Sleep is For The Weak (and Eats, December 17)

Sleep is for the Weak

When I started low carb, I slept at least 8-hours a night. I could not function with less. As my life got busier and busier with increase responsibilities in work and in the family, I began to have less time for myself. 

At that point I had to make a decision as to what I could give up. I had already given up watching TV, and the number of movies I see in a year – on TV or in the theaters – can be counted on one hand.

So sleep was the only option.

I found a book from 1979 – Sleep Less, Live More by Everett Mattlin (Who?) that described the amount of sleep necessary for health was 6 hours – and outlined a program of cutting back on sleep gradually to get to that  number.

Now – do I believe this? Well, I believe this as about as much as I believe that Irvingia will melt away close to 30 lbs. in 10 weeks, which is to say: I don’t, but I’ll give it a shot.

At the time I was experimenting with a lot of different supplements, and I was taking alpha-lipoic Acid and Acetyl-l-carnitine – ALA and ALC, along with COQ10 – plus a bunch of other stuff. Here’s what the description for the ALA/ALC sez:

May promote a healthy nervous system, memory and cardiovascular function.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA), known as the universal antioxidant, is present in almost all tissues of the body. It plays an important role in generating energy from food and oxygen in mitochondria (the power plants of cells). ALA is both water- and fat-soluble, meaning it can easily cross cell membranes, and may provide both interior and exterior cellular free radical protection.

Acetyl L-carnitine (ALC) is the acetyl ester of the amino acid L-carnitine and is similar in form to the amino acid L-carnitine. It’s absorbed into the bloodstream more efficiently than L-carnitine and passes more easily through cell membranes and is utilized more efficiently in the mitochondria of the cell.

ALC assists in the transport of fat through the cell membrane and into the mitochondria of the cell, where fats are oxidized to produce the cellular energy ATP. ALC also promotes a healthy nervous system and supports memory.

What does that mean? Beats the Hell out of me at this hour in the morning, but it sure does sound good, doesn’t it?

Anywho…at this time I tried cutting back on my sleep – going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 4am, and I found it to be pretty easy to do. I figured – hey, this low carb stuff is amazing.

Then a few months later, I ran out of my ALA/ALC and said: “Eh – stuff probably doesn’t do anything – I’m not going to waste my money on it.”

Soon after, however, I found myself nodding off early – the 6 hours of sleep stopped working. 

Finally, I put 2 and 2 together, bought more of the ALA/ALC and I could live on 6 hours again.

My personal conclusion is that my ability to sleep 6 hours can be attributed to the following factors:

  • ALA / ALC
  • COQ10
  • Low carbohydrates in my diet
  • Reduced weight

While I haven’t rigorously tested each and every one of these, it’s my working hypothesis.

So here I am a few years later and the question arises: am I sleep-deprived? It depends on who you ask, apparently. Sleep is one of those great mysteries of mankind – like what constitutes a proper diet. Most would say that getting 8 hours is critical, but history has shown a great many people who have done with far less – and it didn’t seem to matter. Thomas Edison apparently lived on catnaps most of his life, and he lived in to his early 80s.

Some have mentioned to me that I might be shortening my life by doing this. I don’t know that – and neither do they, really. 

My conclusion on this is: while I might be shortening my life at the end, I’m making the most of it now. If every 2 hours I add to my life now is stolen from the end, I’m OK with that. Those years at the end are what I call ‘The Depends Years‘, when the energy is gone and the lights are about to dim – and it’s just this sort of interminable wait for personal extinction – probably filled with TV, and thoughts of a misremembered past.

I’d rather have that time now – and, if by chance I get creamed by a truck, then I exit with a gain, in a weird sort of way.


Did the exercise thing at when I got up at 4am. Standard-issue coffee with cream came about 5am. My day was a non-stop maelstrom of activity and I only noticed I was hungry around 1pm during an errand when I was in my car, so I had one of the Atkins shakes I stash there.

Back from the errand, there were sandwiches sent in for Xmas. I had a half of a tuna salad sandwich from Panera bread – the tuna eaten off the bread with a fork and the bread tossed.

Some salad and a tiny bit of a vinaigrette that I realized must be filled with cornstarch as it poured like ketchup, so I stopped.

On the way home I had my first real pangs of hunger. I had Italian sausage on ice at home, and thought they’d be great broiled, so when I got home, I broiled these up and had a few. 

I also had some Swiss cheese with a little ham and mustard.

I had some wine with this, which is usually not a problem, but the type of hunger that I had yesterday as well as this particular evening was not compatible with the inhibition-lessening properties of the wine, and I slid down the slippery slope of carbdom.

The fact that I did not have much more than the average person might have after a meal means nothing – it was about 3 mini-brownies and some M&Ms – but I’m in ketosis – or at least I was up to that point.

The scale reported 207.6 – up maybe 1/2 lb. from yesterday’s first weigh-in. No surprise here.

4 thoughts on “Sleep is For The Weak (and Eats, December 17)

  1. I just made a comment on your last post about letting yourself eat because after high hunger days you get low hunger days. This certainly seems to have been the case you don’t seem to be hungry at all today. Your weight increase was natural – you ate a lot of food – doesn’t mean you put on fat.

    I get this impression that maybe you have lost faith in your diet? Maybe just a little bit? I think if you found that passion again and realised it does work for you it would allow yourself to eat lots of low carb goodies. I could be way of the mark here though. But remember you lost 80 pounds on this diet so it does work!!!

    1. Dr Dan,

      The idea of ‘losing faith’ in my diet doesn’t quite feel right. It reminds me of a post I’ve been wanting to write on which diets appeal to which personality types.

      I think that diets like paleo and veganism have ‘faith-based’ backstories attached to them, and these beliefs make a process similar to the one surrounding ‘Intelligent Design’ of the creationists occur. You’ll tend to embrace studies that play to your core beliefs, and reinterpret studies that don’t quite fit.

      Atkins has something similar going on, but I’d say that the backstory is a conspiracy theory.

      I think I take an approach where I have no faith – only empirical data. Does it work? That’s all that matters to me.

      Five years into a low carb diet leaves me somewhat trapped in low carb. I firmly believe that I would very shortly be back to my old weight – and probably more, if I stopped eating low carb. This is evidenced every time I stop eating low carb – the scale zooms upward.

      I am keeping my weight artificially low through low carb. This is one of the arguments against it – but I say to that: Duh! *Any* diet, other than eating what you want, when you want it, is an artificial outside pressure to keep weight lower.

      Faith is a handy tools – search my blog for ‘joe frank’ to read his take on it – but I’m a person who lives on a ‘Foundation of Doubt’.

      I have faith in myself, and that about as far as it goes. Maybe that explains why I haven’t lost any weight – but perhaps also explains why I don’t give up.

  2. 35 years ago, when my diet much worse, I required between 7 and 8 hours of sleep. Taking vitamins during my college years decreased my sleep needs to 5 to 6 hours; cat nap needed with 5 hours. Today I sleep 5 to 6 hours with or without supplements. During cold months, winter sleep requirement increases slightly. If I hammer my body with excessive, prolonged physical activity I can sleep 12 hours at a stretch a day or so afterward.

  3. Fair enough!!! So I was way of the mark then:) I am definitely supportive of any skepticism in anyone so Im not gonna knock it.

    Not sure about the intelligent design analogy though. I think the Paleo Diet is based off of evolution which is certainly supported by data as opposed to intelligent design. But your right in that THAT evidence is what makes me have faith in it!

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