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When do you sleep and how much?  RSS feed

 
Destiny Hagest
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I couldn't really think of a good place for this topic, but hey, sleep is a means of survival, right?

So I've been experimenting with my sleep patterns lately. I've fully weaned my toddler, and the nights, they are mine. I used to think I needed 7 hours a night, but now I'm not so sure. In the interest of getting more done (and unpredictable naps, which comprise a couple hours a day of my workload), I thought I'd give 4-5 hours a night a try instead. The result? I was way more energetic and productive.

I would go to bed around 9pm, then get up around 1 or 2 am to start working, making coffee, and getting the house picked up a bit before the boys get up, and I had so much energy.

Now, I say had because of course, after a few days my toddler noticed something was up, and started waking around 2am crying and asking for me. The result was I'd have to go back to bed with him, then stay up the next night to make up for the work I'd missed out on, so I'm having a hard time getting into a rhythm with this as he adjusts to me being out of the bed more.

However, my husband is going to help him get used to me being gone sometimes from the bed, and we may even try to move him to his own sleep space to see if that helps.

I'm curious though, has anyone else ever tried a sleep model like this before? I've heard in other cultures it's quite common to only sleep 4 hours at night, then take a small cat nap (20 mins) or two throughout the day. I also think it more accurately models something like what our ancestors would have had for sleep habits. With wild animals at least, they don't bed down for 8 hours at a time, but are constantly on the move, and napping throughout the day.

Thoughts?
 
r ranson
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Isn't it lovely being up and doing house-stuff in the middle of the night?  I love that time when the house is sleeping.  I can get so much done.


I think that 8 hours sleep is pretty unnatural for humans.  There is a really neat book which I got out from the library recently (and then forgot to read before they wanted it back - that's the only trouble with the library, they keep wanting their stuff back) called "At day's close : night in times past" by Ekirch, A. Roger.  It talks about traditional, pre-industrial sleep patterns which in many countries is to sleep for four hours, then get up, do stuff, sleep another four hours.  Really neat stuff from what I did get a chance to read.

For myself, once I began to understand that all humans don't need 8 hours sleep, insomnia suddenly became a low-stress problem.  Before that, the stress of trying to get 8 hours a night was so high, it was messing up everything else in my life.  Now I understand that I can stress out about not being asleep or I can not stress out about not sleeping - neither of which will influence how much I sleep, but not stressing is way more fun. 

Most of the year, I get a solid 4 hours sleep and that's enough.  My sleep cycle seems to be 4 hours and I need at least one complete sleep cycle to recharge. 

Isn't it amazing how different people need different amounts of sleep?  I love how varied people are.
 
Glenn Herbert
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There is a good BBC article about this pattern: The myth of the eight-hour sleep

There were casual references in all types of literature to "first sleep" and "second sleep", disappearing in societies as streetlights and organized nighttime activities became more common.
 
Travis Johnson
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My understanding is, our ancestors would often go to sleep, but wake up at midnight or so and stay up for an hour. Most of the time it was to check on animals, write letters, or I suppose if you were husband and wife and had a 2 bedroom house with 8 kids, might try for a 9th while said kids were sleeping.

Myself, I have a commercial sheep farm and while we only do this during lambing season (Veterans Day through Easter) I try and check on them every 4 hours around the clock. This ensures that a lambs exposure time is very short. I even have a saying as sad as it is, "When I sleep, lambs die." The mortality rate of sheep farming is incredibly high. And of course if there is a midget sheep out in the barn, or twins or triplets; the nights work has just begun. Then for the next two hours it is all work to ensure they live. And lest anyone think sheep farming is easy, this typically happens when it is 20 below zero (f) and blowing 20 mph and snow is coming down 2 inches an hour. Yep that is ALWAYS when sheep lamb.

So in the winter, nope not much sleep, but I have adapted to going back to sleep quickly. My wife says I am the fastest at going to sleep of anyone she know. One day we were talking, there was a lull in the conversation, then I was out. Then before she left the bed I awoke with a start and told her about a dream I had. She said, "Really, it has only been 30 seconds." I went from talking to dreaming in 30 seconds.

But I do another curious thing that is rather odd. Just before I go to sleep, like a split second before, I twitch. My whole body tenses up, I sort of jump, then I am out. EVERY TIME. It is odd. I am not sure why, but I do have seizures that are cured only by taking medication. Perhaps it is from that in which I twitch before falling asleep.
 
Todd Parr
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Travis Johnson wrote:

But I do another curious thing that is rather odd. Just before I go to sleep, like a split second before, I twitch. My whole body tenses up, I sort of jump, then I am out. EVERY TIME. It is odd. I am not sure why, but I do have seizures that are cured only by taking medication. Perhaps it is from that in which I twitch before falling asleep.


