Friday, November 07, 2008

Sleep Advice for Geeky Fathers

As a father of young children, I have some advice for my fellow software engineers in similar boats who want time for their side projects. At some point, if you are lucky, your children will be sleeping from their bedtime of say 9:00 PM to maybe 7:00 AM depending on their natural needs. My advice is to work within this framework when it comes to your own sleep schedule.

Every day, come home from work, play with your children till their bedtime, fall asleep as they do and wake up naturally. For me, falling asleep at 9:00 PM will mean waking up in a quiet, empty house at 4:30 AM with 2½ hours of time to work on my software projects and catch up on my TV watching before the children awake. I will spend the rest of the day fully rested, and at my peak performance. Compare with the alternative strategy of staying up after the babies' bedtime which if I "get on a roll" might keep me up till 12:30 AM, with no margin for error. What if the babies wake up at 6:00 AM as they sometimes do? I'll spend the rest of the day under a sleep debt: low performing and grumpy.

Also, my recommended strategy allows you to pay off your sleep debt. If you do this and wake up later than expected the first few days, you had an accumulated sleep debt you needed to pay off before reaching peak efficiency.

I'm basing this advice on this Google Tech Talk which I highly recommend watching: