Starting Polyphasic Sleep

I recently finished Tim Ferriss’s newest book, the Four Hour Body. The entire book is packed with ways to hack the human body and gain strength, get bulk, lose weight, injury-proof the body, etc. One part in particular, making do with less sleep, really piqued my interest. With the many things I have going on (more on that later) I could certainly use a bit more time in my day.

How It Works

The book introduced polyphasic sleep. Basically, the idea behind this is that REM is the most beneficial portion of sleep, and that the higher the ratio of Rem/total sleep, the more effective your sleep is. To take advantage of this, polyphasic sleep breaks up your daily sleep into smaller chunks. Instead of sleeping in one large 8 hour block, instead you take short 20 minute naps and shorter your core sleep time. There are several options (check this post) for such sleep, and the one I am beginning with is the simple “siesta” method. In the siesta, I take a single 20 minute nap once during the day (usually between 4-10) and get 6 hours of core sleep between 2:30 and 8:30.

From what I gathered after reading various forums, the siesta is relatively easy to implement. The single nap must be taken after being awake for 4 hours, and have occurred at least 4 hours before the planned bedtime (aka I shouldn’t take the nap past 10:30). This is the easiest way to start polyphasic, as the more naps you take the more structured your sleep schedule must be regarding those naps.

Productivity Benefits

Along with polyphasic, I have been experimenting with a few different ways to increase my productivity. The biggest change I have made over the past few weeks is tracking how much work I get done, and WHEN it gets done. I found that I am extraordinarily focused after about 11pm, and can stay focused and productive until around 3:30 or so. Before switching to polyphasic, I would go to bed around midnight to get my full 8 hours in. Now, I sleep for 20 minutes before or after dinner, and have an extra 2 hours of pure focus with no interruptions where I accomplish more than I used to accomplish all day. This sleep schedule benefits me because I am a night person, and it allows me more freedom to stay up late and get things done. Eventually I would like to try the Everyman 2 (2 naps, more structured, 5 hours core), but while in college I don’t see that happening without heavily affecting my social life.

A random effect I have noticed from the new sleep schedule is REM occurs in much faster, short intervals. My alarm in the morning goes off every 5 minutes until I get up and turn it off, and I found that in the 5 minutes between hitting snooze and it gonig off again I was actually having short dreams, which are a sign of REM. This has occurred twice out of 8 days, both times on days where I missed a nap the previous day.

With the improved productivity I have experienced, polyphasic is definitely something I will be sticking with for a while.

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  • I too tried this and several of the things learned from Ferriss’s book. There’s always new things packed in there to play around with when you want to try something different.

  • Colby

    I was extremely excited to learn you can sleep only 2 hours a day and feel great. Sleeping has always seemed like a waste of time to me. When I first read about polyphasic sleeping I wanted to Immidiately start the most extreme form of polyphasia. After some thought, I too have decided to start with the ‘Siesta’ version of a polyphasic sleeping habit.

    Are you still sleeping this way?
    Any long term effects I should know about?

    I’m keeping track of my first days starting this polyphasic sleeping. I wont spam a link in this comment but if anyone wants the link to my blog where I’ll be recording my polyphasic adventure, let me know.

    • justinmares

      Honestly, I wasn’t able to stick with it. I kept it up for about 2 months but kept sleeping past my alarm every few weeks and then would sleep 10 hours straight.

      I’m actually trying again soon though, so we’ll see!

      • Jon

        Did you ever try again with any form of sleep schedule? I recently just failed after 4 days of trying to adapt to the ‘everyman’ schedule due to feeling nauseous, but still intrigued by it and hungry to know other’s experiences.