Sleep much?

By Shamus Posted Saturday Mar 3, 2007

Filed under: Personal 50 comments

Last night I had insomnia. Bad. The hammer didn’t fall until 9am, and even when I surrendered to the sweet release of sleep, it was fleeting. I woke up, unaided, less than three hours later. I’m now milling around feeling disoriented and confused. It’s noon. I don’t drink coffee after noon, but I just woke up. Erm? Am I going to crash again here in a few hours? Just what is going on here?

I’m not sure why this happens. Many people associate insomnia with stress, but that doesn’t seem to be my problem. I wasn’t awake all night, obsessing over some real-life worry. I wasn’t up playing a game. I wasn’t pacing around, wired from an accidental dose of caffeene. I just failed to get sleeply at the proper time. I was just awake. And bored.

This brings to mind this very old post of mine about sleep patterns. Now that I’ve thought about this some more, I want to revisit the cold starter / warm starter idea. If I was more motivated I might create some sort of internet test for this, but I don’t have time to puzzle those things out. So, I’m going to just throw this up here and see if anyone cares. Maybe this is so much gibberish to you. That’s fine. I’m not even sure I’m thinking clearly right now.

Warm Starter Cold Starter
1. I shiver under the blankets at night, and by morning I’ve thrown them off. I generally feel hot when going to bed, but by morning I’m cold and wrapped in blankets.
2. When fighting an illness, the symptoms grow during the day and peak in the evening. When I wake up in the morning I usually feel better than when I went to sleep. Sleep time tends to be when I recover. When fighting an illness, I wake up feeling horrible and then the symptoms subside as the day wears on. If I go to sleep, I’ll feel worse again when I wake up. It’s like I get worse when I sleep.
3. I prefer to do my social stuff (meetings, phone calls, talking to customers) in the morning. I’m generally more quiet as the day goes on. Ugh. When I wake up I need a few hours before I’m ready to talk to people.
4. I wake up hungry. I’m not interested in food until I’ve been awake for a few hours.
5. I’m most creative in the hours just after waking up. I’m most creative in the hours before bedtime.
6. I bounce out of bed in the morning, but by evening I’m starting to drag. I drag myself out of bed in the morning, but by evening I feel energetic.
7. I find direct sunlight invigorating. I find direct sunlight exhausting.
8. Music more in the morning than in the evening. Music more in the evening than in the morning.
9. I like to laugh and joke around in the mornings. I don’t generally find things funny until I’ve been awake a while.
10. I’m glad to be up once I’m out of bed. I’m glad to hit the sack in the evening. I’m reluctant to wake up in the morning, and reluctant to go to bed in the evening.

I realize this is exceedingly unscientific, but humor me here. I predict that most people will fall firmly into one column or the other. This gets a little difficult though, because some people have jobs which require them to be social in the mornings, or where they naturally hear music at the start of the day. Still, I’m most interested in how someone behaves when left to their own devices. Weekends and vacations are probably a better indicator of true behavior as opposed to the workday grind.

My thinking – with no evidence to back it up – is that most people are going to be almost all cold or all warm. I’m going to take an additional guess and predict more warm starters than cold ones. Everyone else always seems too dang cheerful in the mornings. I explain to people how sleeping when sick makes me feel worse, and they look at me like I’m some sort of freak. Very few people understand how sunlight can be “tiring”, but that’s exactly how it feels to me.


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50 thoughts on “Sleep much?

  1. Jeremiah says:

    I’m definately more strongly a “Warm Starter” but I have to say I don’t find direct sunlight invigorating. I don’t really like being out in daylight.

    Also, I don’t have a strong preference for when I listen to music. I enjoy listening to music all day long, really.

    Other than that, I’d say some spot-on observations from my behavior and what I know about other people.

  2. Polk says:

    Cold starter almost 100% according to your layout. I associate with he illness one in particular, I recently got over an illness by doing as much as I could during the day.

