written by treybean on March 2nd, 2007 @ 04:08 AM

No, I’m not setting off on a road trip to New York. Yet, the Beastie Boys’ tour rap keeps pushing it’s way into my head today because, though I have no intention of walking the streets of Brooklyn anytime soon, I continue to shout the edgy chorus with full resolve. Why? Because after reading Steve Pavlina’s post about polyphasic sleep and a few other blogs written by other brave, and often tired, souls, I decided to drop the dull 8-hour chunk of sleep from my life and give this polyphasic stuff a try. Hey, if Leonardo da Vinci can be posthumously described as a polyphasic sleeper, maybe I can one-up him on something (he’s even got me beat on the hair and beard).

So, what exactly is polyphasic sleep ?

From the admittedly little that I’ve learned, it’s a sleep cycle consisting of short naps, about 20-30 minutes long, spread out through a 24-hour period. At the end of this “day”, you’ll have 2-4 hours of shut-eye under your belt. The theory is that, during a full night’s rest, our bodies undergo about five different sleep stages. The amount of time spent in each stage, however, might not be in the proportions that would occur naturally. By limiting your sleep to short naps, you end up forcing your body to adapt and to squeeze in the necessary stages.

Now, I don’t know about the theory at all. It’s the least bit interesting thing to me at this point. I figure my body will try to get what it needs, when it needs it. Granted, I understand that our solar-centric lives encourage us to divide up that 24-hour block into two large chunks of time, but who knows if this is vital, or simply convenient. I mean, do you really think it was advantageous for our Neanderthal ancestors to curl up under a tree and check-out for 8-10 hours, especially during the dark, predator-lurking night? I don’t think I’d be here if they did.

If not the theory, then what?

Nothing other than plain, old—probably dumb—curiosity. Reading these other people’s experiences about weaning themselves off of so much sleep made me excited. I’ve always been a night-owl, often proclaiming that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to spend the nights sleeping. Over the past few years, though, as I hung up by crazy, college-kid hat, and other mischief-stained tools I shouldn’t mention, I began going to sleep at hours resembling a responsible, civilized schedule. Erin and I usually turn it in around midnight-one and wake up around nine hours later. My body fought this at times, tossing for hours before I’d find the slumber (usually because I’m horrible at shutting my mind off), or waking at five in the morning ready for some action.

So imagine how intoxicated I became as I read how people were not only surviving on less sleep, but were more alert and productive when the were awake and reported having the best sleep of their lives when they did sleep. I immediately turned to Erin with those scheming eyes and after one more night of a full-night’s rest. I decided to go for it. At least, see if I can do it.

And that’s the other thing that is so intriguing. Willpower. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to force yourself to actually get up after taking a 30-minute nap at five in the morning. If I succeed, it will be because of nothing else but pure willpower (and tons of help and support from my wife, Erin). And if I can pull something like this off, think of the other things that I can set my mind to do. Maybe that tube-system of mine will finally get underway, I sure will have the time.

So here’s to sleep—may I never take more than I need.


  • Tieg on 02 Mar 09:22

    TUBE SYSTEM? Are you building an underground subway in SLC that we don’t know about?

  • Tim Connor on 02 Mar 11:56

    Maybe the Neanderthals did sleep 8 hours a day, and that’s how our ancestors, the Cro-Magnons killed them off. ;)

    Ya, I’ve thought about micro-sleep before. I remember reading a sci-fi story where the world was divided into micro and macro sleepers, but it was based on a combination of that persons natural physiology/psychology in addition to mere preference. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out as more people try it.

    A bit of what I’ve read seems to indicate that it works well to keep you functioning in situations where you can’t get a full night – for example LONG endurance athletes such as competitive sailors, but that nothing is a replacement for enough. You, of course, remember Evan’s approach working for him the opposite direction – longer stints by dropping a day out of his week to get 28 hours per day. Maybe that sci-fi writer will be prophetic – different sleep patterns for different people.

  • lars on 02 Mar 13:02

    Tieg! Are you telling us you don’t know all about the tube system yet? Trey, you’re fired from tube system PR duties.

  • Tieg on 02 Mar 15:50

    No! I can’t believe you guys have withheld the tube system from me. I already have ideas to make it work better and I don’t even know what it is!

    One thing I wonder about with polyphasic sleeping is muscle regeneration. Since (from the little I know about the subject) your damaged muscle is rebuilt while you’re sleeping, will your body rebuild less muscle or adapt and become more effecient at rebuilding muscle? If it were the latter, once your schedule was set you could get a full night’s sleep and wake up like the HULK! booya.

    PS Not that I’m a critic of it all, but another thing to keep in mind is that Firefox 2.0’s dictionary doesn’t even contain the word “polyphasic”. o

  • Tieg on 02 Mar 15:51


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