We, as a band, spend a lot of time thinking about sleep when we’re on tour. It could be argued that we spend more time thinking about it than actually doing it. It could also be argued that, for all the time and energy we put into debating what qualifies as right and wrong in the world of sleep, we have no idea what we’re talking about.
Most people are taught, at some point, that eight hours a night is “standard.” Anything less will kill you, anything more and you’re probably a communist. Misha swears that anything less than ten hours leaves him groggy and irritable, while I was once told by a very powerful man that the secret to his success was getting exactly six hours a night. It gets even more confusing when you factor in the sourceless anecdotes that, for instance, sleep deprivation doesn’t hit you until two days after, or that eight hours of drunk sleep only count as four hours of normal sleep, or that the human body was originally designed to sleep for a few hours at night and then take an after-lunch siesta, and so on.
So I did a little internet research and figured I’d share my findings.
FINDING #1: Sleep cycles last roughly 90 minutes. It varies from person to person and can change over time, but this is important to know, because it’s apparently really jarring (both physically and emotionally) to be awakened in the middle of REM sleep, which generally lasts about 20 minutes and starts one hour after falling asleep.
FINDING #2: If you want to be a famous inventor or dictator, try using the Uberman Sleep Schedule. Bear in mind, however, that this is totally insane and could possibly kill you. But you will be awake and (allegedly) functional for 22 hours out of every day.
FINDING #3: The primary function of sleep is memory upkeep and mental organization, rather than physical recovery or energy conservation. Which I thought was kind of cool.
CONCLUSION: My personal recommendation, as a semi-popular musician and amateur sleep therapist, is that you shoot for at least six hours a night, let yourself catch up on the weekends, and use a dual-setting alarm clock whenever possible. Take naps when you need them and don’t freak out if it’s 2:30am and you have to be at work by 7 – just remember that it’s better to get three hours and wake up between cycles than it is to get four hours and have an alarm clock rip you out of REM sleep.
Carpe noctum, and caveat lector.