Polyphasic sleep refers to the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period (vs monophasic once per 24-hour sleep). There are some that use polyphasic sleep and alternative sleeping schedules to try to achieve more time awake each day (in the most extreme case – The Uberman – you sleep only 20 minutes every 4 hours for a total of only 2 hours of sleep). Polyphasic sleep recently got an uptick in popularity due to Tim Ferris‘ book “The 4-Hour Body“.
I’m a big fan of stupid human experiments and so I was itching for an opportunity to try Polyphasic sleep. My opportunity to try came with the birth of my first child — It seemed to make sense (in an insane kind of way): When you have a new baby you are kinda forced to adopt polyphasic sleep (i.e.: You get woken up a lot). So what better time to give it a try?
However, unlike traditional polyphasic sleepers, my focus was NOT on maximizing my awake time. My focus was on the reverse: Maximizing sleep time.
Here was my modified sleep pattern:
- Try and get as much “normal” sleep between 10PM to 7AM. Don’t force yourself to stay awake, don’t wake yourself up at a specific time, etc… If you can sleep uninterrupted the whole way through, go for it!
- Once you wake up, you adopt a modified Uberman sleep pattern during daytime hours: Every 4 hours, you take a 20-45 minute power nap. If you wake up at 6AM, you take a nap at 10AM, 2PM, 6PM, and go down for the count at 10PM. If you wake up an hour earlier or later, the schedule gets shifted by the same amount.
- Seize napping opportunities: If it’s 3 hours since your last nap, and you have an opportunity to take a nap. DO IT! You probably won’t have the chance right at 4 hours. If you go past 4 hours, take a nap the next opportunity possible.
- Don’t oversleep. Once that 45 minute alarm goes off, get up!
- Don’t forget to nap. If you skip a nap, it’s very hard to catch up again.
- Carry an “instant-anywhere-nap-kit”: a blanket, inflatable pillow, eye blind, and ear plugs to allow for instant naps anywhere. (Maybe this is a product idea for someone? The instant nap kit?)
I’m not claiming there is a scientific basis for this, but it worked great for me. I followed this routine for about 2 months (until our baby awesomely decided to sleep 12 hour nights), and I barely felt any effects from the sleep deprivation.