How to Add Hours to the Day

Everyone knows you need to drink at least twelve glasses of water each day, right?

And on top of that, you must get at least eight hours of sleep: eight straight hours is the minimum. These rules of health are common knowledge—but they may not hold up under scrutiny. I know this is a touchy area. We’re talking about your health here, but let’s at least consider a different perspective.

Are you hydrated?

The bottom line on water is that, once you are hydrated, you need to take in only enough fluid to replace the amount you lose. The formulas for determining exactly how many glasses you need to drink per day are without foundation.

Another way

After all, if you are running a marathon, you will need considerably more water than if you are sitting in a chair at your desk. You definitely need to drink water daily—but the amount needed fluctuates according to how active you are and how much fluid you lose (from perspiration, urination, vomiting or other means). Again, the key here is to replace as much as you lose. Urine color is a signal. Clear urine says you are hydrated. As the urine darkens, you know you need to rehydrate. Take a look at the handy chart used by the U.S. Army for determining hydration level.

What is a good night's sleep?

When it comes to sleep, your body may function best when allowed to rest in chunks—a few hours of slumber followed by a period of awakening, then some more sleep. BBC News took an in-depth look at studies concerning how we may have slept before the advent of electric lamps. The practice of polyphasic sleep (breaking rest times up into periods) has been around since ancient times—and while the particulars can be arranged to suit the person; the only set-in-stone rule is to get at least 90 minutes of sleep per cycle.

How could this seemingly unorthodox sleep strategy affect your life?

Champions say the benefits are several:
  • Less total sleep time means more hours awake and productive (even if “productive” means spending time in prayer)
  • Sleep quality is improved
  • No more lying awake at night—when you wake up, get up
  • More lucid dreaming
  • Elevated release of the prolactin hormone, which produces a sense of calmness

You can’t add hours to the day; we all get just 24 hours of Monday until Tuesday rolls around—but you can capture more hours within those precious 24 by incorporating the chunking concept. A typical “hacked” sleep pattern, for example, might be 4 hours of base sleep per day, followed by 10 hours of activity, then 2 hours of sleep and 8 more hours of activity. In that way, sleep time is kept to 6 hours total for the day, and wake time may be conducted with more energy and focus.

Use with care

Anyone considering tampering with sleep cycles would do well to talk it over with a physician. It’s a tough subject, most doctors will tell you to get at least the magic eight hours, but there is certainly room for debate. One warning: the sleep-deprived individual is a poor judge of how badly he or she really needs to take a nap. If your friends are telling you to take a nap, you probably should.
Experiment, if you will … but use caution. Stay open to change, but remember: sleep and water are high on the list of life’s necessities.

Author Lane Goodberry focuses on health and wellness topics.