  3. Rhea says:

    dang, I’m dead in the center- 5 on each. Does this make be a…. luke-warm starter? I work better in the evening, prrfer social events in afternoon and evening, but I also find sunlight beautifully invigorating, and love music, laughter and jokes in the morning, hopefully carried on throughout the day with a bit of rest in the afternoon or LATE evening. Hmm.

  4. Robert says:

    Cold starter just about across the board.

    The real division, though, is: “if you had to make a two-column post on a blog, would you use div tags, or a table?”

  5. rflrob says:

    Except for the sunlight part, I’m a cold-starter. I used to have a standing “10 AM rule”: If it’s before 10 AM, I might be talking to you, walking around, and doing stuff, but I’m not really awake.

  6. There is recent scientific evidence that backs at least some of this up, specifically the link between creativity and sleep patterns. (That’s a link to my blog because I have several additional links; the base story at is here.) Expecting the rest to hold mostly true is not unreasonable.

    I’m “cold” on every front except the illness one; I typically need to sleep colds off. For most illnesses, I usually have a cruel hour in the morning when I think maybe I’m over it, then the symptoms kick back in.

    Also, Robert, anyone who claims that tables should be done with <div> can be safely identified as a not just a zealot, but a zealot who doesn’t understand their own putative dogma. Tabular data should be in tables, even according to the most recent standards. But I do know I’ve seen people claim that <table> is deprecated, so these people absolutely exist.

    (As tables go, that is actually reasonably easy to do with CSS… but why? All you’ll be doing is replicating the “semantic” meaning that table, td, and tr already have.)

  7. Ermel says:

    I’m also a luke-warm starter. I even can’t quite decide on several single entries which side I’m on. It’s different every day. So, no statistically useful data can be extracted from me.

  8. Justin says:

    I’m much more cold than warm, but for #1 I’m generally cold when I go to bed more due to the thermostat being turned down than due to physiology, and I still have the covers on when I wake up. Also, #4. I always wake up hungry. Starving, sometimes.

    I do sympathize with the illness bit, though. By the time I go to bed with a cold, sometimes I feel almost 100%. Wake up, though, and I feel like I can’t move.

  9. Huckleberry says:

    Definitely a cold starter, with the exception of #1 (I’ve got a nice cozy duvet) and #7 (a sunny day generally cheers me up no end, although I won’t spend any extended period of time in direct sunlight). When working on important projects, my workday tends to shift towards later and later hours, until I do most of the work between midnight and 7 am. Not to be recommended for an extended period of time, though.

    I usually don’t have any drive to eat breakfast — but I find that when I gear myself up and have something to eat, it helps A LOT. Its just that usually, I just don’t have enough energy …

  10. No test has ever described me as accurately as “cold starter” does. This is really impressive man.

    Though I would like to note that I have no problem dealing with people in the morning. That’s the only one that doesn’t fit.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Cold starter!

    Of course, this could largely be the result of habit. If you stay up at night, naturally you will be inclined to sleep in the next morning. And, yeah, most of the creative people I know are night people, which has some strange effects on me – for example, I reach my emo audience at my LJ best if I post at about nine o’clock ar night. If I post at six in the morning, the post is hopelessly buried by the time they check their journals. But that’s an LJ thing and you don’t like LJ.

  12. Shamus says:

    Rebecca: Don’t say I don’t like LJ! A large portion of my readership is LJ people, and they are usually witty, polite, well spoken, and friendly. Much more so than can be expected from just random ‘net users in general. I’ve never even seen an incoherant troll / flame from an LJ’er.

    The LJ software still mystifies me, but I like the users themselves. :)

  13. damien walder says:

    Yeah, I miss the “window” of optimal sleep entry and that’s it, I’m awake for an extra three to four hours.
    I also wake up if I get too cool or warm. Makes me wonder about prehistoric sleep patterns.

