How to get by on less sleep

Often I think about what a shame it is that many of us have to spend eight hours or even more in a state of pretty much total unconsciousness. Of course, if we suddenly try to reduce that time, we just end up in a state of disorientation and crankiness, but there are a few things we can do to slowly and naturally reduce the amount we sleep and claim back more time for the things we really want to do:

1. If we have more quality, we need less quantity

When I was in college, I was convinced I needed nine hours minimum rest – however, when I look back, I see that rest included at least an hour tossing and turning around before sleep finally descended, and even then I could still sense my mind turning around like a washing machine. When I took steps to improve the quality of my sleep, I found that the quantity I needed also decreased. Here are a couple of things worth considering:

  • Try to turn off any mental disturbances (e.g computer or tv) half an hour before bedtime; the mental spill over from what we were watching or working on can often accompany us to bed and affect our sleep quality.
  • Many of us will take a shower and a change of clothes when we come home from work; it helps to put the workday behind us. Similarly, a shower (or even washing face and hands) before bedtime helps us to clense ourselves of the experiences of the day and not carry them into our sleep.
  • When the mind is calm, you can sink into a much deeper, more refreshing level of sleep. A five minute practice of meditation just before you turn in can give you that clarity of mind and enable a nights sleep unhindered by nightmares and other mental disturbances. Tejvan wrote about a meditation exercise you can try a few weeks ago…

2. A short daily nap

Much of our tiredness comes from stresses and strains which gradually build up during the day. A twenty minute nap in the afternoon can be just the thing to settle the nerves and give you a new lease of life going into the second part of the day. It also has the effect of tricking the mind into thinking that you’ve actually slept for longer, which means it can be a very good way to compensate for any reduced sleep you’ve gotten the night before.

3. Reduce sleep gradually, not suddenly

If you suddenly decide you are going to sleep for four hours a night, it will very quickly tell upon your health and well being. The best thing to do is reduce in small increments, say, fifteen minutes at a time. Once you have been at that level for a few weeks and your body has adjusted, then you can you can try and reduce by another fifteen minutes.

4. Try this concentration exercise

There are concentration excercises you can do which, when practiced properly, can be used in times of tiredness to give you the same amount of rest as sleep. This one in particular was suggested by my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy:

Try to feel that your entire body, from head to foot, represents a sea of peace. Feel that you have become peace itself, that you embody peace within and without. Try to feel your physical frame consciously, but at the same time feel that you are an infinite expanse of peace. When you can consciously feel this expanse of peace, you will see that your physical body, flesh, blood and bones, has totally merged and disappeared into that sea of peace.

In ancient times, yogis and meditation practitioners would use techniques like this to get the equivalent amount of rest in seconds to minutes and hours of sleep.

5. Another trick you can play on the mind

While I was researching the above quote, I found something else my teacher suggested which I had completely forgotten about:

Also, when you go to bed, just try to feel that you are going to sleep for twenty-four hours. Then, even though the clock will say that you have slept only three or four hours, your very first thought as soon as you wake up should be that you have slept for twenty-four hours. The mind can convince the outer consciousness, and immediately you will believe it. This is not self-deception; it is proper use of the conscious mind. The figure twenty-four has enormous strength. It immediately gives us a sense of comfort, relief, pleasure, fulfilment.

This advice has definitely saved me on a couple of occasions when I had three or four hours sleep with a big day ahead of me the next day.

If anyone has any additional tips, please let us know!

(Photo: stxchng.hu)

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10 thoughts on “How to get by on less sleep”

  1. Great advice! I have to say that my nightly meditation practice makes a huge difference to the quality of my sleep.

    One thing I’ve also noticed, in myself and in my clients. When we’re aligned with our Soul’s highest path and purpose, we are naturally more energized. It takes a lot of energy to stay in misalignment, because we are working against our Soul’s inherent nature that longs to express itself.

    Sometimes we feel too tired to undertake major life changes – when in reality, those very major life changes would energize us tremendously and improve our overall well-being, as well as launch us forward in our spiritual growth.

    Blessings,
    Andrea

  2. I’ve been taking power naps for years, and can attest to their benefits.

    One warning though: It can often take up to 30 minutes to “wake up” from a restorative power nap. This is why a lot of people who try them say, “I don’t like power naps because I always wake up feeling more tired than before I went to sleep!”

    And that’s true for about 10-30 minutes. That’s why after a power nap I usually try to do something not too taxing, but still somewhat mind engaging. For me, that happens to be a glass of water and responding to email. Others may find a walk to be helpful.

    Long story short: For those reading this article who try the power nap, don’t get discouraged by the initial tiredness you feel upon waking up. It’s normal and ultimately well-worth it.

