Will using a sleep mask hinder free-running sleep?

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Question

I didn't see this mentioned anywhere. I have the good fortune to be able to implement free-running sleep, but I wonder if a sleep mask would be a problem or not? I tend to use it as I usually go to bed at around 12/1 AM and if I didn't have a sleep mask I would wake up with the sun generally (e.g 7 AM) instead of 8-9 AM.

What is your advice?

Answer

Waking up with the sun sounds like a good thing. You can always compensate by going to sleep earlier. The idea of free-running sleep is to minimize interference. Exposure to sunlight is a thing we evolved with. In that sense, the mask is a form of interference. However, if you feel your productivity drops and you do not experience a shift in sleep patterns (by going to sleep very late), you can decide on the basis of your own experience.

Follow-up

So here's the thing: a year ago I used to go to bed at 10 PM. Once I moved countries I started moving bed time further and further away reaching now 12/1 AM when I go to sleep. I have already tried to go back to a more sane schedule but if I go to bed at 10 or even 11 PM I will toss and turn until I fall asleep anyways at the same time.

How do you advice I 'reset' my body to go to sleep sooner?

Thanks!

Curing DSPS

See this text: http://super-memory.com/articles/sleep.htm#Curing_DSPS_and_insomnia

In short, it is better to lose a fraction of productivity in the morning (due to the impact of the sun) than to keep going to sleep very late. If you cannot fall asleep at 11 PM, try 11:20, or 11:40 or even midnight. The mask will work in the opposite direction by eliminating the key factor that resets the cycle.

(please write about your geographic move ... probably higher latitude? more northern?)

Follow-up

I read that text, but I have to say that it's still not 100% clear what exactly do I need to do. It would seem that the solution proposed is to decide when to sleep and when to wake up, and then to basically try to force-feed this to one's body. For example, if I decide I need 8 hours of sleep that gives me 24-8=16 waking hours. And 16+9=25 hours, aka it would mean that I go to sleep at 1 AM of the next day. Is this correct?

Now I could probably implement this exact scenario, as I usually do sleep at that hour. But let's assume I want to wake up at 7 AM. That means I will need to go to bed at 11 PM. But how will that work considering I already tried 'forcing' myself to go to sleep earlier and for a week I kept failing to sleep, and just tossed in bed? I am not seeing how is this different from what I already tried.

Also, I read this:

>> You need to be sure you won't toss and turn, and that you do not wake up prematurely. If you see any signs of insomnia, you will know your bedtime comes too early and you allocated too much time for sleep.

But how is it possible for my bedtime to be 'too early' ? Isn't that what we are trying to 'cure' and have more manageable sleeping hours?

If the sun comes up earlier than my waking time, will that not wake me up earlier than my 8 hours of sleep? How do I handle that?

To answer our question: yes, I moved north. From Italy to Ireland. Does that mean anything?


Thanks!

Pains of adjustment

Please refer back to the article. Deciding that you need 8 hours is a formula for insomnia. Your brain needs to decide on its own. If you happen to get a stable cycle at only 5 hours, this should be your final number. You may always "feel" that more sleep means better brain, but you will accomplish that only on some occasions by a random coincidence of circumstances. If you use a mask, hope for long sleep, and go to sleep late enough for good sleepiness, you may set yourself for DSPS problems (see the article). You could still go for amber glasses in the evening, or 3 hour "electricity starvation", but those won't change the underlying equation: if you want to get more sleep, you may end up sleeping in hours disconnected from sunlight (and civilization). You do not "force feed" the body with your calculations. You can only gradually shift to sleeping in earlier hours. This may be a shift of 5-10 min. per day. Any larger shift may backfire by asynchrony or insomnia. Bedtime "too early", means "early in reference to your body clock". Bedtime "ok early" is the one that comes naturally, or just a few minutes earlier. Move from Italy to Ireland will increase the length of daylight, which is particularly painful at June solstice. The advantage is that if you want to sleep in earlier hour, early sunlight will help the process. All changes to the cycle have some cost. You may be at 60-80% of your brain power for a while, but there isn't probably a formula in existence that would help you avoid that (other than farmer's lifestyle). Please see the link above. Those things are explained in detail.