    Good luck – I’ve had _some_ success with the before bed snack of banana/calcium supplement (I don’t drink dairy) with a small glass of water, but mostly exercise during the day seems to open my sleep window a bit wider. Figured out to avoid eggplant/zuccini/bell peppers if I need to sleep well – they do something wacky to my heart rate, not like caffeine, either.

    Marriage too, has created all sorts of interruptions to sleep. Childrearing is hopefully not immanent…
    I need a nap already!

  14. Adam Bloom says:

    Cold starter 95%.

    Jeremy’s exactly right. Anyone using s to make a table like that should be taken out and shot. Much like people who are still using tags. :D

  15. Farvana says:

    I’m pretty solidly in the middle.

    Love sunlight, but I take a couple hours to get moving. Music is an all day thing, my opinion of bed changes depending on the amount of sleep I got the night before, funny things are funny regardless of when I hear them (unless I wake up to it, and even that depends [largely upon if I’m waking up next to someone]).

    Probably a bit on the cold side, but I vary.

  16. Darren says:

    Almost entirely Cold Starter. The only exception is the hunger thing. I’m usually hungry as soon as I wake up, but then that might explain why I’m so overweight.

  17. AngiePen says:

    Warm, warm, cold, warm, cold, cold, warm, cold, cold, cold. I guess I’m a room-temperature starter? :P

    If you’re linking it to sleep patterns, though, I’m weird anyway. I sleep when my body wants to sleep and just going to bed at “bedtime” doesn’t do it. Sometimes even being tired isn’t enough. I wake up when I wake up, sometimes after three hours and sometimes after fifteen, and how much or little sleep I got is no indicator of how long it’ll be before I need to sleep again. My doctor’s tried me on various sleeping pills, but the only one that worked was addictive so he wouldn’t let me stay on it; it was a great two months, though. I was also on Provigil — the stuff they give to commandos who need to be awake and alert for days at a time on missions — for a couple of years and I can take two and be asleep an hour later. [shrug] In general I’m more of a night person than a morning person (and always have been) except when I’m not. So I’m not at all surprised my answers here were chaotic. [wry smile]


  18. Tallain says:

    I am a bit closer to cold start than warm starter, though some things I lean toward warm, and others are mixed. For instance, I listen to music all day every day and it’s close to driving my family mad. I’d rather not talk in the mornings except to certain people and even then, I need about half an hour before I’m ready. I also need no caffeine whatsoever to wake up in the morning or stay up at night. Just a shower wakes me up (which covers the half an hour until I speak).

    I know how you feel with the insomnia. I have quite a few of my own stories and have even written some on sleep deprivation (although it, too, is pretty unscientific). I hope you can get some real sleep soon.

  19. Ben Finkel says:

    I defy such tests. Maybe it’s because I’m a high schooler, but my activity peaks in the very morning, plummets for about an hour, and then rises to operable levels at around 8:00. Throughout the rest of the day, it oscillates sinusoidally by the hour, slightly, taking a fall around 2:00. At 3:30, though, I’m at my most talkative and alert (or I shut myself in and read hundreds of pages of whatever book I’m adoring). Most of the rest of the day is spent in semi-stupor, doing work and playing games, but not really engaging or accepting being engaged.

    The rest of the test also seems to follow such a pattern… ish. My temperature fluctuates by a system only known to the black box of my subconscious. Illness comes and goes as it pleases. Socialization, sense of humor, and creativity follow the curve outlined above. Food will be discussed below. I bounce out of bed to fall into stupor before my computer screen and breakfast bowl. Sunlight rocks, except when it’s in my eyes, or the weather’s humid. I don’t really like music, but it’s played whenever, focusing in the afternoon. I leap out of bed, but find it hard to sleep.

    Food is weird; I eat filling but monotonous breakfasts and exotic and plentiful dinners, but abhor lunch as unappetizing. I usually have a fixed snack schedule throughout the day, with “lunch” being one of the less calorie-filled times.

    My starts are neither warm nor cold. I am the anti-Shrodinger’s cat of sleep cycles.


