How to train myself to sleep less?

by Yang Yang on November 19, 2014

Someone asked a question:

I have been trying to reduce how long I sleep so that I have more waking hours available. I have read this question, and this one but it does not really give an answer.

My question is whether I can train my body to sleep less. I currently have about 6.5 to 7 hours sleep per night. If I reduce that to 6 hours every night for the next two months, and then down to 5.5 hours then onward, will my body get adjusted to the new sleep pattern?

When I was 22 and just graduated from college I had the same idea as you do now. As a workaholic who’s passionate about his work (software development) and very determined about his goal, I would keep working until late night and get up very early. The average sleep I got was about 5 hours per day, EVERYDAY, for 5 years, even on weekends. There’s always so much that I could do to make my projects better thus making more money.

For the first few years it was all good and rewarding because I was young and I had the power and energy to keep it going, even on very stressful times. But eventually I started noticing changes with regards to my body:

  1. I started going to doctors more often than my peers.
  2. My vision started to deteriorate, albeit slightly.
  3. I started losing hair.
  4. I started to forget stuff which shouldn’t be an issue before.
  5. Last but the most important, when you sleep less for very long time, eventually you’ll actually sleep less because it takes longer for you to fall asleep and you easily wake up.

So for a short answer, yes you can train your body to sleep less, but do make sure it’s not very long as to years so you can easily recover. It may not be obvious but sleeping less than you body needs DOES undermine your health. However the amount of sleep everybody needs may vary because we are designed differently in genes.

For a long answer, no, sleeping less wouldn’t let you get more things done in the long term. Everything has a price. It’s actually against productivity rather than for it. When I look back how I went through these years in retrospect, I could have not pushed myself that hard but still accomplish the same results. Productivity is about getting the most out of time rather than getting the most time. Lots of people have got plenty of time in their life, even more than they need, still they blow it. In fact, when I was in college, some of the top performing students actually sleep more than the average.

So sleep as much as you want. Time enjoyed is NOT wasted. Sleep is beautiful. Don’t waste it for some stupid things that you need done!

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

–The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6

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