I arrived on campus exactly one week ago. I am, however, just able to update my blog because I had to attend various orientations and meetings of sorts with my friends and colleagues. In addition, I am ill. I am now starting to think that I might have contracted my illness on the airplane, which House M.D. would call a “flying cesspool.” Of course, it also could have been the cold temperature. In any case, a mild case such as this hardly serves as an obstacle as I pursue my objectives this semester.
All exams are held at 8 am. Lectures, labs and small groups are held later. So I began to think about my sleeping schedule. When is the optimal time to go to bed and get up, and how many hours should I sleep? So I immediately began my crude research.
I was able to find the above figure on the National Sleep Foundation website. Although 7 – 9 hours of sleep is recommended, 6 hours may also be appropriate. And this was good news because I usually sleep for six hours unless I’m on the first week of vacation.
Then, I needed to decide when I should go to bed. For this one, I wanted more evidence to support my argument. My primary objective is to schedule my lifestyle around my exam because that is the most important activity. Moreover, all other activities are held later in the day.
From personal experience, I know that I feel groggy and not “fully awake” as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. Then, my question was, “how long does it take for me to be “fully awake?” That is the real question.
As I was googling, I came across the term “sleep inertia.” According to Jewett et al., sleep inertia is the impairment of alertness and performance immediately upon waking from sleep. And this phenomena “has been observed in a wide variety of performance tasks, including short-term memory, vigilance and other measures of cognitive functioning, as well as reaction time, ability to resist sleep and grip strength.” Excellent! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!
To put it short, fifteen young men (mean age +/- SD, 22.7 +/- 3.4 years; range, 19-29 years) were studied. This is good because I fit that profile. The researchers measured subjective alertness and cognitive throughput against hours since scored waketime. They have concluded that “sleep inertia dissipated in an asymptotic manner and took 2-4 h to near the asymptote.” This suggests that there is some upper boundary to subjective alertness and cognitive throughput and that these are approached 2-4 hours after waking up. Furthermore, the researchers have concluded that “subjective alertness and cognitive throughput were significantly impaired upon awakening regardless of whether subjects got out of bed, ate breakfast, showered and were exposed to ordinary indoor room light (~150 lux) or whether subjects participated in a constant routine (CR) protocol in which they remained in bed, ate small hourly snacks and were exposed to very dim light (10-15 lux).” This suggests that a Red Bull in the morning may not relieve sleep inertia.
(Source: JEWETT, M. E., WYATT, J. K., RITZ-DE CECCO, A., KHALSA, S. B., DIJK, D.-J. and CZEISLER, C. A. (1999), Time course of sleep inertia dissipation in human performance and alertness. Journal of Sleep Research, 8: 1–8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.1999.00128.x )
In conclusion, my plan is to go to bed at midnight, sleep six hours, and wake up at 6 am. This will give me the appropriate amount of sleep and enough time to dissipate sleep inertia before taking my exams.
What is your sleep schedule like?