  20. Mrs T says:

    Definitely a warm starter. I can actually feel my energy go up on sunny days, as if I were photosynthetic. I generally need my electric blanket on when I first go to bed bur turn it off sometime during the night. But I have to wake up in stages, and as for being social with people, I don’t like it any time of day.

  21. Da Penguin says:

    I’m a COL starter too but my job has forced me to deal with people in the mornings.. I still dont like it but i fit your cold starter pattern 100%.. Nice One Shamus.

  22. Kaemaril says:

    Cold starter. 125% :)

    I don’t normally get to sleep until somewhere between 3-5, ‘cos I’m just never tired. Wake up around 9:45 and head for work. Thank goodness I work nearby and I’m on flexi.

    I certainly feel more creative and full of zest a night rather than the day.

  23. Patrick says:

    How about a DMotR blindfold to cover your eyes to help you sleep? It can have some of the witty euphamisms from your post comic rants printed on them. They can retail for about 14.95…and if they order within the next 10 minutes….. OOOHHH even better! How about you call Bayer pharmacueticals and cut a deal for a specific type of sleep aid for somniphobia, hermit-like shut-ins. Maybe have it marketed to the ever coveted 18-25 sexually inexperienced role-playing demographic. Every marketer on the planet is trying to reach those guys….well….them and all the pr0n spammers. Anyways we could call it “Dmotricil”…get it? DMOTRicil? see? DMOTR? eh so maybe the nerds in marketing can figure out a better name…

    OOh OOOH ooh! maybe you could have some links to CNN on your site under the tag line ” Having trouble sleeping?”. Nothing puts a sociophobic nerd to sleep faster than news of real people.

    Well…anyways…I’ll think of some more.

    Just trying to help you sell out completly big bro’. Pretty soon we’ll have this whole “Twenty Sided” thing totally corporatized and bland, just like all the other great ideas in America!

    “That gaming rant was brought to you by Miller Lite! Now back to your daily DMotR comic, now in HDTV!”

  24. Coarse.Sand says:

    I don’t know about sunlight, but I’m a cold starter across the board otherwise. I always feel like junk in the mornings when I’m sick and my best thinking gets done at 11pm.

  25. Nick says:

    Definite Cold Starter across the board here.

    Unfortunately, the past 5 years of having to be a morning person for my previous job (They wouldn’t let me come in later in the morning to stay in later in the evenings…) had me in a state where I’m persistently tired all day and completely lacking energy and creativity in the evenings, yet I am still unable to sleep at night. The new employer was flexible with my hours (bascially, come in when I want!) and that helping my mentality immensely. That was probably the biggest reason I changed jobs in December (and took a 20% pay cut in the process).

  26. Kristin says:

    Warm – 2,9
    Cold – 3,5,6,7,8,10
    1 – I know when it’s time for bed based on when I start shivering, but on the other hand I generally wake up cold, too. However, sometime in the night I obviously get hot because I always end up with one less blanket than I started with.
    4 – I’m hungry all the time!
    I do my best work between 9 pm and 2 or 3 am, depending on exactly when I get started. Left to my own devices, I would probably sleep from 4 or 5 in the morning till noon or 1. Unfortunately I can’t find a school to teach that would go along with that schedule…

  27. Amy says:

    Cold starter, definitely. I do like sunshine (#7), but just a little will satisfy, and then I want to get out of the bright light.

  28. Katezorz says:

    Warm starter! I love sunshine during the day, but not in the early hours of the morning. And I force myself to eat brekkie, I’m not always that hungry! But otherwise, warm!


  29. Warm: 1, 7, 9
    Cold: 2, 4, 5, 6, 10
    Neutral: 3, 8

    I’m pretty lukewarm myself. I think I score higher on the cold side of the scale because I’m bad about staying up too late on work nights, and getting up in the morning is NEVER fun if you’ve only had 3 hours’ sleep, no matter how much of a warm starter you are. :P

  30. Vegedus says:

    Cold starter, definetly. Sickness usually disappears during the night and I don’t find sunlight “exhausting”, but other than that, i am definetly a cold starter. But isn’t this kinda the same as that A-person B-person thing?