Most people do that if they are very tired.  Now that I sleep a lot more, I don't twitch as "aggressively" as when I am very tired.  My girlfriend, who runs herself ragged and never gets enough sleep, jerks very strongly when she is falling asleep, enough to wake me up every time.
 
Travis Johnson
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That is interesting, I don't feel so odd anymore, though I will admit I am a strange duck still! (As you can tell from my many posts)
 
Destiny Hagest
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I feel like way less of a weirdo now - and I've been up since 3, and feel freaking amazing. Pft. Eight hours my eye. Now I can do ALL THE THINGS!

Making a mental note to come back to this thread with fancy articles and research corroborating my sanity.
 
Steven Kovacs
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Has anyone heard the idea that sleep cycles are in 90 minute increments, so 7.5 hours or 9 is better than 8?  I've had only limited opportunity to try it (having a toddler who sleeps poorly imposes some constraints) but based on that limited experience 7.5 hours does actually feel more restful to me than 8.
 
jared strand
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Steven Kovacs wrote:Has anyone heard the idea that sleep cycles are in 90 minute increments, so 7.5 hours or 9 is better than 8?  I've had only limited opportunity to try it (having a toddler who sleeps poorly imposes some constraints) but based on that limited experience 7.5 hours does actually feel more restful to me than 8.


I had heard that the typical "deep sleep then REM" cycle was 3 hours, then repeats. So 9 hours (while being a LONG time) would be appropriate, as would 6. 3 just seems too little.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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Travis Johnson wrote:... But I do another curious thing that is rather odd. Just before I go to sleep, like a split second before, I twitch. My whole body tenses up, I sort of jump, then I am out. EVERY TIME. It is odd. I am not sure why, but I do have seizures that are cured only by taking medication. Perhaps it is from that in which I twitch before falling asleep.

As far as I know many people have that 'twitch' just before falling asleep. I have it not so often, only sometimes, and because I knew (but do not ask me how I knew) this was normal, I did never pay much attention to it.

I think I have that 3 hours sleeping rythm. I go to sleep (about 11 PM), wake up 3 hours later, feel I have to pee, so I go to the toilet, then return to bed and fall asleep again. Then 3 hours later I wake up again, go to the toilet again, return to bed ... and do not fall asleep again. So probably that was the right amount of sleep I had, about 6 hours. I do not immediately get up and do things, because I found out when I stay in bed for a little more, during this time I have very inspirational thoughts!
 
Corey Schmidt
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I'm a bit envious of those of you who can go hard all day with just 4 hours of sleep.  I seem to need 6-9 hours in the summer, depending on how hard I worked that day and other things, and about 8-10 hours in the winter.  My wife and baby stir about once every hour or two in the night, which wakes me up.  I did notice that sometimes, far from always, I wake up naturally around 3-5 am and stay awake for an hour or two, its the perfect time to meditate. Insomnia at any time seems to be a great opportunity for meditation practice, or for visualizing permaculture projects, or a combination. Today I woke up naturally around 815 am, at the first sign of pre dawn twilight.  I tend to have more energy in the summer when the days are long (up to 18  hours) and can easily work more hours then- 8 hours at work and another 2 at home in the garden seems normal, as compared to now when its always dark i go to work for about 6 hours then just want to chill out.  I think along with our basic biology there are a lot of mental factors at play here-- for example people who need to get up at 4 am for work seem to adapt, even if they would never do that without 'having to'.
 
E Cochran
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I had to weigh in on this topic. I've struggled with sleep for years and years now ... ever since I was a kid really. And, being the observant soul I am, also noticed odd sleep patterns in the adults and others in my family. For a long time I just thought it was a family dynamic quirk genetic abnomally whatever you want to call it.

Then I took a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin East in Wisconsin. The tour director took us into Wright's studio and office in the house. He pointed out several artifacts, the architectural elements, etc and then he turned our attention to a small bed on one side of the room. It seemed odd to have a bed in a studio/office when his bedroom was just across the hallway. The guide explained Wright's odd sleep habits though, but didn't explain them as "odd sleep habits". He just explained that Frank Lloyd Wright would work late into the night, take a bit of a nap for a few hours, then get up and work some more, and then nap again. He let his creative brain determine when or if he would sleep at all.

I was fascinated and began reading up on the subject of sleep patterns. I also started recording my own sleep patterns and that of my kids and my parents.

