sleep stuff

So, I’ve never had particularly healthy sleep habits. I stay up too late, and want to sleep in late. Exercise in the past has been my only weapon against the otherwise sedentary computer nerd lifestyle – if I exercised regularly and vigorously, I could maintain a normal sleep schedule. Lately, though, everything just got out of whack. My sleep schedule was completely inverted and broken up. I’d want to be asleep from 4AM to 10AM, roughly – and every day in the middle of the day I’d be overcome with a near crippling desire to take a nap. As a whole, in addition, my energy levels have just been really, really low. This wasn’t exactly conducive to regular exercise, either, and so it was a fairly vicious cycle.

A few weeks ago, I found this app for the iphone called Sleep Cycle. It uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to measure your movement through the night. Of course this doesn’t correlate perfectly to actual sleep cycles, but it’s probably a reasonable approximation. It graphs your this movement through the night, and also sets off an alarm (at a target time range) when you come out of a “deep” sleep cycle. Pretty clever. So I’ve been tracking my sleep for the last week or so. This is a pretty typical example:

sleep graph

I tended to feel about as good as you might imagine after a night of “sleep” like that. So I talked to my doc and got a prescription for a low dose of Ambien, in the hopes that this might help break the horrible cycle I was in. Generally I’m opposed to taking drugs like this, but something had to be done. Honestly, the side-effects of Ambien sorta scare the shit out of me. Temporary amnesia?! I’ve never blacked out from alcohol (or anything else) – the general idea sorta scares me silly. But I digress. So, last night, I took 5mg of Ambien before bed. The results?

sleep graph

Um. Holy crap? Did I die overnight? I honestly thought something went wrong, or that it was broken last night – except that the alarm did in fact wake me up as designed around 4:30 (I set the alarm for 5) with the iphone ringing its alarm right there on my bed.

Pretty amazing (and kinda scary). Obviously, this is not a solution, but a corrective measure, so I’m hoping this will help me get back a normal schedule. Drugs are weird. Graphs are cool.

UPDATE: I am sad to report that the above effect appears to have been a fluke. I think it’s a side-effect of the fact that if you get an SMS alert, the iphone will wedge this app, resulting in the flat graph. (You can avoid this by switching on airplane mode or whatever). This explains why that night of sleep seemed “good”, but not that good. Unfortunately nights since haven’t been nearly as good either. I still do notice an effect, but it tends to look more like this: