Before you read this post, it may be helpful to understand the purpose of this blog.
I have been accustomed to monophasic sleep for the majority of my life. One phase or chunk of sleep (monophasic sleep) is likely something you are quite familiar with as well.
Today begins my adventure into polyphasic sleep. Polyphasic sleep, as you could guess, is sleeping several times throughout the day. Of course we’ve all been polyphasic sleepers at some point: from napping in infancy to taking a snooze on a rainy Sunday afternoon, from Spanish siestas to studying and/or partying college kids. But my polyphasic sleep will allow me to sustainably hack sleep to a mere two hours per day.
This is unapologetically controversial. I want to say this at the start so as to welcome and acknowledge the legitimacy of most rebuttals to this lifestyle change. I will try to address some of your concerns here, but many of them I’ll only be able to anecdotally respond to as I settle into this new sleep schedule.
It may be beneficial to start with why I intend to only sleep two hours per 24-hour cycle:
- Improve time efficiency and discipline
- Increase productivity (Matt Mullenweg, creator of the software that runs 19% of the internet)
- Practice minimalism and favor simplicity (Occam’s Razor: why do with more what you can do with less?)
- Promote a personal freedom to be curious (Matt Mullenweg, Kramer of Seinfeld, Napolean, Da Vinci, Tesla, and most famously Buckminster Fuller)
Defining the Project
- Two hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle for an indefinite amount of time
- The two hours of sleep will be evenly dispersed every four hours throughout the day in 20 minute nap bursts, six times per day (More introductory information)
- I will attempt this lifestyle for at least one month with the hope of going longer, assuming that no noticeable repercussions force me to prematurely end
Much of what we know about sleep (which is strikingly not much) says that all of the goodies and benefits we receive from sleep happen during our REM cycle. Keep in mind: 90% of what we know about the brain has been learned and discovered in the past two years. This has been the trend for as long as we’ve been studying the brain.
What is important about sleep?
It seems to be the case that not all of sleep is crucial. Only REM cycle is vital. (Cue the controversy from Science and the layman.) It’s during REM do the following take place:
- Cell repair
- Cell regeneration
- Memory consolidation
- Memory storage
- And much more
In a normal, monophasic sleep cycle of 6-8 hours, a person gets roughly two cycles of 45-minute REM cycles. So, 4.5-6.5 hours of sleep is wasted unconsciousness where nothing of substantial value occurs. (Did I mention this was controversial?) Assuming this is true, gaining that unnecessary time you spend asleep could be very valuable to you, your family, and your employer? I’m tired (excuse the pun) of saying, “Man, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” I’d like to have that extra 4-7 hours of my day to do anything. In other words, when you say, “I love sleep,” you really mean to say, “I love the effects of REM.”
The next few days
I’m currently writing this post after 23 hours of intentional sleep deprivation. I intend to stay awake for another 2 hours to force my body to be able to fall asleep immediately and on command for only 20 minutes at a time (I’ll sleep at midnight, 4 am, 8 am, noon, 4 pm, and 8pm). The first 3-14 days will obviously be a sleep-deprived hell until my body/brain chemistry adapts to receiving short bursts of REM every nap throughout the day. After adapting and perfecting the skill of napping (hopefully this adaptation/nap-perfection stage will happen sooner rather than later), I will receive 18 minutes of REM per 20 minute nap (90% REM-to-sleep efficiency versus the 20% REM-to-sleep efficiency of monophasic sleepers) – amounting to 100+ minutes of REM per 24-hour cycle…that’s more REM than the average monophasic sleeper receives. Boo yah.
- Alcohol only in moderation so as to not overnap or miss an all-important nap
- I’ll need to be very careful about scheduling…it seems to be the case that the rest of society isn’t very forgiving toward polyphasics
- I won’t be able to hold a traditional job – instead I’ll need to earn money via self-employment and freelance work
- Potential boredom – I hope to curb this with new hobbies and arising interests (learning poker, guitar, 2-D art, Spanish, chess, darts, tango, swimming, jiu-jitsu, rockclimbing, etc.)
- Intense sleep deprivation on the front end until my chemistry adjusts and I catch up on REM (usually a 7-14 day process)
My posts on polyphasic sleep will serve a purpose in several facets:
- To strike fear in your restless children who refuse to take naps and don’t get enough REM
- To be a place of discussion, reference, guide, help, and testimonial to other polyphasic newbies
- And to be a source of entertainment for the doubters
“No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”