  31. Vegedus says:

    Oops, I think I managed to use a danish expression (dang you, missing edit button!). To clear up A and B persons is a way of classifying people, where A persons are the ones who go to bed early and get out of bed early (“I'm glad to be up once I'm out of bed. I'm glad to hit the sack in the evening.”) and B persons are the opposite, the nightowl who has a tough time getting up in the mornings. It generally fits your theory very well, though it’s not something completely scientific either.

  32. Da Penguin says:

    Perhaps it’s just the readers of Twenty Sided but it seems to me a majority of us tend to fall on the COLD starter side (in this very small survey population)..

    could one generalize and say us Cold Starters are more likely to surg the interent and read our favourite sites whilst the warm starters are all heading off to bed…lol I doubt very much but there are strange questions this can raise?

    PS I’ve had to adjudt my cold starter score to 90%- i tend to try and sleep off all illness as it tends to work with my headaches.

  33. Clyde says:

    I’d have to put myself more into the Cold category than not, although because I work nights, I wake up at 8:30 p.m. and go to bed in the middle of the afternoon. I like getting off work while it’s still dark, although there is a certain charm to watching the sun rise. Or there would be if I didn’t have to drive facing east!

  34. Julia says:

    7-2-1 for cold starter.

    Explaining the tie:
    On the breakfast thing, I need to be up for at least half an hour before I can eat, but until the last of the kids were weaned (I breastfed all my kids 18-19 months, including twins), I had to eat within 90 minutes of getting up. Now I can wait longer. My body has had its systems messed with enough that I could, in theory, drive on an interstate for 50 miles before eating breakfast, which was NOT the case almost 15 years ago when my mom did all the planning for the road trip I was doing all the driving for. :P (We got it straightened out the first morning, and she never pulled anything like that on me again, for which I am grateful.)

  35. andy says:

    cold starter 100%… absolutely nailed it…

  36. Mom says:

    cold starter? warm starter? sigh- I’m a non-starter.

  37. Barbara says:

    I’m strongly “warm” on points 1 and 2, but mostly “cold” on the rest.

  38. Mr. Son says:

    On point 1 I’m neither warm nor cold. Whether I’m cold or hot in bed depends more on the general temperature and less on whether I’m waking or falling asleep.

    On point 2 I’m again not exactly on one side or the other. I tend to get sickest early in the morning, but if I go back to bed for a few hours I get better.

    3-6 I’m pure cold.

    On point 7 I again stand on neither side of the issue. Direct sunlight can be painful to me (my eyes, my delicate cave-dwelling eyes!), but I haven’t observed either exhaustion or invigoration except in extreme conditions. When it’s so hot *everyone’s* tired, I am too, but when I haven’t seen the sun in weeks and finally get out into a cool but sunny day, it does give me some energy, but that’s rare.

    With 8 & 9 it varies. I usually listen to music all day, but I sometimes have to have it much quieter in the mornings, because my ears are more sensitive when I’m newly awoken. And my sense of humor is completely random. I am sharper at *telling* jokes later in the day, but catching them? It doesn’t seem to matter.

    And lastly on part 10, pure cold.

    So it seems I’m a bit fuzzy around the edges, but still pretty clearly a cold starter. Nice idea.

  39. Antiquated Tory says:

    Like rflrob, I’m invigorated by direct sunlight and sunny days (also somewhat down on cloudy days) but am otherwise a cold starter. Very perceptive of you, this dcategorization.

  40. phlux says:

    I’d be interested to hear what the creative genesis of this post was? Did you tap some existing research for this? Was it an entirely intuitive process? I’m curious because you seem to have a high level of accuracy with a pretty large percentage of the group that has responded.

