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  • Random Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on January 1st, 2010 (All posts by )

    One hour of computer programming after ten hours of sleep is more productive than ten hours of computer programming after one hour of sleep.

     

    14 Responses to “Random Thought”

    1. Tatyana Says:

      Did that thought came to you after 10 or 1 hour of sleep?

    2. Nicholas Says:

      So very true.

      Now if only I can convince my boss to pay me ten times more for that one hour…

    3. Jonathan Says:

      Did that thought came to you after 10 or 1 hour of sleep?

      I ran an inadvertent controlled experiment.

    4. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Another experiment that I once ran proved to me that I could tell the effect of one beer when programming with C. That was some years ago and I was about 50 but it was interesting that I could detect the effect with that activity but no other.

    5. HADzzz Says:

      yeah…
      But 1 hour of napping after ten hours of sleeping is even more efficient…

    6. Jonathan Says:

      Michael Kennedy:

      I find that in my case programming is the activity in which any cognitive impairment first becomes apparent. Indeed my performance generally declines in the second half of the day, no matter how rested I am when I start. My hunch is that this is true of many activities, but we usually don’t notice it. My other hunch is that most people who think that they don’t need much sleep have poor self-knowledge.

    7. vanderleun Says:

      Off topic but I’d just like to note that visitor #5,000,000 to my site came from Chicago Boyz’ Blogroll and I am grateful.

    8. dearieme Says:

      Don’t forget that all the really expensive Law and Consulting firms run on a policy close to “ten hours of computer programming after one hour of sleep”.

    9. MaxedOutMama Says:

      This is very true, both for sleep and for later hours in the day. I also notice the impact of even a minor cold. For me, it’s not just that I feel stupid when I have a cold; I AM stupid when I have a cold. Flu and programming do not mix.

      When I was programming full time, I did the complicated thinking early in the day and filled in my stupid times with coding, which made me about 15 times more productive.

    10. Jonathan Says:

      Don’t forget that all the really expensive Law and Consulting firms run on a policy close to “ten hours of computer programming after one hour of sleep”.

      Such thoughts come to mind often.

    11. shannon Love Says:

      One hour of computer programming after ten hours of sleep is more productive than ten hours of computer programming after one hour of sleep.

      Yes, but just try telling the project manager that.

      We commonly think of sleep as simply wasted time but in reality sleep is key to the functioning of the brain. During sleep the brain sorts information, separating the wheat from the chaff and forming long-term memory. During the deepest stages of sleep the brain is more active than at any other time.

      The military has studied sleep deprivation extensively for decades and found that it is impossible for anyone to function at their best when sleep deprived. Even relatively minor sleep deprivation can causes significant degradation in performance. It’s a waste of time and money to pay a brain worker i.e. programmer, lawyer, accountant etc and then force them to work without sleep. It’s the functional equivalent of taping up the hands of skilled craftsman.

      Of course the problem isn’t just with managers. We all have this machismo thing going were we brag about how little sleep we got. We don’t think of our sleep as affecting our work or as part of our responsibility to those who hire us. People don’t feel morally compelled to get enough rest over the weekend so that they don’t show up at the office on Monday looking like zombie#23 in a George Romero movie.

      I think employers should make point that since they are paying for people’s brains, employees have an obligation to make sure those brains are working at their best when they’re on the clock. At the same time, they should be careful to plan projects so that they don’t end up working people long error prone hours to catch up.

    12. ElamBend Says:

      First, I learned the lesson about a good nights sleep, in college. Later though, I also discovered what Jonathan alludes to, my productivity, at least for big brain functions sucks in the afternoon. I MUST start my day early and get to work fairly quickly to get a good deal done in the day. I can manage many tasks well in the afternoon (a good time for phone calls for me). I get a second wind in the early evening. But, the heavy lifting must be done in the morning, I structure my days around this now.

    13. Dove Says:

      So true. I experience a difference in performance even if I’ve had seven, rather than my regular eight, hours of sleep. A small difference in mental sharpness is the difference between a task taking 15 minutes of creative thought and 6 hours of try-and-try-again effort.

      With the exception of doing mathematics, I don’t know any activity as sensitive to mental sharpness as programming. Hence the cultural embrace of performance-enhancing drugs like sugar and caffeine.

    14. Dove Says:

      Also, some coding shops seem to have recognized the value of rest. It’s not that uncommon for the small ones to offer video games or lounges. Even large ones often see programmers chatting or playing with nerf weaponry when they’re supposed to be working. Everyone knows it helps.

      I haven’t encountered an environment yet in which programmers are allowed or encouraged to take naps on the clock, which is unfortunate. It helps a lot. On difficult days, I am not above splitting the day and going home for a long lunch and a siesta. My productivity in the afternoon is incredibly better when I do.