I tried cutting sleep to 4 hours a day. Here is what happened
If I have to watch another video of someone advocating this crazy idea, I’ll smash my head into a wall.
But they convinced me a few years ago when I didn’t ask too many questions. If it is said by such a successful person it must be correct right?
I was working remotely as a software engineer at an auto company and managing their backend infrastructure for websites. I bought the idea of adding more hours to my day and excitingly wanted to try. I failed to get up at the planned time for 3 days in a row.
The idea of getting up at 4 was and putting on my hustling super suit was ludicrous. But I was determined to make it work. I spent about two weeks on this high-intensity extremely long hours routine. Two weeks is all my body could take.
The lessons I learned trying to cut my sleep to 4 hours a day were following.
1. I felt sick
The first morning I woke up, my eyes felt dry. My body felt tired. My brain felt dead. I dragged myself to the workspace with the thought that it’ll improve once I get coffee. I had a full mug but nothing changed. Nada. I started working anyways while dozing twice per minute.
That become my every morning and the rest of the day. I soon started having problems digesting food due to a lack of physical activity. My work required me to be glued to the screen and I couldn't afford any fancy toys that allowed you to be active while working.
I felt sick and walked around like a zombie. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to attend phone calls. I didn’t want to do anything except go back to sleep. I thought it was the result of a sudden shift and might improve in a few days. It only worsened.
2. My productivity suffered
The opposite of my goals happened. I realized I was working twice the hours to get half the results. I was busy for more than 16 hours a day but I wasn’t being productive. I wasn’t creating much. I was effectively grinding my soul but not getting the output I wanted. It didn’t matter what I tried or how badly I wanted it to change. I couldn’t. That was a constant.
I couldn’t think. I was having a hard time processing information, generating ideas, and thinking creatively in general. I was creating more bugs in my work. I had a hard time coming up with decent solutions and considering edge cases. It took me longer to understand the simplest concepts. I was frustrated far more often. I wasn’t the nicest person to work with.
3. Sleeping patterns were a mess
Imagine how a person would feel if they have been thinking about sleep for nearly 16 hours and can’t fall asleep when finally the time comes? Yeah, pretty shitty.
It was hard to stick to a sleeping pattern because I always had trouble sleeping right away like I normally used to. Sometimes it would take an hour and other times even longer.
When I finally slept, the quality of sleep wasn’t even average. After forcing my brain to process things for several hours, I had trouble putting a halt to it. I was trying to solve problems even while sleeping. I was coding in my dreams and that was a bizarre experience. This meant I would wake up feeling like I had worked the 4 hours I was supposed to rest.
4. I started dreading work
That was the result. I didn’t want any of it. I started dreading my work. I started dreading sitting down and working for another day. I didn’t care about the output anymore.
I was also too tired of fixing bugs that shouldn’t have existed in the first place, answering my foolish choices of code during PR reviews, and having trouble remembering the simplest commands.
All I wanted was some peace of mind and proper sleep.
That’s when I realized the importance of things we take for granted. How often do we stop to be grateful for a good peaceful night's sleep? If we only take away that peace, all our creativity, plans, goals, and dreams mean nothing. We wouldn’t want anything. We’d only crave sleep.
This isn’t me bashing guys working longer hours. I have nothing against them. I said in the beginning, working 16 hours and sleeping only 4 hours a day on a consistent basis isn’t for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me at that point in time. I haven’t tried it again since. I can easily push myself to 11–12 and not have any side effects the next day. I guess that’s my pace and I stick with that. I suggest you stick with yours.
I recommend sticking with whatever works best for you. If you can sleep for only 4 hours and still be the productive version of yourself, all power to you my friend.
If you can’t push yourself further than 10 hours of work, there is nothing wrong with that. You should aim to work the time you have with better focus, clarity, and goals.
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