    I know I fall pretty well into the Cold Starter category, though a couple answers have qualifications on them. For instance I hate waking up, but have no trouble wanting to go to sleep.

  41. Corwin says:

    I’m almost exclusively in the cold column except for #2. Usually, when I’m sick, my symptoms will peak in the late afternoon, subside toward bedtime, and I’ll feel better than the day before when I wake up. because of this, when I’m sick enough to stay home from work, I tend to read or watch movies in the morning, then sleep the afternoon away so I miss most of the worst of the symptoms.

  42. Primarily Cold, with the exception of 4 (I’m always hungry) and 7 (I LOVE the sun!).

  43. CaptainBooshi says:

    I’m a cold starter 7-3. 1,2, and 7 are all on the warm-starter side. Especially the sickness thing. Not only do I feel so much better after sleeping, the amount of time I can sleep when I’m sick will double or more. Normally, I sleep for about 6-7 hours a night, but when I’m sick, I’ll sleep for as much as 18 hours a day if I can. Doing so also means I get better twice as quick than if I sleep normally (from my experience).

  44. wrg says:

    I’m not a scientist by profession, but if one wanted to see how correlated the “warm” and “cold” sets of qualities are, I’d suggest presenting questionnaires asking about each quality with some randomization of the order in which the options (and perhaps the questions) are presented. After that, we’d do something statistical, of which I don’t know the details because I’m not a statistician, either.

    You’ve already given a pretty clear hypothesis, the first step in science, and I happen to consider it credible. However, I’m also aware that my belief is based on very limited experience and I’m as subject to cognitive bias as anyone. Prometheus just wrote a rather nice piece about that at

    I’d particularly favour randomization so that subjects can’t tell which qualities are “supposed” to match with which others, thus reducing the threat of confirmation bias. Wikipedia has an interesting but brief article on that particular bias and, of course, there are the “identical horoscope” demonstrations. Fortunately, we’re not dealing with anything like the vagueness of astrology here. Still, confirmation bias makes me wary of reading meaning into the positive responses to these proposed categories.

    Sorry, I don’t suppose this was meant to elicit a lot of talk about science, but the possibility of an informal study with insufficiently many haphazardly selected participants is just so tantalizing. I’m sure this is a long way off from publication (and you’ve probably already been scooped by what Jeremy Bowers links), but there’s a definite potential for an amusing small experiment here.

  45. Shamus says:

    Thanks wrg. If I had the time, I would set up exactly such a test. I’m surious about this myself.

  46. Krystyna says:

    I really fall pretty evenly between the two, and it depends on the day. If I go to bed early and wake up early, I feel really energized at first, and after an hour or two, I need to take a short nap in order to stay awake for the rest of the day. But if I fall asleep late and wake up late, I can stay awake the entire day and only feel better as the day goes on. I LOVE waking up early because I’m intensely productive (not creative, but if I have 3 hours of math to do, I’ll do it the

  47. Dwaggi says:

    Meh. I’m nearly all cold starter, excepting the breakfast thing. Breakfast is always right after waking up.

  48. Kel'Thuzad says:

    I am also a near-perfect cold person, but for the “not liking sleeping at night.”

  49. Varewulf says:

    More necroing, yay!

    I would say I’m a pretty solid cold starter, with a few exceptions. I love direct sunlight, in fact I have wondered if I’m part solar battery, which has always been a bit at odds with my preference to stay awake during the wee hours of the night.

    I tend to force myself to eat something when I wake up, but I really don’t have much of an appetite in the morning, so if it’s a day off, it can be several hours between waking up and having “breakfast”.

    I’m fairly neutral about music, being able to listen to it all day long.

    Nice to see I’m not the only one who feels like this. :)

  50. xXDarkWolfXx says:

    Dude i know exactly what you mean when you say sun makes you feel tired, i also find it difficult to be outside during the daytime without wearing sunglasses i just end up squinting to much

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