Friday, January 13, 2006

Sleep Hack

Ok, for now, I'm just going to take a departure from my normal programming-intensive topics to go with a sleep hack. What is a sleep hack you say? Well, this one got dugg recently: Polyphasic Sleep. The short of it is that Steve Pavlina managed to condition his body to sleep for only three total hours a day by only taking short naps of around 25 minutes apiece many times throughout the day. He reports vast productivity gains with no particular downside. Evidently this comes by forcing the body to fall asleep faster and head straight down into REM sleeping almost as soon as your eyes close. Fascinating.

I've always slept for about 9 hours a day bcause I can't seem to get by on less, and I've always thought that I really had to be especially productive during the remaining 15 hours because I had so much less time to work with than my 6-7 hour a night sleeping friends. I've tried working out more and going with less sleep since it has been reported that physically active people sleep less, but I haven't found that to be true for me. However, if we really can train our bodies to drop sleep stages faster by forcing it into smaller naps, that would be great news. Unfortunately, I am a college student and I have classes to attend to and my schedule just won't let me drop off any ol' time to take a nap, so I'm going to try a different experiment, let's call it SplitNight napping.

SplitNight napping appropriately follows my own personal naming convention for classes in Java or C++, but that's completely irrelavent. More relevant is that I'm going to try splitting my night apart into a sleep phase ending at midnight and another ending at 7:00am. In between, I intend to stay up for at least 3 hours every night. If, mathematically speaking, napping once a night leads to 9 hours of sleep per day and napping 6 times a night leads to 3 hours of sleep per day, I figure that this should bring me down to somewhere around 6 hours of sleep total.

Hopefully, this less drastic plan will also allow me to actually be a functional human being during the "transition" phase which is important as my volleyball team plays Sunday and school starts the following day. :)

Day 1:
Tried to force myself to sleep before midnight. I'm not consciously aware of it happening, but I did spend a little over an hour in bed before rising from sheer boredom. In addition to helping me rest a little bit, it gave me time to think of such things as: how much extra time will I be spending changing into and out of pajamas on this new schedule?
Sleep total: 5 hours, Mental AcuityEstimate: 75%

Day 2:
I don't know if I really exactly stuck to the true intent of the experiment today. I appropriately woke up at midnight and then 7:00 as I was supposed to, but then I let myself go back to sleep again for another 3 hours session. My theory being at the time that as long as I was forcing myself into 3 hour sleep intervals, I was helping my body adjust to the new schedule. In any case, I slep another 3 hours until 10:00 and it felt great :)
Sleep Total: 7 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate: 90%

Day 3:
Today, I really tried to hold strictly to the regimen, but my biorhythms sure weren't cooperating. I only managed to get an hour in before midnight and another hour or two in before 7:00 am. A little afternoon, I fell asleep again for a couple of hourse nearly missing class. So, the good was that today I've only had my goal 6 hours of sleep, but my body is so not used to it. I could barely function earlier this morning, having to reread my homework assignments over and over to even remember what any given paragraph had just said. Can only hope this gets better tomorrow.
Sleep Total: 6 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate: 40%

Day 4:
I woke up exhausted again after a total of four hours of sleep. I have found it almost impossible to actually get to sleep for the second half of my nightly sleep. I slept for two hours, woke up at midnight like I was supposed to, and then slept for... not at all. Again. I believe the issue here is that the little 2 hour sleep invigorates me too darned much. It gives me enough energy for many hours of being awake, but my schedule isn't supporting that. So, I do believe I am going to change the experiment. I am going to try to push my two naps as far away from each other as possible so that each one only needs to energize me for the following 9 hours or so.
Sleep Total: 2 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate 75%

Day 5:
Well, I thought this after the Day 1 and Day 2 of the original experiment, but I really think that splitting my sleep schedule into two equidistant naps is going to work. Today, I woke up a bit groggy but quite competent. I could program, I went to class and payed pretty good attention, and then about 12 hours later, I was just ready for my nap. I didn't have to force myself down and I didn't feel too bad when I got up later. Part of this is probably psychological. When you sleep the whole night at once, you know its going to be another 18 hours or so before you have a chance to sleep again. Now that I'm splitting my night, I only have to wait 9 hours until I get another chance at sleep.
Sleep Total: 6 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate 85%

Day 7:

So it has been a week, and this is my sixth report,
which evidently
means that for one or more of the days I was absurdly sleepy and lost
all track of time. Especially at the beginning of this experiment, I
did notice that my sense of what day it was had drastically diminished.
I think I'm getting used to it now though.
In any case, yesterday I completely missed my afternoon nap and then
when night snowboarding on Cypress
- and had an absolute blast without really feeling
tired. So, evidently, its a bit easier to lose sleep if you know you
have another nap time coming soon.
Sleep Total: 4 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate 100%

Day 8:
Well, between the snowboarding and the lack of sleep I slept for four hours+ during each of my nap sessions. I wasn't completely functional during my first daytime, but did pretty well during my second daytime. I really do try to simulate daytime during these uptimes and I feel that may be why it has been easier and easier to wake up as my body's natural biorhythms adjust to the new schedule. As soon as I wake up, the first thing I do is turn on a light and leave it on, and then make sure I keep whatever room I'm in well lit as i go.

In any case, I am starting to think that this experiment is just plain working and as such is growing less interesting with each passing day, so I'm gonna tone it down and try posting weekly updates for a couple of weeks and then (hopefully) just call it a success. :)
Sleep Total: 8 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate 80%

Week 2:
This week was a mitigated failure worthy of a thumbs down icon if I were inspired enough to go find one. The biggest issue was that life kept getting in the way of my 3-6 PM nap. The second biggest issue was the snooze button. Between the two of them I got worse and worse throughout the week until I ended up with a single 9 hour long sleep on Friday. As of Saturday, though, I am back on schedule and hoping for better progress next week.
Sleep Average: 8 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate: 95%

Week 3:
Went pretty well. Two interesting notes: You are way more likely to get woken up by random environmental noise at 3-6PM than 3-6AM, and second, possibly because of the first, I always have a LOT more trouble waking up at 6AM. I will often just roll out of bed before the alarm hits at 6PM wide awake and ready to get back to work. 6AM is still very hard for me though.
Sleep Average: 8 hours, Mental Acuity Estimate: 100%

Week 4 (The Last week):
Success! The only real drawback at present is that it can be difficult to schedule in that daytime nap. Besides that, I sleep 7 to 8 hours a day on average, which though not quite the benefits I was hoping for, is still a worthwhile gain. On occasion, I have thought about giving up this experiment, and mostly this was because of the difficulty of finding a quiet place from around 3-6PM. In the end though, I do not currently think it is worth the loss in productivity to go back to a long night's sleep.

I hope these results have helped you, and as you can see it is possible to gain a significant number of hours by splitting your night up without going to the drastic extremes of polyphasic sleep. As always, though, I'm sure mileage may vary, and if you've had some interesting experience with these please leave me a comment and let me know. :)


Karen said...

Hi dear, very interesting ur post. I love it! Sorry to keep u up today but believe me it was very worthy for me. God bless u! Thx a lot for ur help:) It's very appreciated! I wish u the best in this new experiment u'll try. Change ur sleeping habits will take time, the beginning specially is hard but it's nothing impossible cause if we train our bodies to do that,it'll adapt gradually. I used to sleep 8 1/2hours in high school, 3 to 5 hours in my undergrad and 4-6 hours now in the grad. As u can see it's possible to train the body,it will respond to ur needs:)

Love ya,


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