Today I added "sleep" to my interests list, not just because I love to sleep, but because I recently finished reading a very interesting book about the subject by a sleep specialist: Dr. William Dement's The Promise of Sleep. If he's to be believed, I now understand more about sleep and sleeping disorders than most primary-care physicians. Here are just a couple interesting things I learned:
Contrary to what I used to believe, it is not possible to "sleep too much". Granted, there are diseases like narcolepsy where it could be argued that the sufferers sleep too much, but I'm talking about the case where you sleep 11 hours on the weekend, and drag yourself around groggily the next day complaining that you "slept too much." Well, what actually happened was you started paying off the sleep debt you accumulated over the busy week, and the reason you're still tired is because you haven't paid it all off yet - and there's no stressful work stuff keeping you alert. When there are no outside causes to wake you up, you sleep as long as you need to. Then your brain wakes you up. If you've gotten all the sleep you need, you won't be able to sleep any more. Simple as that!
Caffeine does work, of course, to perk you up when you're feeling tired during the day. Taking a nap works too--even a 15-minute nap can improve your alertness for the next six hours. But caffeine takes 15-30 minutes to start kicking in; and, similarly, after a nap you're groggy for about 15 minutes before its effects kick in. So here's a cool thing you can do: drink a cup of coffee (or cola or tea), then lie down and take your nap. 15 to 30 minutes later, the caffeine will awaken you, and erase the grogginess you'd ordinarily have after a nap. So you synergistically get the effects of the caffeine and the nap. This suggested by a bona fide sleep M.D. Neat, huh?
Of course, keep your overall caffeine intake low, or you build up a tolerance. But you knew that.
Btw, the number of motorists and pilots who fall asleep while driving or flying? Much higher than I had dreaded. Freaky. Get some sleep, people! For the sake of us all!