Hello! Here Luis.
For some time now I have been wanting to adopt a polyphasic schedule.
Primarily, my reason were that (1) I do not feel confortable with a normal sleeping pattern of 8 hours, and (2) I seems crazy, so I naturally want to try it.
Polyphasic sleeping consists on, instead of sleeping in one sit, breaking your sleep down into separated parts along the night (or the day). The trick is that this allows you to reduce the total sleep hours, without short term downsides. The long term effects are unknown.
A well known example of polyphasic schedule is the Siesta. Also, it seems that centuries ago, before the invention of electric devices, some people followed polyphasic schedules. Babies also do, as any parent who had to wake up at 3 am may known. (Reference)
I first got in contact with polyphasic sleeping by reading the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. Thanks to this book I am now also leaner than ever before, if only because it motivated me into action.
In the book, there is a brief chapter devoted to polyphasic sleep, written by Neil Strauss. Mr Strauss tried a very extreme polyphasic schedule adaptation and failed to implement it, as far as I know. The schedule he was trying to implement is known as “Uberman”, and consists on a total of 2 hours/day of sleep, distributed into six 20 min naps. This schedule is the most difficult to follow.
It turns out, there are more polyphasic schedules, which can be classified into different tiers depending on the total sleep hours and the difficulty. I got all the information from the Polyphasic Society.
Truth is, I already tried to implement polyphasic schedules in the past, and failed. The reason that I failed was that the adaptation requires discipline and everyday persistence. Not quite like me. So this morning, after failing on following the schedule, I asked myself: why did I fail? Why should I do this at all?
I failed, because at some point I lost the motivation. I lost the motivation because I forgot why I decided to do it.
There are two important things to consider, the DOs and the DO-NOTs.
The DO-NOTs tell you why you shouldn’t do it. They may be seen as rocks in your way, if you really want to do something. DO-NOTs for me are:
- I do not use my time effectively. Why should I then want more time?
From Lewis Howes, I know that I must break through my excuses for not to do something. I must figure out first what stops me, and solve it in a daily basis. The answer then is, to use time effectively.
What about the DOs?
- Do it because it is a challenge, and you’ll learn from it.
- Do it because it gives you more time during your most physically and mentally able years (I am 28).
- Do it because people think it is crazy.
- Do it to know more about myself, and what my body and mind can do.
- Do it to practice self-discipline daily.
- Ultimately, it gives me an additional “time slot” every day, allowing me to do more things (and there are a lot of things that I want to do).
I will go through a process of adaptation of about 2 months.
The first part lasts for 2 weeks, and consists on a biphasic segmented schedule.
The second part, about 6 weeks of adaptation, is a Dual-core schedule:
Eating correctly is important to follow these schedules. This includes abstention of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in the hours before bed time.
My plan includes 4 meals, A, B, C, and D (because I don’t know how to call them anymore):
A: ~2 am, half a can of sardines.
B: ~8 am, oatmeal with milk, vegetable soup.
C: ~12 am, vegetable soup with lentils, one banana and almonds.
D: ~6 pm, 4 meatballs, cheese, 2 boiled eggs, almonds.
As much water as I want, and I allow myself one or two cups a day of decaffeinated coffee, although I know it contains a bit of caffeine.
Guidelines for meals are to be found here (skip to the very end if you want to find a pre-made nutrition schedule, which is the one I took as a guide).
The body reacts to blue light and red light differently, to detect whether it is night or day and adjust our inner chemistry to prepare us for sleeping. This is explained in more detail here. The take home message is: use blue light during the day, and red light at dusk, about before 2 hours before dusk sleep. Unfortunately, computers are by default blue light emitters (well, they just emit in the entire spectrum of visible light). That’s were the app f.lux comes in handy, and it is totally for free. This app allows you to adjust the “blueness” of your screen. Even better, it automatically adjusts it during night time. Helping your body to enter into a sleep-ready state.
For all this text, now I address what I meant to from the beginning. My issues on adapting to a polyphasic schedule. The main problem is that after a 3.5 h sleep, I’ll turn off my alarm and go back to bed. This will happen if I lack motivation, and I am finding it particularly difficult also during the summer (well, almost summer) with such warm temperatures which make me feel really sleepy.
Tips to overcome these issues are discussed here.
Things that may help:
- Remind myself about why I want to do it (e.g. with a post-it next to my alarm).
- Drinking water: drink 1 L water 30 min before core sleep, so that I’ll need to urinate when I wake up.
- Increase my body temperature immediately after I wake up. Enter in contact with cold water (e.g. cold shower, eski filled with icy water next to alarm).
- Use blue or white light (e.g. from the computer, from a flashlight…). A very easy thing is to sit in front of the computer.
- Pavlov’s conditioning: adopt the habit of an after-core routine (e.g. sit in front of the computer instead of going to bed).
Another thing with which I struggle sometimes is going to bed early when I am not sleepy. I found (in the same link above) that a possible solution is to “sedate myself” with alcohol (some strong drink, like bourbon) before a core. Although it should be used only spuriously.
Things that I will try next:
- I will drink water (maybe not 1 L) before sleep.
- I will sit in front of my computer (with f.lux disabled) and do some non-work stimulating activity, such as playing videogames. I am in the middle of Half Life 2. No. I do not want to use the extra time to play, but if it proves to be a good tool to keep me awake, I’ll use it for some time.
This is not easy at all (less with these hot temperatures), wish me the best!