Sleep is a Waste of Time?! Maximizing Sleep Efficiency

This man is angry after being woken up and looks like he might punch someone. (from: Pexels / Mart Production)

Worried that sleep is a waste of time? Here’s how to get the most out of your day-night cycle and optimize your life.


Your day was garbage. You worked for nine hours. The lunch hour — which was filled with conversation about work — didn’t count. An extra 50 minutes were spent commuting, even though you spent all day behind a desk and could’ve gotten more done working at home. It was a bad day.


To make matters worse, before you even had the chance to open your front door, your mother called with an emergency. Her heater? Broken. You spend yet another hour on the phone finding the right mechanic. By the time you’ve cooked and eaten dinner, it is very late. Probably already later than when the average American goes to bed. When is the time coming for your goals?


If you’re driven by efficiency and spend hours figuring out how to measure your productivity, days like this are frustrating beyond belief. You want to keep going and get something done, not sleep. Sleep is a waste of time, hindering you from getting the essentials done.


We understand your struggles, so would like to explain how to get maximum efficiency out of sleep, use sleep time to maximize your life, and *yes* cut back on sleep if you have to.


Sleep Efficiency 101

A chalkboard diagram shows the big hand of a clock points towards the 12 position and the small hand pointing towards the 3. (from: Pexels, Miguel Á. Padriñán, )

If you’re worried that sleep is a waste of time, you probably aren’t doing so efficiently. Waking up unrested, sleeping through your alarm, spending too much time in bed, or having an otherwise negative sleep experience can be caused by poor sleep efficiency.


On the surface, sleep efficiency is the percentage of the time you are in bed, intending to sleep, and are actually doing so. Getting up to go to the restroom, for example, eats into sleep efficiency. Laying in bed, unable to fall asleep, is another big sleep efficiency detractor.


[Note that some will argue that so-called “revenge bedtime procrastination” is a form of sleep efficiency loss. As revenge bedtime procrastination is a choice — likely stemming from a lack of time or a belief that sleep is a waste of time — it is, by definition, not part of your designated sleep time. It’s also just not part of the ClockHug way of defining things. Your time, your choice.]


What is my sleep efficiency?

Figuring out your basic sleep efficiency is relatively easy. Just divide how much time you spent sleeping by the time you were in “intending to sleep” mode. If you need help, here’s the easiest-to-use sleep efficiency calculator available.


What that calculator doesn’t take into account is all of the time that you think you are sleeping, but aren’t. If you’ve ever tried to wake someone up, had a brief conversation, and then found out that they’d not only fallen back asleep but also completely forgotten ever having been awoken, you’ve experienced this phenomenon.


Advanced tools exist that track your time spent asleep — such as a Fitbit watch — by tracking your heart rate, breathing, and other metrics.


Improving Sleep Efficiency

So, you feel like sleeping is a waste of time, but you accept that you have to sleep sometimes. Become a better sleeper.


Here are some basic tips you can follow to maximize your sleep efficiency:

  • While the ClockHug philosophy of ‘Your Time, Your Choice’ remains, going to bed at the same time each night can make it easier to fall asleep as your body gets trained to the expected rhythm.
  • Similarly, waking up at the same time each day will help, too.
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine consumption before bed.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Spend a bit of time before bed destressing — perhaps even engage in a bit of revenge bedtime procrastination — so you can sleep easily during designated hours.
  • Keep a bedside notebook for those annoying questions — do cats know what time it is — that spring to mind at night.


Beyond this, consistently bad sleep efficiency could be a sign of a medical disorder, such as sleep apnea or worse. If you have any doubts, consult a medical professional.


Using Sleep Time Effectively

Humans have a natural tendency to want to use all limited resources effectively. In effect, time is the most limited resource. Therefore, there is this tendency to feel that — no matter the quality — sleep is a waste of time.


On a fundamental level, this makes sense. You can’t do anything in the physical world during sleep. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean that sleep can’t be used to bolster our daytimes and enrich our overall lives.


Here are some big tips and reminders to help you change your attitude about time spent sleeping:


Dreams are Free Entertainment

Sure, there’s some AI out there that can paint a picture or make a short story to your specifications. Unfortunately, these works will never match up to your expectations and won’t have won’t have cool twists and turns in them that involve things in your life that really matter.


The solution? Dreams.


Dreams can be incredibly creative, help you solve real-world problems, and are the cheapest and most customized-for-you form of entertainment on Earth.


