Recently I've started doing a polyphasic sleep schedule, basically a way to make sleep more effective and to get less sleep overall. Here I'm going to outline what schedule and hacks I'm using to pull it off (or not as it may be). Generally I hope that my own experiences will help others who may be considering polyphasic sleep.
If you're not familiar with polyphasic sleep, check out the wikipedia article on polyphasic sleep.
There's a few key things that make up my sleeping setup. I've mostly read a bit about people's various approaches and pulled out the stuff that works for me. So here's the main high level things:
Since this threatens to be quite a long post I'll cover schedule now and write up the other bits and pieces in another post.
The name for the schedule I'm doing is "dual core 1", I've chosen this schedule for a few reasons. The most significant one is that it allows me to basically work the whole day with only a nap at lunch time. Other important things for me were the inclusion of a 3.5 hour core AND a 1.5 hour core, I still want to do weight lifting and get a good block of REM sleep. Finally, the core sleep blocks line up with the best times to sleep according to circadian rhythm, which addresses a lot of the concerns of polyphasic sleep naysayers.
So what is dual core 1 I hear you ask? It gets its name from the inclusion of 2 core sleeps and one nap. My schedule looks like this:
Here's a visual representation (sourced from the now-defunct polyphasicsociety.com):
The rest of the time between these blocks I spend either working on scrunch or doing stuff with the family/around the house at this stage. Currently i'm under a lot of pressure at work... I'd like to get some balance back soon.
The first core sleep is important for what is known as slow wave sleep or deep sleep. The body tends to favour deep sleep the closer you have your sleep to dusk. This is generally when the body does its physiological work, ie recovering from gym, getting over sickness and other body related things. It's important to get a decent block here as I need the deep sleep to help with recovery and growth after gym sessions.
The second core sleep is more for REM sleep, the body prefers REM sleep when you sleep closer to dawn. (do you ever wake up at like 4-5am and recall a really vivid dream you just had? That's REM sleep.) REM sleep is when the brain heals itself, in contrast to deep sleep being about the body. REM sleep is when you reconcile short/long term memories and other things that are good for your brain to do each day. As I work in a "knowledge based" profession (software engineer and technical strategy) it's important for me to have my head together, being sleep deprived is NOT a good way to encourage productive activity from your brain!
The nap during the day seems inconsequential but I can assure you it is not. It's an opportunity for more REM sleep, which eases REM pressure on the first core sleep where I really want deep sleep. The midday nap does amazing things, I wake up feeling fantastic, calm, collected and ready to face the world. For some more info about the awesomeness of naps check out Steve Pavlina's follow up article about polyphasic sleep.
I generally am really enjoying this sleep pattern, though I suspect it takes a bit longer to adapt to because it doesn't force you to do things like nap 4 times a day... it really isn't actually that extreme. In total I get about 5-5.5 hours sleep depending on how long it takes me to get to sleep. I have done this previously when working a lot and pushing it. Now I can do this fairly easily and not feel like I'm burning the candle at both ends.
From a work point of view, in my waking time I spend 9am-midday doing general project management and preliminary coding tasks. After my nap I get stuck into serious coding for the rest of the afternoon.
So there you have it.. my crazy sleep schedule. In my next post I'll write about how I track my sleep and a bit on why I consider that important.
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