What I found was that if I allowed myself to sleep when my body wanted and woke up when it was ready my pattern was something like this:
8:30-9:00 (or about an hour and half after sunset) I'd start yawning and fall asleep without effort
1:30-2:00 I'd wake up feeling rested, my mind thinking a thousand thoughts
2:00 - almost sunrise I'd get up and write or draw or prepare meals or clean or peruse the internet or read or whatever needed attention
5:30-6:00 I'd fall back to sleep without effort
9:30-10:00 I'd wake up refreshed and ready to go

My dad had very similar patterns in his sleep too ... as had his mother and sister and brother and apparently a couple of uncles who were famous for knitting in the middle of the night. (my husband on the other hand goes to sleep whenever his head hits the pillow and sleeps for 8 to 9 hours straight)

The interesting bit about this is that in the middle ages it was common for people to have a first sleep and a second sleep and in between get up and do all kinds of things - work, eat meals, socialize with neighbors, have relations, etc ... No one thought twice about it.

With the advent of modern lighting and electricity and time clocks and train travel even, people were forced into a different pattern of sleeping so they could meet the demands of the world they lived in. I mean if you have to be at work at 8:00 sharp you don't really have the luxury of sleeping until you wake up or being up at night for 4 hours. Lighting affects dopamine/melatonion levels in the brain which effect sleep patterns, too. Mom's have it rough ... although I think that's been modified by our expectations for our kids to be awake at certain times and sleep at certain times too ... because moms' have to be up to take care of said kids when they are awake. (yeah, dad's play a role in that too IMHO)

So basically, I don't think there is a "set" number of hours people need to sleep. Everyone is different. I think the key is to allow ourselves to sleep in a natural pattern for our own bodies. I mean none of us go out to wake up the chickens at 7:00am so they can start their day, right? So why do we allow ourselves to be forced into sleep and wake patterns that aren't natural to us?
 
Annie Lochte
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My sleep scedule used to be go to sleep easily 1-2 hours after dark, then wake about 4-5 hours later feeling fabulous, and do whatever... I don't like turning on lots of lights at night so maybe most productive in my mind.... Then fall asleep again around 5 am for an hour of good solid rem sleep.  NOW.... I work 3 nights a week and walk around in a sleep deprived stupor half of the week... The 4 nights I sleep 6-8 hours an will lay there making sure I'm done if its still dark when I awake in the morning. Sleeping in the daytime is usually 1-3 hours... No matter how hard I worked... 
 
John Weiland
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@E. Cochran: "I mean none of us go out to wake up the chickens at 7:00am so they can start their day, right? So why do we allow ourselves to be forced into sleep and wake patterns that aren't natural to us?"

Cuz we've bought the meme, lock, stock and barrel.

My sleep habits vary by season as with many others but tend to have insomiac patterns between 4 am and 6 am.  That said, I've noticed a curiosity of late that if an insomnia starts, I will prop up the pillows and push my back against them in a sitting position and then initiate a breathing/meditation session.  Very often this will put me back to sleep within 10 - 15 minutes.  Upon waking in the upright sitting position, it seems easier thereafter to lay back down and resume sleeping if I feel the need.
 
E Cochran
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John Weiland wrote:@E. Cochran: "I mean none of us go out to wake up the chickens at 7:00am so they can start their day, right? So why do we allow ourselves to be forced into sleep and wake patterns that aren't natural to us?"

Cuz we've bought the meme, lock, stock and barrel.

My sleep habits vary by season as with many others but tend to have insomiac patterns between 4 am and 6 am.  That said, I've noticed a curiosity of late that if an insomnia starts, I will prop up the pillows and push my back against them in a sitting position and then initiate a breathing/meditation session.  Very often this will put me back to sleep within 10 - 15 minutes.  Upon waking in the upright sitting position, it seems easier thereafter to lay back down and resume sleeping if I feel the need.


@John Weiland - very true about the meme :/

I've tried the meditation thing. I even tried using a music that was supposed to induce deep sleep. Instead I come out of it energized with my brain flying in 50 different directions. HA I have a cousin, though, that goes to sleep in a recliner so she can be in a semi-upright position. She claims it helps her sleep better when she actually goes to bed. Might be something physiological there?
 
