Let’s face it, we could all use a few tips on how to stay awake especially those mariners working the late watch. From split watch schedules to operations requiring “All hands On Deck” sleep not only comes at a premium but is a critically important factor in accident prevention and remaining healthy. To highlight these issues we have brought you many articles on the subject including the popular “Night Shift A Cause Of Cancer” and “Get Some Sleep! Accident Photo Of The Week“. We will continue the series with tips on how to cheat sleep.
Editorial Note: Sleep loss and driving ships is a deadly combination. We don’t suggest you ever attempt to cheat sleep, we simply hope to broaden your knowledge in the subject.
The Basics Of Sleep
Quality not quantity. No matter how much your mother tells you that you need eight hours of sleep, if you’re not tired and you can’t truly relax, your sleep time will be worthless.
The key factor is the number of complete sleep cycles we enjoy. Each sleep cycle contains five distinct phases, which exhibit different brain- wave patterns. For our purposes, it suffices to say that one sleep cycle lasts an average of 90 minutes:
65 minutes of normal, or non-REM (rapid eye movement), sleep
20 minutes of REM sleep (in which we dream)
Final 5 minutes of non-REM sleep.
00-04 Watchkeepers: Maximize “Core Sleep”
“Core sleep” is a variant of Uberman sleep that adds a block of sleep, usually several hours, to the Uberman schedule, replacing one or two naps. (This term is also sometimes used to describe accidental oversleep by someone following Uberman, though one will more likely see the term “crash”, and occasionally “reboot”.) Another variant is called Everyman sleep schedule. Buckminster Fuller advocated Dymaxion Sleep, a regimen consisting of 30 minute naps every six hours. A short article was published about this schedule in the October 11, 1943 issue of Time Magazine. According to this article, he followed this schedule for two years, but after that had to quit because “his schedule conflicted with that of his business associates, who insisted on sleeping like other men.”
A successful midday nap depends on two things: timing and (no kidding) caffeine consumption. Experiments performed at Loughborough University in the UK showed that the sleep-deprived need only a cup of coffee and 15 minutes of shut-eye to feel amazingly refreshed.
1. Right before you crash, down a cup of java. The caffeine has to travel through your gastro-intestinal tract, giving you time to nap before it kicks in.
2. Close your eyes and relax. Even if you only doze, you’ll get what’s known as effective microsleep, or momentary lapses of wakefulness.
3. Limit your nap to 15 minutes. A half hour can lead to sleep inertia, or the spinning down of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which handles functions like judgment. This gray matter can take 30 minutes to reboot.
An all- carbohydrate snack, especially one high in junk sugars, is less likely to help you sleep. You’ll miss out on the sleep-inducing effects of tryptophan, and you may set off the roller-coaster effect of plummeting blood sugar followed by the release of stress hormones that will keep you awake. The best bedtime snack is one that has both complex carbohydrates and protein, and perhaps some calcium. Calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.
These are foods high in the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan:
Dairy products: cottage cheese, cheese, milk
Soy products: soy milk, tofu, soybean nuts
Foods that are high in carbohydrates and calcium, and medium-to-low in protein also make ideal sleep-inducing bedtime snacks. Some examples:
apple pie and ice cream (my favorite)
whole-grain cereal with milk
hazelnuts and tofu
oatmeal and raisin cookies, and a glass of milk
peanut butter sandwich, ground sesame seeds
Meals that are high in carbohydrates and low-to-medium in protein will help you relax in the evening and set you up for a good night’s sleep. Try the following “dinners for sleep”:
It’s hard to become an early riser using the wrong strategy. But with the right strategy, it’s relatively easy.
The most common wrong strategy is this: You assume that if you’re going to get up earlier, you’d better go to bed earlier. So you figure out how much sleep you’re getting now, and then just shift everything back a few hours. If you now sleep from midnight to 8am, you figure you’ll go to bed at 10pm and get up at 6am instead. Sounds very reasonable, but it will usually fail. The solution is to go to bed when you’re sleepy (and only when sleepy) and get up with an alarm clock at a fixed time (7 days per week). I always get up at the same time (in my case 5am), but I go to bed at different times every night.
After a few days of using this approach, I found that my sleep patterns settled into a natural rhythm. If I got too little sleep one night, I’d automatically be sleepier earlier and get more sleep the next night. And if I had lots of energy and wasn’t tired, I’d sleep less. My body learned when to knock me out because it knew I would always get up at the same time and that my wake-up time wasn’t negotiable.
A side effect was that on average, I slept about 90 minutes less per night, but I actually felt more well-rested. I was sleeping almost the entire time I was in bed.
In his new book "Leadership Is Language, The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don't", former submarine commander Captain L David Marquet (USN Ret) dives deep into one of the most thoroughly investigated marine disasters, the sinking of the El Faro, and surfaces with new ideas on leadership and language.
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