  3. I did an experiment with sleep called Polyphasic Sleep. I took 15 minute naps every four hours around the clock. In other words, I was averaging 1.5 hours of sleep on a 24 hour period. I did this for 273 days.

    What are the positive effects that polyphasic sleep have had on my physical, emotional and mental states?

    1. In the first 48 hour, my was intuition heightened, the mental chatter cleared (like that of a meditational state), and I begin to realize how to live in the moment rather then by a day and night schedule. I begin at once writing what I was receiving from within.

    2. My logical mind dulled while my creative imaginative mind accelerated giving me a child-like sense of everything being exciting, new, fun and perfectly fine. Unlocking this part of my mind again allowed me to understand the power of the imagination to solve any problem from within (the key of life) using the engine to creative power and see many more choices that my logic couldn’t imagine by putting limiting beliefs on Self.

    3. Time became non-realistic in all terms that time can be perceived since I am up for 22.5 hours in a 24 hour period. I came to understand time as non-existent because there is so much of it. When people refer to yesterday, I can not place when one moment to a next moment was yesterday. It is all a continuous streaming reality with no approach or separation between days and nights to me. I notice the shift from day to night but I do not shift with it in form of a schedule. Instead I listen to my physical, emotional and mental bodies in the moment to signal me when it is time to do something, you would be surprised by how much you do things based on habit of a night/ day cycle.

    4. During the process of adopting this sleeping pattern all my five senses dulled and when all the five senses returned, they were much sharper, aware, alert, alive and clear. As if I were in a dream all my life and just waking up to a new world that is much more vibrate and vivid.

    5. I feel the elevation of my consciousness to higher states of awareness. I also feel a connection to myself, (noticing more of what is already within the Universal Knowledge of Self) to everyone else and everything around me. This connection has made my conversations with people much more meaningful and helpful in developing and growing conscious states.

    6. My dreams are more vivid, intense, and real. I often have lucid dreams and I remember my dreams quite easily, which is very helpful in consciousness advancement since dreams are a reflection of reality.

    7. The ability to remember things (on a short-term and long-term span) has increased dramatically, the motivation I have has improved, and my concentration as well. I literally feel like a much more intelligent person, as if my brain waves are more active. Rather that is the case or not, it is very self-reassuring and builds confidence to a higher focus.

    8. After every nap I feel refreshed, energized, wide-awake, with no feelings of tiredness, drowsiness or grogginess. Even when my naps times come around I still do not feel tired, drowsy or groggy. These feelings are non-existent to me ever since I adopted this sleeping pattern. When a naptime is close (15-20 minutes) my body gives me a signal by making my eyes slightly heavier and relaxing my body a bit more. Nothing too intense, just enough to let me know that naptime is close and every nap feels like an eight hour restful sleep.

    9. All activities of stress, worry, depression, negative thoughts and seeing things as problems have vanished. The mind is the corporate that leads to all these things. The mental noise in the background that is in continuous struggle trying to make things better and always questioning with “what if” dilemmas. This sleeping pattern puts that mind chatter to rest and opens up a new way of thinking.

    10. Jet lag is the result of the circadian rhythm being unbalanced. Circadian rhythm is a natural rhythm that the body adopts based on day and night schedules. When you adopt the polyphasic sleeping pattern then the circadian rhythm is replaced since you will no longer have a day and night schedule, making the experience of jet lag nonexistent.

    If oyu interested in knowing more, you can read the logs that I wrote everyday as I went through this experience: http://consciousflex.blogspot.com/2008/01/polyphasic-sleep-by-nicholas-powiull.html

    Thank you for this article, people definitely need whole lot less sleep then they get, in my experience.

    Have a Consciously Flexing day,
    ~Nicholas Powiull @ Conscious Flex

  4. I hope this hippy junk works between full time work and full time school plus 2 hours commute everyday i’m lucky to get 5 hrs. Ok, so; 20 min power nap, peace itself is a physical entity that just so happens to be me (aren’t I lucky), and tricking myself into thinking i’ve slept 24 hours. Sure i’ll give anything a shot. Cuz seriously.. dude…

  5. Hello there,
    what I’ve learnd is this: Every night, in bed, before I fall asleep, I have to consiously repeat myself a positive short line. Like: “I feel good”. Try to say this (silently) until you fall asleep. Try to avoid all other thoughts. Just keep on saying, in a friendly manner. Maybe some other short sentence is working better for you. By saying this, you are giving your UNconsious a positive message that will relax throughout your complete sleep.

  6. we can manage with less amount of sleep only for some days if that is going to be on a long strand then definitely it is going to raise only problems to your health. concentration level reduces your whole body will always feels the tiredness etc.,

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