I get only four hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle. Since February 2013 I have been on a strict sleep pattern that has (1) improved my sleep quality, (2) increased my productivity by at least 50% per week, and (3) made me less tired and more alert throughout my waking day. Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?
A lot of people think so. Though I haven’t blogged about this more than a couple of times since I started, I meet readers along the way who will pipe up and say, “Hey! How’s that sleep schedule thing going?” Most people agree — with just a little bit of hesitation — what I’ve been doing these past months is fascinating.
Admittedly, this is one of my more radical productivity ideas. Michael Hyatt — whose podcast yesterday was all about the value of sleep (“Sleep and Your Productivity”) — personally expressed concern to me when I shared the idea with him last summer. I asked him yesterday if he still had reservations about it, and he replied, “I really haven’t researched it, Chris, though I was fascinated when you spoke about it.”
Why is getting less sleep so fascinating? Because I am able to increase my productivity up to 28 hours per week. Do you have any idea how awesome that is? That’s literally over 1,400 hours per year, like hiring a part-time employee for free. And I’ve been more alert and actually less tired than I was on a mono or biphasic sleep schedule.
When I started this experiment, I had thought about daily blogging through my experience. However, I have to admit, I was privately skeptical. What if it didn’t work? What if Hyatt’s concern was validated, that indeed there were health risks? What if I was more fatigued than on other sleep patterns? Since my first blog post on this (see “The Everyman Sleep Cycle”), I have been toying with the cycle and perfecting my sleep schedule.
Are you fascinated, too? Allow me to go through the basics of what a polyphasic sleep schedule is, the observations I’ve made testing it out, and finally how I’ve developed my own polyphasic sleep schedule that works best for me. Feel free to adopt it, test it, model it as you wish. Feel free to contact me with questions.
What Are Polyphasic Sleep Schedules?
There are three types of sleep schedules that people sleep:
- Monophasic = 1 phase. Most people sleep on monophasic sleep schedules of 8 to 10 hours per 24-hour cycle. This is largely a response to the industrial workday, not something that works well in my life.
- Biphasic = 2 phases. Many people, like my wife, practice biphasic sleep schedules: they sleep at night (perhaps a shorter timespan, like 7-9 hours) and take a nap in the afternoons. There has been a lot of studies that show afternoon siestas to increase productivity and the health of the nap-takers.
- Polyphasic = More than 2 phases. This is where the most radical schedules come in. They attemp to shorten your length of sleep and maximize the potential waking hours of the radical nap-taker.
The polyphasic sleep schedule that I originally adopted and eventually modified is called the Everyman. The traditional Everyman consists of one 3-hour pattern plus three 20-minute naps patterned evenly throughout the day. Its 24-hour cycle looks like this:
I was on this pattern strictly throughout my busy season of speech and debate competition (February through July). Let me explain to you some observations I made when giving it a try, then ultimately how I modified it to my liking.
My Initial Observations
- Yes, this took a lot of discipline. Sleeping for only three hours was tough at first. I thought of abandoning the idea many times, but I was determined to at least try. After about 15 days of applying this loyally, my body started to get used to it and I actually began to enjoy the new sleep pattern.
- I had to figure out how to make this work. I sometimes had trouble falling asleep. Sometimes I couldn’t at all, but at least I rested for the 20 minute naps and “woke” loyally with my alarm. My phone was my alarm clock, often lying loose on my pillow. I set the alarm for 22 minutes for my naps (I figure it takes 2 minutes to fall asleep) and my daily alarm is at 3am.
- Once I got used to this, my mornings were awesome. I would look forward to my productive times with a quiet and tranquil house. I can tell you that this has made 2013 the most productive time of my life.
- I have found my most unproductive time to be 10pm-midnight, which I have termed my “flex time.” I do something physical and brainless — like clean a closet or straighten up a room — to keep me awake till bedtime.
- The naps weren’t as disruptive as I would have thought. I’m self-employed, so lying down for a 20-minute snoozer doesn’t bother my workday. In fact, I’ll sometimes lie down on my office floor and knock out the nap, especially if I’m in the middle of a busy project.
- I have not been nearly as fatigued as I thought I would be. I kept a careful eye on this because, I reasoned, what good is less sleep if I’m not more productive that I would have been with sleep? In fact, I was more fatigued prior to this sleep pattern. A 20-minute nap is never that far away, and they recharge me nicely.
- I have grown to love the 20-minute snooze. It seems that sleep greater than 20 minutes “knocks me out” and is difficult to wake from. But 20 minutes is just about the perfect time to recharge my brain and I feel refreshed, ready to take on the next part of my day.
- I’ve been less groggy, too. Even during my tired “flex time,” I’m up and I’m doing something physical. When I was on a monophasic pattern, I was more irritable and less tempered, especially after a long day’s work.
- I have total domain over early mornings and late nights. Who else stays up till midnight or gets up at 3am? Only dad.
- My schedule always seems to be threatened whenever I travel and have to work with others on a project. I will typically fall out from my schedule, but when I return home and back to normal, it doesn’t take too long before I get back into my sleep schedule.
- When time is extremely tight or I’m required to “burn the midnight oil” on a hot deadline, I’m not nearly as knocked out of line as my mono or biphasic friends. In fact, I pulled a couple of all-nighter drives to California debate tournaments. That’s no sweat if you’re already used to only three hours of sleep a night.
Specifics to My Sleep Schedule
As mentioned, my personal sleep schedule is a variation of the Everyman. Here’s how my pattern goes:
3am – wake up from my extended sleep
9am – nap #1
2pm – nap #2
10pm to 12midnight – flex time
Midnight – go to sleep for my extended sleep
This veers from the Everyman in two ways. First, I removed the third nap from the routine altogether. I found that a third nap was too disruptive to my family time. That was typically dinner time or close to it, and dad running to his room for a third nap was just plain weird. Instead, the 9am and 2pm naps (typically during my work day in my office) work nicely in my home.
The second variation is the “flex time” in the evenings, typically after Wendy and I put the kids to bed. When time is tight and I have to maximize every working hour of my day, I will stay up and get something important done. If my time is a bit more “flexible,” I may go to bed at 10 and get a “loooonng” five hours of sleep. The point is, these two hours are expendable as I see fit. I have found that this has been a blessing to me, my family, and my business.
What do you think of the Chris Jeub Sleep Schedule? I feel I’m still in experimental stages, but am growing more and more convinced that this schedule is best for me and my life. Use the comment section below to let me know what you think.
UPDATE: You may find this additional article helpful, more recently updated: www.ChrisJeub.com/adding-28-hours-more-per-week