Benny's Adventures

The Secrets of Sleep

I’ve struggled with sleep for a long time and for a while I thought all sorts of things were wrong with me. However, partly due to increased pressure from having a full-time job, I finally made a breakthrough that made sleep so much more enjoyable.

What follows is a collection of things I’ve found that helped me and some thoughts I’ve had that solved the issue.

1. Follow the Body’s Sleep Cycles – Sleep in Multiples of 1.5 Hours

It’s generally common knowledge that an average human “should” get 8 hours of sleep. However, would you believe that getting less sleep could be even better?

Now, let me clarify – it’s not getting less sleep that makes it better but being able to work with how your body sleeps. The main issue to avoid is waking up when you’re in the middle of a sleep cycle. From what I can find the average sleep cycle is 90 minutes. 8 hours will wake you up right in the middle of the sixth cycle. After doing the 8 hour thing for a long time and then switching to being conscious of the 90 minute cycles the difference was immediately noticeable.

The nail in the coffin for me was this weekend actually where I went to bed without setting an alarm. I woke up the first time after approximately 6 hours and then decided that I wanted to sleep some more. I woke up – again, naturally – 1.5 hours later. While this isn’t proof by any means the evidence is definitely in favor of the 90 minute sleep cycle.

I’ve been doing better now on 6 and occasionally 7.5 hours of sleep than I have trying to get as close to 8 as possible.

2. Don’t Snooze

Snoozing is bad for two reasons. The first is the inherent risk of sleepily turning off your alarm or sleeping beyond the critical point for being ready for work/school/whatever. The second reason is that even if you sleep for another 5 or 10 minutes, that could have you sinking into deep sleep and waking up from that would actually make you more tired. Avoid snoozing at all costs!

3. Don’t Treat Sleep Like a Chore You Don’t Want to Do

I tend to approach sleep like a chore, like something I’d rather not be doing. However, sleep is vital to many bodily functions related to recovering from your day. Are you a student looking to learn your material better? You need sleep! Are you a man or woman looking to become more fit? You need sleep! Are you a human being? You need sleep! Wikipedia does a pretty decent job summarizing the important functions of sleep.

It’s tough to adjust a mindset but adjusting the mindset with respect to sleep is so rewarding! In my case I went from setting an alarm for 8.5 hours of bedtime, getting approximately 8 hours of sleep including the time to get to bed, and then more often than not falling back asleep for another hour or so and rushing to get ready and get to work on time. In college my sleep schedule was even worse. Now however I’ve been doing pretty well with 6 hours of sleep. I’ve had more energy for work and have been able to do more in the day.

I think my sleep issues have been fixed! If something changes in the near future I’ll let you know, but if you’re having sleep issues I hope that this helps!

Of course, if you’re having serious problems, always check with a medical professional. I’m only going from Google and personal experience.

25 June 2011 Posted by | Feeling Good, Life, productivity | , , , , | Leave a comment

Noise Generators for a Better Life

I’ve recently been trying several things to try and calm me down. I’ve been dealing with a lot of motivational issues and part of the problem was being unable to focus. In theory white noise is supposed to help calm the mind whether it is to go to sleep or focus on an assignment or just be distraction free. I’ve found three sources of soothing noise that are useful, so check them out! They’ve been pretty effective so far in drowning out distractions such as footsteps outside my room and the occasional vibrational whine from the air vent above me.

 

1. RainyMood.com

This is a simple website. If you like the sound of rain, go to the website and you will hear the soothing sound of rain. There are occasional quiet thunders too. Rainy Mood is straightforward in that all it has is a big button to pause the sound and then to play it again.

2. White Noise (by Speech Privacy Systems)

This noise generator offers several features for the basic user. There is a premium option available but I find the free features sufficient. In this tool the Main Volume and Main Balance options are straightforward. The next option is the Volume Variation – this creates an amplitude of variation for the volume. The frequency cannot be changed as far as I can tell.

Now for the main feature – the noises! This site offers waterfall, wind, static, rainfall, and beach. You can adjust the volume of all of these independently to create a pleasing sound for you. You can also save what you get as a preset, though I can’t vouch for the permanency of it.

This is a more featured white noise generator if you don’t particularly like rain or need something a bit more.

3. Simply Noise

Simply Noise is different from RainyMood and the previous White Noise site because it deals in abstracts. You can choose from white noise, pink noise, and brown noise which all have a definition that you can look up on Wikipedia. These are not as intuitive in that “pink noise” does not evoke something from nature or experience. However these abstract noises can be soothing and Simply Noise claims to be useful for applications like a sleep aid, making tinnitus, and pacifying children and pets.

 

These are three aids I’ve found to help calm the brain down so that I can focus. If they help you out as well, let me know! And you can also let me know if you have other noise generators that are helpful to you.

For another tool that can help your productivity, take a look at my review of StayFocusd.

29 March 2011 Posted by | Internet, productivity | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

StayFocusd Review

StayFocusd 2StayFocusd from Transfusion Media is a free browser extension that claims to improve productivity by limiting your allowed time on websites of your choosing. The extension for Google Chrome is excellent at what it does and anyone whose primary distractions come from browsing the web should take a look at it.

I’ve used it for a little over a week now and my time on Reddit and StumbleUpon have decreased drastically. To that extent StayFocusd does its job very well. The settings are a little bit on the stiff side when it comes to time allowed per day but the other StayFocusd options are excellent. The user can choose which days the extension is active (I’ve used this to disable StayFocusd on Friday and Saturday when I generally have time to goof off), set what hours during the day which StayFocusd is active, and more. Should you get desperate there’s also the “Nuclear Option” which can block everything or everything but your allowed sites for a specified number of hours.

