy working on large-scale social, economic and technological systems.

Variable Sleep Schedule
Sleep requirements map

My mother emailed me saying:

“We see what we believe, and not just the opposite; and to change what we see, it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe.”

I love my mum. She so wise! What she says seems to be the core message in personal development processes like “The Work” by Byron Katie.

And it also ties into what I've been pondering lately regarding sleep cycles. Especially since, whilst growing up, I experienced different sleep cycles with my mother. When really young, she'd wake me up really early. And then as a kid, we'd often talk late into the night whilst she worked on some poetry or did some research.

Sleep is one of those topics which many of us have rather fixed preconceptions about. We all need it. It plays a vital role in our well being. It plays a large part in defining our lifestyles. Yet, despite enjoyable dreams, it takes up so much of our short lives.

Now I've experimented with lots of different sleeping patterns. Everything from intense sleep deprivation to the Uberman sleep schedule. But I have yet to find the ideal sleep pattern. So I decided to map out my requirements:

  • An average of 6 hours of sleep a day.
  • Awake at dawn — the most magical time of the day.
  • Time for regular “meta” activities which are vital for a balanced life.
  • At least 10 hours “quiet” time every other day for highly productive work — for me this is often at night time hours when distractions are minimal.
  • Awake and alert for at least 10 hours of professional interactions with others every other day, e.g. negotiations, meetings, &c.
  • Awake across “normal” work times in various time zones — especially Europe, Americas and Asia.
  • Time to have an active social life — with lots of music and dancing.
  • Time to cuddle up with a lover — who probably also leads a busy life — after sex.

Some of these requirements are probably familiar to those who've read my earlier post on daily routines. The last point reminds me of one of the funniest videos I've seen in recent years:

Taking all of the requirements into account, I eventually ended up with the following ruleset. I call this the “Variable Sleep Schedule”:

  • Three sleep time slots are defined:
    • 2pm - 8pm (slot 1)
    • 8pm - 2am (slot 2)
    • 2am - 8am (slot 3)
  • Within the period of two days, two of those sleep slots must be filled. No more. No less.
  • Under ideal circumstances, sleep will be enjoyed during slot 1.
Tav's Online Activity 2000-2008

Not only does the above ruleset provide a useful and flexible structure. But as can be seen from the diagram representing my online activity hours over the last 8 years, it isn't too far off my existing “natural” pattern.

All times are in UK time — whether with daylight savings or otherwise. In fact, the time slots are specifically for the UK so that the timezone deviations with other regions fits in nicely. By sleeping during slot 1, I can be awake for:

  • Morning, lunch and late night interactions in the UK and Europe.
  • Afternoon and evening interactions in the Americas.
  • Morning, afternoon and evening interactions in Asia.

I can take advantage of the time immediately after waking up — when the brain is highly active — to do some quality productive work. Avoid the hassles of rush hour. And have meetings from 6 o'clock in the morning =)

And if for any unavoidable reasons, e.g. important afternoon meetings or social engagements, I have to skip sleep on any given day, I can catch up on the sleep debt by sleeping for 2 slots the next day.

In short, I am very excited by this sleep schedule! Question is, what will my lovers make of this? ;p