Optimizing Sleep

I have an atyp­i­cal sleep sched­ule. I tend to drift in the hours that I keep (that is, go­ing to sleep later and later each day un­til a ‘re­set’ is re­quired). I also am will­ing to sac­ri­fice sleep if some­thing suffi­ciently in­ter­est­ing or ur­gent (prob­lem sets, a Neal Stephen­son book, a new Less Wrong ar­ti­cle about an in­ter­est­ing topic) comes up. While pro­cras­ti­na­tion ear­lier in the day can also play a part in my stay­ing up late, I’ve no­ticed that, left to my own de­vices, I seem to pre­fer a day-night in­ver­sion. I’m nat­u­rally much more ac­tive at night than dur­ing the day, and will skip a meal or two in or­der to main­tain this sched­ule. (Note: I re­al­ize that day-night sleep in­ver­sion can be a sign of a med­i­cal ill­ness. For rea­sons I won’t go into here, I don’t be­lieve that any of them are ap­pli­ca­ble.)

The sched­ule that I have now is not op­ti­mal for a num­ber of rea­sons:

  • Not be­ing able to so­cial­ize with very many other peo­ple due to not sync­ing up with their sched­ules.

  • ‘Drift­ing’ leads to un­pre­dictabil­ity in my abil­ity to func­tion at a given time dur­ing an up­com­ing day- which is im­por­tant for tests and classes.

  • Sleep­ing dur­ing the day is more difficult than at night (ex­tra noises, dis­trac­tions, etc.)

    What I’d like to do is figure out how to op­ti­mize my sleep sched­ule. I’d pre­fer not to just ‘in­vert’ it to be a typ­i­cal sleep sched­ule, but to ei­ther al­ter the sleep sched­ule or dis­cover changes that I can make in other parts of my life that will miti­gate the down­sides. Some things are ob­vi­ous: microwav­able food for when noth­ing else is available at night is one change that I can make right away and would min­i­mize the dam­age from skip­ping meals. The so­cial is­sues and ‘drift­ing’ are more com­pli­cated and don’t pre­sent an ob­vi­ous solu­tion af­ter a few min­utes of re­flec­tion. The rea­son I re­sist chang­ing back to a reg­u­lar sleep sched­ule is that I know that I’m groggy and mis­er­able in the morn­ing and less pro­duc­tive un­til about noon of that day if forced to op­er­ate un­der a reg­u­lar sleep sched­ule.

    Do you have an atyp­i­cal sleep sched­ule now, or have you in ear­lier parts of your life? I would haz­ard a guess that among the Less Wrong/​Ra­tion­al­ity/​Skep­tic/​Bayesian com­mu­nity, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in sleep sched­ule would be higher than in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Have you tried a polypha­sic sleep sched­ule? (I once un­suc­cess­fully did a few years ago in hopes of solv­ing some of the above prob­lems.) If you have ex­pe­rienced these or similar prob­lems, what ‘hacks’ have you found that miti­gate the down­sides?

    (Note: This is my first dis­cus­sion post. I apol­o­gize in ad­vance if the for­mat­ting or con­tent seems a bit askew as a re­sult. Con­struc­tive crit­i­cism is of course wel­come.)