Sleep and Dark Room

Scientific research into sleep has revealed its importance as regards memory and general performance. How much is debatable, but I can feel significant differences in my mental functioning depending on the amount and quality of sleep I got the night before.

I've read a lot of sleep research, but I won't go into it here. Suffice it to say that:

  • Different people require different amounts of sleep -- not everyone's the same as you
  • Darkness is important for deep sleep (note the pineal gland's reaction to light in the eyes)
  • Interrupted sleep, due to noises, a sleeping mate, etc., affects sleep quality

I run odd hours, as when I feel mentally sharp, I want to work, no matter what time it is. I always found it difficult to run an 8 to 5 normal schedule, and this is one reason I quit fulltime work to become a consultant (but not the biggest reason, as discussed elsewhere).

To obtain darkness when I need to sleep, I have blocked all light entering the windows of my bedroom, by cutting big sheets of black posterboard plastic to fit my windows and then using a few layers of duct tape to seal around the edges. The result is that you cannot tell whether it's day or night in my bedroom, except for a few little glow spots comparable to the LEDs on my mobile phone charger and air conditioner. I have a wristwatch which lights up when I push the button, and this is what I rely on to find out the time.

(Notably, I poked a little hole at the bottom of one of the plastics, like a camera aperture whereby the whole room is the inside of the camera, so that an exact image of the outside is projected on the opposite wall, and stretched out on the ceiling and walls. This makes the room like a giant pinhole camera. It's really cool to see. However, I cover up the hole with tape most of the time, even though the amount of light is hardly noticible, because it becomes the one bright point in the room.)

I almost never use an alarm clock. All phones are disconnected, and only certain key people know how to wake me. I avoid morning appointments as best I can. I sleep until I wake up. That's usually about 8 hours, or less if I got a good nap the day before, or slightly more if I did a long day before (e.g., a 28 hour day).

Another thing I do is take a nap about halfway thru the day. I feel much fresher the second half of the day if I was able to get a nap.

I rarely drink any alcohol, though I am an occasional social drinker or sometimes late at night alone at a bungalow. My limit is usually 2 or 3 drinks, full stop. From experience, I know when to say when. Many years ago, I wasn't the same, but I don't like hangover days, and I have read about the effects of alcohol on the brain, especially in more than moderate doses and over time.

The rest of this article probably has more to do with my genetic makeup than other peoples', as I have seen that many other people are different, whereas my daughters are very similar to me.

My mind is clearest in the morning. I have just a cup of tea with a slice of lemon, no sugar. Sometimes milk in my tea instead of the lemon. I don't eat breakfast for several hours (like my daughters), because I lose some mental sharpness after eating, when the blood goes to the stomach to digest food and maybe there's some blood chemical reactions going on. Coffee does not make me feel as good as tea, and in fact I avoid coffee. I put my lemon slice in the hot tea which cooks it a little, before I drop in the ice to bring it down to body temperature or less, then I chomp down that slice. I don't know why, but lemon rind has also always given me a lift. Sugar gives me a temporary lift but my mind doesn't feel as sharp later, so it's better if I skip it altogether, though I will sometimes put fructose into my tea (it's sweeter than sugar, and metabolized differently) or some Sweet & Low (saccharine). I stay away from aspartame (NutraSweet (R)) because I find that chemical questionable.

Within the first few hours, I may snack on almonds or sunflower seeds (uncooked or dry roasted, but not the usual fried ones in 7-11), or boiled egg, or cottage cheese. I tend to go high protein, low carb in the morning, and high carb in the evening.

Several hours later, often mid-afternoon, I will have a good sized brunch -- lots of protein, starches, and quality oils. About an hour after that, I feel tired, so it's siesta time -- time for a nap. The nap generally lasts about an hour. Then I feel fresh again like I first woke up for the day.

For some reason, at night I don't get the siesta feeling after dinner, so dinner tends to be my mail meal of the day. Also, I don't feel the longterm after effects of sugar at night, so I tend to have sweet things like fruits at night. I don't understand why. However, I avoid eating close to sleep, and especially avoid salty, acidic or spicy things which may influence sleep. Baked potatoes and red rice are my favorite starches for concentration.

I avoid refined sugars altogether except at night when I may eat chocolate or somesuch. I don't completely understand why, but I don't feel as sharp about an hour after eating sweet stuff during the daytime, though at night it doesn't seem to affect me for some reason. I've been this way ever since I started watching my diet at around age 20.

Different people have different bodies, but this is what works for me. > Lifestyle > Sleep

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