Psychologists tell us that entertainment isn’t a waste of time. Neither are dreams. As a result, sleep isn’t a waste of time, either.


While we dream every night, we don’t always remember our dreams. To increase your likelihood of remembering dreams — and therefore opening up more of the third of your life spent sleeping — make a habit of trying to write down what you dreamed about the night before immediately upon waking up. Even if you just have to write down “I don’t remember” you are still training your brain that this information is important. Avoiding alcohol and other mind-altering substances before bed will help with this as well.


Practice Lucid Dreaming

If you feel like sleep is a waste of time because you aren’t actively exerting your will on the world, you might enjoy lucid dreaming.


To those unaware, lucid dreaming is when the active mind ‘steers’ the dream, effectively letting you control what your dreams are about.


Oddly enough, while lucid dreaming will occur randomly, this is a skill that can be practiced. If you’ve already started practicing remembering your dreams, you’re in luck, because that is one of the first recommended steps in learning how to lucid dream. Here are the others:

  • Goal Setting – Remembering that you desire to have a lucid dream can help you have one.
  • Test Reality – Reality doesn’t always work like you’d expect it when you’re dreaming. Check the hands on a clock and see if they’re moving correctly. If you’re dreaming, they likely won’t be.
  • Meditation – Sitting quietly and breathing during the day can help you at night, but I doubt anybody thinking sleep is a waste of time would want to try this!
  • Open-Mindedness – Going out and trying to experience more of life and finding special oddities throughout your day can prepare your mind to engage with the oddities you find in the dream world.


Be warned, though, as some say that being too active in lucid dreaming at night can reduce sleep quality and make you more tired the next day. That, along with other things, could mean that your sleep is harming you.


We wouldn’t want that…


Don’t Let Sleep Harm You

A man in despair due to having no sense of urgency.

Sleeping is a waste of time if it harms you. Nobody is going to deny that.


Everyone over the age of 30 (and a few below) has experienced the incredible pain of waking up after sleeping on your shoulder wrong. Intense neck pain for days… from sleeping. In this case, sleeping isn’t only a waste of your time, it’s also actively hurting you.


Don’t let your sleep time become negative like this, get a pillow and mattress that fit your sleep style. If anything from ClockHug is going to cause you pain, let it be your usage of one of these beautiful clock tattoo ideas.


Then, consider how you wake up.


Wake Up Right

While many of us may want one of the loudest alarm clocks, that doesn’t mean that waking up to something alarming is going to be the best start to our day. Instead, research suggests that softer sounds will help us wake up more gently and start our day better. While ClockHug suggests using a dedicated alarm clock, setting your alarm sound on your phone (here’s an alarm sound guide for Android) to something softer can make your attitude towards sleep feel better.


Why is this? Part of it may have to do with the peak-end rule, which states that the last felt feeling colors the whole event. In other words, if you wake up to a horrifically loud clang every morning you may start to perceive sleep as a waste of time.


If you have your sleep in order but still want (or need) to cut back on sleep time, read on.


Can I just sleep less?

This soldier sleeping next to a dog probably doesn't think sleep is a waste of time.

Still convinced sleep is a waste of time? You probably have already accepted that not sleeping at all is not possible, but what about reducing sleep?


The horrible consequences of no sleep on health include heart disease, obesity, strokes, and so much more.


In other words, there’s no easy way around sleeping. You have to sleep or you will suffer.


Still, there are stories everywhere of those that go without sleep. But are they really thriving? Is sleep a waste of time for some? The answer is no.


Soldiers are trained to deal with low sleep environments by getting low, sporadic bouts of sleep. Even with this training, it is seen that their combat effectiveness drops with four hours of sleep or less each night. By as much as 25% at that! You cannot train yourself to sleep less.


Sleep is a Waste of Time — Conclusion

As seen, sleep is not a waste of time. While sleep can be annoying and get in the way of our goals at times, it is something we must deal with in order to thrive and survive.


In other words, it is better to confront sleep head-on and get quality sleep than to avoid it altogether. Your time, your choice, sure. But, give yourself more time later by sleeping well now. Get one of the best alarm clocks for high-quality sleep and call it a night.


So, what do you think? Is sleep a waste of time? We want to know in the comments. Also, tell us about your sleep efficiency hacks or your best “my problem was solved in a dream” story. We want to hear it!

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