StayFocusd 3

One nifty features is the ability to require a challenge to change any settings. The challenge is a typing activity that you must get EXACTLY right to change StayFocusd settings – typos and backspacing is not allowed. This does precisely what the setting description claims it does- it makes it inconvenient to change settings. I’ve never had to use it but I can see how this would come in handy.

Transfusion Media has provided a great extension for Chrome with StayFocusd that can serve as a useful tool in maintaining productivity. The extension is wonderful but ultimately the discipline must come from the user. My experience with StayFocusd has been positive but the important thing to remember is that if you let a lack of discipline manifest in other ways then StayFocusd can’t really be much use. That being said, StayFocusd is a good tool to have.

1 March 2011 Posted by | Internet, productivity | , , , , , | 2 Comments

My First Extension: StayFocusd

I’ve used Chrome for a while but never really bothered with the extension scene. This was the same back in the day when I used Firefox. However I tried my first extension today in an attempt to increase my productivity.

I didn’t set out to do that but I was browsing the Chrome extensions rated highest and stumbled across StayFocusd.

StayFocusd

The premise of this extension is blocking access to a website after an allotted amount of time. The precise configuration of length of time and days active can be configured in the settings.

What I’ve set up is a system where I block the sites that I waste the most time on during the useful work week, which I defined personally to be Sunday through Thursday, inclusive. I left Friday and Saturday open because I’d like to relax before I get back to work on Sunday.

I’ll see how this extension works and report on it at the end of this week. Hopefully one of the benefits you’ll see is more posts on my blog.

20 February 2011 Posted by | productivity | , , | 3 Comments

My Path to Getting Things Done

There are two components to getting things done:

  1. Motivation
  2. Discipline

These are the two major categories that I think everything related to getting things done falls under. I did a brief search of the blogosphere and found several interesting pieces on the concept of “getting things done.” There’re even Getting Things Done (GTD) Systems and whole books about this.

The different thoughts and systems all dance around the aforementioned core concepts. The following discussion is not meant to serve as strict rules that you must follow but as inspiration to develop your own mindset and methodology to reaching your goals. Here is my way:

  1. Motivation
    • First, determine what there is to be done. This can be assignments from class, hobbies, or random things that have come up for any reason.
    • Now prioritize these tasks. Tasks with deadlines get top priority, obviously. Hobbies and other things are more flexible.
    • Finally these tasks are in a position to gain motivation.
      • Find the light at the end of the tunnel for everything you want to do. The most important thing is to make the light concrete. For school make sure the goal is a tangible reward such as a higher GPA. For other tasks make sure there is an end product that you can look at and know you’re done. Abstract ideas are troublesome because humans can rationalize away delays or anything else that can set you back.
      • Decide why these goals help you get what you want. It helps to make these as tangible as possible (“a great job in the future” is better than simply “success”, for example)
  2. Discipline
    • Start! The most important thing is to actually start whatever task you are currently working on. Don’t tell yourself you’ll start after you check your e-mail or catch up on Facebook updates. Just start!
    • Don’t get distracted.

I think the two biggest points to this process is deciding why you want to reach your goals and starting. Once you figure out why you want something your human nature is to reach for it. The next tough thing is to actually start working on it. If you accomplish that the completion does not take as much will power.

As I mentioned earlier these ideas serve more as guidelines so feel free to adapt them into your own process or modify these ideas with other tools. For example, following this process is simplified by Google Tasks. Just make sure you don’t lose yourself in setting yourself up for success and forget to actually succeed (like I said… Start! Just do it!0.

9 December 2010 Posted by | Feeling Good, Life, productivity | , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Lead a Productive Life: Relax!

There are two articles I’ve read recently that lead me to make this claim. I’ll also define it more clearly. First, here are the articles:

“Sleeping on a problem” may be the best way to solve it

This article reports on a study that indicates that unconscious thoughts can produce better decision than conscious or immediate thought.

Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brain

This article basically describes the brain as a muscle that becomes tired even when doing seemingly simple things like deciding what to eat for breakfast.

Let’s make it clear now that I don’t mean slacking off is the way to succeed in life. When you have a problem set you have to do it’s clearly not in your best interest to decide to sleep rather than work on it, or so I hope. The first article comes into play if you are stuck on a particular problem on the problem set that you would like insight on AND you have time to think about it. (This is reason to start your work earlier than the night before it’s due!) Common sense always applies.

What I am recommending is being conscious of your brain’s energy level and how your choices will affect it. In my life this issue came up when I overloaded my class schedule and took on more responsibilities with the organizations I’m involved with. This wore me down mentally and physically. Ignoring the physical consequences (I was very sick most of the time), I still remember clinging on to the hope that the next semester would be better and when registration time for classes came around I made the choice to overload again.

It’s tough to say why exactly I made the choice but it did not lead to good things. I think what happened is something like this:

“Why is this so hard?”

“I SHOULD be able to do this.”

“Well I know I could do it so I’ll just minimize damage now and do it next semester.”

“I’ve GOT to pull it off! I KNOW I can do it!”

With the experience I have now I realize it was not the best course of thought. I’ve noticed myself thinking similarly on smaller scales and that’s why I believe I kept my stubborn streak going due to a lack of decision-making ability.

On the other hand I’ve been able to keep up with my assignments better and generally stay on top of things this semester when my life has not been infinitely busy and I have maintained my energy level. It’s getting tough now as the semester comes to a close and my energy levels drop.

With this information in mind I’m planning on adjusting my mindset to take that into account and soar rather than crash this year, making sure to keep up good habits, and avoiding getting off track. And perhaps these thoughts will help you work better as well!

14 November 2010 Posted by | Life, productivity, Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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