I'm not going to write a lot here, and this update is long overdue, but after going without my alarm for a while I decided to start using the alarm again. My sleeping pattern was shifting too much and it was affecting the quality of my naps.
When I have a good nap in the middle of the day I am a lot more productive in the afternoon. This means I get two periods each day where I'm super-productive and I can get a lot more work done, which in turn means a better hourly rate. When my nap fails at midday I struggle in the afternoon and often achieve very little.
Here is a sleep chart from when I wasn't using an alarm:
As you can see, my waking time was starting to slip and I was taking a while to fall asleep at night. I also missed a couple of naps and was having generally shorter naps.
Here is a sleep chart from after I started to use my alarm again:
I'm not being so anal about my waking time now, and am setting my alarm forward or backwards each night depending on how tired I am. I am missing a lot less naps and am generally functioning better.
The only bad thing about my new sleeping pattern is that I'm getting into a bad habit of waking up, setting my alarm for half an hour later and going back to bed. Apart from that I'm much happier sleeping like this and glad things are back to normal, although I did enjoy the beginning of this experiment where I was still waking up early, just without the alarm.
Overall I think my internal body clock is slightly out of phase with the real world. If I let myself wake and sleep whenever I feel like it, my sleeping pattern seems to shift backwards, so I think I need the alarm clock to keep a consistent sleeping pattern. One reason for this might be that we have to have the curtains closed in the bedroom due to having a street lamp outside our window, which means it doesn't really get lighter when the sun comes up. Maybe I need to experiment with a sunlight alarm clock, or something that opens the curtains in the morning, but that's a topic for another post...