28-Hour Days

An experiment

19 Feb 2016

If you’re interested in doing this, see some tips at the end of this article.

Why the heck…?

During a typical day, my normal bed time would be about 2 a.m. I’d be hacking away at the computer and just wouldn’t get tired before midnight at the earliest. That is, until the next day, because I’d force myself out of bed to work, leaving little time for sleep. It was a frustrating schedule.

Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if I could stay awake 20 hours, sleep a full 8 hours, then stay awake another 20? But there just aren’t 28 hours in a day. Or are there?

Brain starts calculating… Whaddaya know, 28-hour days fit perfectly into a week. Only six 28-hour days, mind you, but still a regular schedule. Calculates again… tick, tick, what’s this? Even with just six 28-hour days, you still get an extra 8 hours of wake time per week! (6x20 > 7x16) This is awesome! Heck, if it turns out I need 9 hours of sleep with this schedule, I’d still get an extra 2 hours of wake time a week.

Now, how can I make this work? How can I nudge the hours around so that I can swing a schedule where I’m awake the same time as other folks at work? I get out the spreadsheet, draw a week of 24 hour days, and start shifting hours.

I live on the west coast, but work with people around the world. It turns out, if I start my week on Sundays at 6 p.m. (first time waking up during the week), I can work east coast hours on Mondays and Tuesdays and west coast hours Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are kind of hosed though. But if I work 10 hours a day Mon-Thu, I could take Fridays off. Our lab has kind of a half-day Friday policy anyway. Hmm….

I typically need to work more than 40 hours a week. I’m in the software industry and we all know how that is. Well, with this new schedule, there are plenty of hours where I can write code while few others are awake. This could be a great advantage. I choose to give myself an extra five hours of work time on “Mondays” (Sunday night) and come up with this 45 hour a week schedule.

I finally search the web and discover, wow, I’m not alone. Many have considered or tried this schedule, and most with the same reasoning as me. This xkcd comic even has the same hours, which is odd, since Randall Munroe lives in Massachusetts. But, from what I read, most have since abandoned the idea. I’m still determined to try it.

Giving it a go

Eager to get started, I tell folks at work—who are skeptical, but otherwise have no problem with my schedule. Software companies are pretty flexible with work hours as long as we get the job done well. And with my role in globalization, my hours on Mondays and Tuesdays allow me to interact with folks not only on the east coast, but also in Europe and India. And my late hours Wednesdays and Thursdays put me in touch with folks in China and Japan. It used to be that being on the west coast put me at a disadvantage in this role because most of the world is off work during west coast hours.

So, Thursday, 14 January 2016, I start the experiment.

Thursdays and Fridays are pretty normal schedules, so those first two days are no problem. That first weekend is rough, however. I don’t prepare for getting good sleep during the day as I should. Also, I notice that my body is waking up 4 hours early, as if it adjusts to wake the same time as the previous day. Not good, and that first Monday at 9 a.m. I’m about ready to collapse. I must fix this.

Making it work—Tips

So near the end of that first week, I dedicate myself to doing a better job next time. And I do.

  • On the nights I’m awake, I find webcams throughout the world that I can tune into and leave full screen on one of the monitors. Along with the Happy Light that I already have (because I live in Seattle) the webcams help keep me going. I feel like I’m not alone in the world, seeing folks bustling around in the streets of London.

  • On the days I’m sleeping, I take 3 mg of melatonin right before bed. That’s a big help! Thanks for the tip, Tracy Osborn.

  • An hour before bedtime, I do two things:

    • Music goes from amped trance or metal to soothing Ambient sounds.

    • All lights go dim including computer monitors! f.lux is a great program for that. It’s designed to start at sunset during your time zone, but for my odd sleep schedule, I get past that by hitting Alt-PgDwn a couple of times.

  • Those first couple of weeks, it would take a few moments to remember my bedtime. I also found myself wanting to keep track of the time around the world so that I would know which webcams to pull up. It would be nice to glance at an app on my phone lock-screen to see the schedule and world clock. However, I can’t find any, and not having written an app myself yet, I do the next best thing. I put a picture of the calendar on my lock-screen, and I script a web page with the world clock to keep open on one of my monitors. (What’s displayed above.)

Now, it’s been many weeks, and I’ve been doing great—feeling well rested and getting lots of work done.

Social life

Did you notice the Friday and Saturday nights on the schedule? Up all night. If only I had thought of this when I was in my 20s! But, otherwise, if you’re a social person, this probably isn’t for you. There’s not much room for socializing with local family and friends. But mine all know I’m kind of a recluse, so spending just Friday and Saturday evenings with them works pretty well.

I do, however, get plenty of time to play Elite: Dangerous on weekends while UK fans of the game are also playing. :O)