Al Freeman
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Noob here.  I'm nearly 70 (on final approach)  and for what it's worth, for the past 45 or so years, I sleep only 4 hours at a time.  I've tried to sleep longer, but I wake up automatically, as it were, nearly to the minute I go to bed.  After waking, I can wait up for 15 minutes or so and go back for another 4 hours, but it rarely ever happens back-to-back without the midline wake-up call.  My doctor told me my 'circadian rhythm' (whatever that is) seems to be set at 4-hour intervals for sleep and not to fight it.  I can get by just fine on 4 hours sleep a day, but I 'am' retired and don't have a clock to punch.  The chickens are on automatic pilot courtesy of a solar panel, which lifts the door when the sun pops up.  If it's dark and stormy, the gals just stay inside and watch Animal Planet all day.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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I was just speaking of this with a fellow nocturnal friend the other night - I call myself a "sleep anorexic" - we both feel we are night owls, hate mornings, and do our best work when most others are asleep (she is a Veterinarian) in the wee hours.  After discussing this with my friend and reading all the posts I noticed a few things.

We all seem to do these nocturnal habits alone...our spouses/family are all asleep.  I know for myself it is two things...first, I crave time alone, and secondly, I find I am sort of on 'guard duty' as in someone needs to keep an ear out while every one else sleeps.  I too feel it is when I am most creative and constructive.

We all seem to enjoy our odd hours, and seem to wake up happy and raring to go.  Most seem to touch on the four hour window of sleep, then we awake with our minds clicking away fully alert.  Personally I crash somewhere between 3 and 5 am, am up between 9 and 10, and always seem ready to nod off by between 3 and 5pm, for no more than an hour or so.  The afternoon siesta in warm climates....

I always thought it was 20 years of bottle feeding orphans every two hours....but I think back, and even as a youngster I would read under the covers well past midnight, and be up by 7am for school.  Perhaps WE are the normal ones, although according to the medical professionals we are cutting off 10-15 years of our lifespan by not following the herd.

I say embrace what works for you...come to think of it this whole thing could also apply to eating.  Why do we eat at a certain time?  Why don't we eat when we are hungry?  Food for thought.
 
Nicole Alderman
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The twitch thing is normal! When I worked in preschool (ages 1-5), I would help put 50 kids to sleep each day, and did this for 6 years. A LOT of kids would twitch when they fell asleep. It's actually how i could tell they were asleep and I could move on to rubbing the next little one's back.

It's called a hypnagogic jerk. Here's an article about it   http://www.livescience.com/39225-why-people-twitch-falling-asleep.html
 
Julia Winter
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In med school a professor told us the natural human schedule is to nap in the heat of the day (after the mid day meal) and then stay up later and have a shorter night time sleep than what we're used to.  I'm sure it varies by location - I'm pretty sure he used the word "siesta."
 
Al Freeman
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@ Lorinne Anderson: 

On sleep -- My life's work has been to bring to reality, projects deemed 'impossible'.  So far, I have a pretty good track record and I'm nearly 70.  My mind is a constant jumble
                 of facts, numbers, "projects" and situations.  I sleep when I am drained, but not on a regular schedule.  It's now 0142 CST and I'm going strong, having just read an
                 entire  book on something so esoteric, I won't even go into it here.

On eating -- I'm fit.  That said, when you're out driving, do you stop at every gasoline station you encounter to "top off" your car's fuel tank?  Your body runs on fuel much the
                  same as your car, but do you 'fill-'er-up' only when the needle is bouncing on "E" or otherwise?  I regularly consume between 900 and 1200 calories a day and am
                  very active, living on and working a small farm in North Texas.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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NOCTURNAL MENTAL WANDERING....If I had a dollar for every "4am invention" I would be a zillionaire!!  It is the wide awake at 4am time that I design wildlife enclosures, houses, water systems.....I am never sure if these insights are brilliant or a symptom of insanity...but I do tend to occasionally solve insignificant but annoying problems...as someone owned by 12 dogs, stepping in dog turd while on "potty patrol" with the pooper scooper is a daily issue.  Yes, I can stop, lift my foot and inspect for poop, but then came the 4am brainchild, the shit show-er.  I now have a mirror at the bottom of the stairs, this not only reminds me to check my shoes, but also is so much easier than craning my neck to look at the bottom of my shoe, just lift and flash it at the mirror, poop check complete.  Not earth shattering, but a solution to an annoying problem.

Last nights nocturnal pondering led me to wander down this bizarre path last night:

While preparing for the seasons first snow I checked the neighborhood trees and determined the windstorm that day had sufficiently cleaned the remaining leaves from the trees and we could safely have snow without it accumulating on the leaves of the deciduous trees and breaking branches...this led to how clever mother nature is in prefacing winter storms with autumn wind storms...which led to noticing which trees held their leaves the longest, and pondering if the tardy shedders tended to be trees that grew faster (collecting energy from the waning sunlight in autumn...) or lived longer...this led to pondering trees that naturally occur in our zone vs ones planted based on our desire and whether they shed leaves based on climate or genetics....which then led to the fact that here we have a preponderance of naturally occurring coniferous evergreens with needles not leaves, that easily shed snow....I will save you the rest, but it has made me plan to pay much more attention to leaf shed next year to see which of my nocturnal ponderous thoughts are actually scientifically valid.

