Saturday, August 29, 2009


Before you ask, yes, I am completely crazy. I'm stark raving mad, I'm sure.

So 3 or 4 weeks ago I decided to try something I've always wanted to try ever since I first heard about it. That's right, I'm trying polyphasic sleeping. I sleep for three hours at night and (currently) four 20 minute naps spaced throughout the day (this is known as the "everyman" schedule). This adds about 4 hours of free time to my day.

I think it's obvious why one would want to do this; if you can't think of things to do with 4 extra hours then you need more hobbies. I had some additional goals; I've never been able to take naps and I wanted to be able to. I have always had a terrible time getting to bed and getting up in the morning, and I didn't like it.

As for how it works out at work, I take a nap at lunch time in my car. I bring food and eat it at non-lunch times at my desk. (4 extra hours = time to prepare food ahead of time.) I take a nap right before I leave home and right when I get back.

My wife doesn't seem to mind so far. Now she sees me in the morning when she gets up (I used to not get up for work until she had already left). I've been washing the dishes, which neither of us ever seems to get around to. I even make her breakfast once in a while.

The first week or so of the adaptation process was pretty hellish. Basically the idea is to deprive yourself of sleep until you're so tired that you can practically sleep standing up. Then your body will start taking advantage of the 20 minute chunks you give it.

It's supposed to take around a month to adapt to the everyman schedule. I think it's going to take another week or so for me to reach complete adaptation, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The 4:30 to 7:50 block of time has been the worst one for me, but today I felt fairly alert after being up for half an hour. It gets a little easier every day. So I'm now pretty confident that this is going to work out for me (and hence the blog post).

No clinical trials have been done of this, but many people have adapted successfully (yay internets, where were we without you). I feel pretty good, I'm not back to 100% yet but I'm getting there. Anyway, it's almost time for a nap. I'll take your questions in the comments. ;)

And yes, I'm crazy. I warned you...


Tony Carlson said...

Hmm... Interesting! I could definitely use an extra 4 hours. What happens if you have a special circumstance and can't do one of the 20 minute naps? Are you like the living dead after that? I always have a hard time going to sleep and getting up. You'll have to give me another update after you have been doing this longer.

daniel the smith said...

I thought you might be interested in this...

The theory is that having a 3 hour core sleep at night gives your body the flexibility to move your naps by +/- 1 hour after you're completely adapted. (As opposed to the "uberman" schedule: 20 mins every 4 hours, no core sleep. That reportedly leaves very little flexibility about nap times.) We'll see if that is true for me, I'm not quite ready to push it yet.

I'll make another post about this in a couple weeks. I should be completely adapted by then.

Tony Carlson said...

How healthy is it to only sleep a total of four hours and twenty minutes a day? Even if you adapt to the point that you "feel" ok, is your body really getting the rest time that it needs? I am very interested. I don't really feel that well rested most of the time anyway so if it works I might as well have some extra time to burn.

P.S. You're lucky I still check your blog. It's been sparse :)

daniel the smith said...

The theory is that your body can sleep more efficiently if you space your sleep throughout the day. The penalty for the increased efficiency is decreased flexibility. On 8 hours of sleep you can go 16+ hours without sleep; on a biphasic schedule (6 hour core + afternoon nap) you kinda need the nap, on everyman 3 (my schedule) supposedly you can move the naps by an hour, and on uberman you can move the naps by only a few minutes.

Unfortunately this hasn't been studied well at all, so most of this information is anecdotal. But enough people have done this that it seems certainly possible. The people who have stuck with it more than a month or two seem to report that they feel better than they did before. I have more to say on this but it deserves a post of its own in a few days.

At the moment, I feel normal or better than normal most of the day, and perhaps more tired than normal at night. It's still hard to stay awake at 4:30 when I get up but it gets easier every day.

And hopefully with a bit of extra time I'll feel more inspired to post stuff here :)