How I Regained Sleep Habits After a Weekend Without Clocks
I’ve tried almost every trick imaginable to get more restful sleep. For a long time, nothing helped: not regular bedtime, not herbal supplements, not turning off computers before bed, not even weekends without work.
This post was originally published on Ferenstein Wire .
Then, I suddenly felt blissful at the famous “adult summer camp” without devices in Mendocino, California’s Redwood Forest, where I enjoyed one of the best nights of sleep I can remember. Unlike other fun vacations, Camp Gounded uses a groundbreaking trick that founder Levi Felix learned while living with the Bedouins: no hours. Time is not stored or displayed anywhere. Instead, vacationers are asked to show up for lunch “around noon.” Or, say, camp singing might start around the episode “The Simpsons.”
At first, I didn’t really think about this unusual function without a clock. In fact, the lack of a strict schedule annoyed me a little. But over the weekend, I felt an extraordinary calmness – a calmness that I have not experienced anywhere else. Something was different.
Indeed, after I left the loving embrace of the bottomless existence, my weariness returned. I tried in vain to reproduce my bliss, but I could not even rest in a different natural environment on weekends.
Here’s a scientific explanation of what I tested, the Camp Gounded approach, and how I re-tested the experiment.
The Science of Stress and Sleep
To investigate my pleasant discovery, I turned to science and every imaginable healthy quantification technology I could find.
The first and most obvious choice, sleep trackers like the Basis Watch proved to be a dead end. All wearable trackers assumed I slept perfectly normal at night (about 50% light sleep, 25% REM sleep, and 25% deep sleep). However, every morning I woke up wasted.
So I dived into the gold standard of sleep science, polysomnography , in which a pleasant Israeli scientist at health startup Sleeprate hooked me up with enough wires to recreate Wolverine’s flashback scene (pictured below).
A good doctor’s report said that stress was the cause of my constant fatigue, a metric ignored by consumer devices. “You should relax,” Dr. Anda Bakharav wrote to me.
Indeed, research shows that activating the body’s flight or fight response (parasympathetic system) at night interferes with a deeper sleep state. I asked the doctor if meditation and a cup of hot herbal tea before bed would help, but I was told that it was too late to calm down just before bed; daytime stress persists long after work.
I learned the main lesson: the body prepares for sleep all day. If I wanted to sleep well, I needed to change my behavior as soon as I woke up.
The weird thing was that I didn’t feel stressed. Like many of my fellow creative class members, I am a pleasant workaholic and enjoy working 10+ hours a day. I love my job and respond well to emails even after sunset.
Unfortunately, a series of measures showed that my body was not that cool with my lifestyle choices.
First of all, saliva analysis in NeuroScience labs showed that my levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for activating the fight-or-flight response, was empty – it started low upon waking and was almost nonexistent in the afternoon, which explained why I needed napping most days to think immediately after dinner.
I was so used to working in parasympathetic couples that I did not realize that my constant need for coffee or an afternoon nap was a sign of deep distress.
“Stress-related sleep problems are extremely common among professionals and technicians,” writes Dr. Robin Berzin , founder of Parsley Health, a functional medicine startup that helps me sort through all the data. “I believe this is a combination of chronic stress, constantly elevated cortisol levels and a life of intense sympathy,” she concludes.
So what does Camp Gounded do differently?
Fighting the grounded camp against FOMO
Access to the world’s information is both a blessing and a curse. We have instant access to all the most amazing possibilities, but we are burdened by the fact that a few extra minutes on our smartphone will open up an even better choice – at any time.
The constant anxiety about finding something better has become so prevalent that pop culture has adapted it into the delightfully effective acronym FOMO (“fear of missing out”).
Camp Gounded spends a significant amount of resources helping campers understand that weekends are a “no FOMO zone”. In the daily schedule of optional events, the time and place of the events are not clearly signed. It’s damn impossible to plan your day more than an hour in advance.
The point is to learn to be happy no matter what else might be going on. Being present is a skill.
“Most people who get into a camp on earth will have a moment when they realize they are attached to what is called time,” Felix tells me.
Some tourists were often disappointed that “no watch” was one of the first rules he laid down. Felix’s first clients were tech executives, some of the big names that came from an industry culture where “fear of missing out” became particularly toxic.
“The problem with culture is that FOMO rules everything,” he warns.
Even on vacation with my tech friends, our deep knowledge of the latest information technology allows us to be fully aware of the opportunity cost: check out Yelp for the best meal in a restaurant, follow local trends on Twitter for fun activities, and keep updating on social media to find out. how many friends respond to our vacation photos.
Yes, we have many friends all over the world. And even if it’s great, our cortisol levels are high all weekend. Many of us are already involved, and vacation has become a concern for the future, not a stress reliever.
So, in theory, Camp Grounded About the strategy of coping with ASW should give his body a break from the stress it desperately seeks.
Is it really so?
Replication makes me a happy panda
Armed with a new hypothesis, like a good scientist, I wanted to see if I could reproduce the results. So, the next year, against Camp Gounded rules, I snuck in with an unlabeled wearable from a hidden Kickstarter project that measured heart rate variability – a common measure of stress used in previous sleep research. It was the closest thing I could wear to measure my stress levels on a gadget-free weekend. If any of my campmates asked, I would say this is just a harmless bracelet – definitely not technology.
On my first full day of camp, I vowed to do almost nothing stressful and was very wary of my ubiquitous FOMO. When in doubt, I simply let my intuition determine my entertainment throughout the day.
In the early morning, I noticed a hot meditation tent by the bubbling lake. Drenched in glorious sweat, I let the sunlight dry my skin as I headed out into the open field, where the campers would do acro yoga and play soccer. It was a painfully unplanned day.
But that night, I dozed off, and the dance opportunity cost did not flash in my head. When I woke up the next day, I was reunited with an old friend on our anniversary – serenity.
When I returned to civilization, I asked the launch engineers of my wearable device to determine if I had unusual nights, deliberately hiding my hypothesis so as not to influence their interpretation of the data.
“Saturday May 23rd definitely seems out of the ordinary compared to other nights … I’d say you had less stress,” wrote Abe Carter, founder of Amiigo wearables .
Success! Camp Grounded without a watch strategy worked.
This is certainly not a complete solution. Most of us clearly cannot give up hours during the work day. But when I need to brush up on something, I now know I can get it from Grounded Camp or a similar situation. It’s also a very useful idea to further explore how to get rid of stress on your day.
If I want to improve my sleep, I need to start working on it as soon as I wake up.
Why stress ruined my sleep until I spent a weekend without hours | Ferenstein wire