 
K Putnam
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The twitch is really common.  I have people give a BIG twitch before they are about to fall asleep on my massage table.  These tend to be the folks who are so stressed and tired that their body is more than happy to go lights out even while someone is working on them! 

I have experienced a very different sleep cycle since I started sleeping on the floor back in September.  Somewhere between 9:30 and 11:00 I'll start nodding off doing whatever I am doing, which means it is time to immediately go to bed.  And I sleep hard until about 6:30.  I could probably sleep longer but the animals wake me up.

I tried going to back to sleeping on my bed and it was back to being unable to fall asleep and waking up in the middle of the night.  Then, I would need a nap around 2:00 in the afternoon.   Within three nights of being back on the floor, the clear go-to-bed signal was back and the steady sleep was back.  So, floor it is. 

I would love to be able to operate on 3-5 hours of sleep, but I immediately get fatigued and sick.  I imagine it depends on what you are doing with the other 21 hours.  If you're only getting one sleep cycle to meet the demands of work, that is rather different than having restful periods throughout the day. 
 
Al Freeman
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@ Lorinne Anderson

Pay attention to those 4 a.m. dreams.  I am what is known as a "lucid" dreamer.  I am also an inventor and innovator.  MANY of my prized inventions and innovations have come at the heels of a waking dream at 4 a.m. 

What I do is, I keep a pen and paper handy at my bedroom roll-top desk.  When I wake up with some fantastic project running through my dreams, I write down the details, which is not to say any of it makes sense the next day, but several such ideas have come to fruition.

I am currently building a machine, which gathers zero-point energy (energy from the atmosphere is a simplified way to look at it).  That machine was the fruit of a lucid dream.  When it's completed, I will be able to harvest free power from the atmosphere.  I have already successfully built one, which has no moving parts.  The current rendition has one moving part, but gathers a thousand times more energy per second.

Bottom line here?  Pay attention to your dreams; though your body does, your subconscious mind never sleeps.
 
Devin Lavign
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I am another nocturnal or night owl person. I just function better mentally at night. Always have been that way. Sure I have struggled trying to fit in with the day schedule folks. Had a mom who tried taking me to multiple doctors about the issue. Guess what they said, "Find a night job, don't fight your natural rhythm."

I have been very interested in the segmented sleep thing of sleeping 4hrs waking for 1-2 hrs then sleeping for another 4hr. It worked well for our ancestors, and seems to be our normal sleep pattern. I am planning to try out segmented sleep in the near future. I have a feeling if I can get the hang of it it might work well for me. Since I tend to wake around 2 am if I go to bed before 10pm. The hard part I expect is getting into falling back asleep after a short wakeful period.

I also tried a rather different idea a while back. After learning that experiments with people without sun and clocks to track time settled into a 28 hr day. I came up with a 30 hr day where I had 10 hrs of rest (anything relaxing. Sleep, meditation, etc) 10 hrs or work (anything constructive) and 10 hrs of play (anything fun). Of course many things would over lap like meditation can be both restive and constructive. Many constructive things can be both work and play. So the time between these segments I would choose to mix these sorts of things. It worked well for me and was a very happy time. With the 6 extra hrs in "my day" I would cycle through being awake in the day, night, and inbetween. But this was the ultimate down fall, as it made relating to the rest of the world difficult. Telling someone see you tomorrow started having odd meanings. Still being awake but gearing down when other were just starting there day some times but other times being in sink with them confused them. So I eventually ended the experiment.
 
Destiny Hagest
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I think this is all really interesting too from the perspective of a new parent. Last year when we were desperate for sleep, I remember reading articles about how kids just woke when they needed to, and that they would sleep through the night when it made sense for them developmentally.

My son sleeps through the night now (almost two) for the most part, but often does wake up after about four hours of sleep a little restless, and needs some cuddling to drift off again for another four. I'm wondering if that's just him responding to biologically normal sleep patterns, that modern life is slowly training out of kids?

I should mention, my work involves me sitting on a computer 3-7 hours a day. I cook and clean, tend the animals, and do a lot of toddler-chasing, but much of my day is spent in a chair in front of my computer. I think that's the only reason I'm able to run on 4.5 hours of sleep.

Some days it gets to me more than others (for instance, yesterday, the day after a bounce house birthday party), but for the most part, I feel incredibly sharp when I wake up at 2am to start my day.
 
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