I’m big into efficiency, a living and breathing productivity app. I have my work disciplines, a pound-it-out kind of work horse. But there has always been one barrier to total awesomeness: SLEEP. I’m 24 days into tackling that with a vengeance.
I have disciplined my sleep patterns to model a Polyphasic Sleep Cycle, specifically the Everyman Sleep Schedule. This is a deviation from the traditional 8-hour sleep schedule that is most common in our industrialized society. You probably have never heard of it, so this post digs deeper.
I’m about as un-industrial as a person can be. I don’t have a job and I’m not on anyone else’s schedule. I am a solo-preneur with residual income. My work associates are in all different timezones, one of my closest lives in France. I’m about as far away from a punch-clock as you can imagine.
And I’m as busy as a dog. Seriously, what I could do with a few extra hours per day! I’m in my most productive time of life right now, and I am seeing opportunities go to the wayside for no other reason than a lack of time. I suppose this is what makes me a productivity nut: I focus on efficiency and am able to squeeze out extra minutes during my work. For years I’ve been very good at this focus.
Now I’m shifting focus to be more disciplined in the one thing that I thought was non-negotiable: my sleep habits. I’m still in experimental mode, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that the Everyman Sleep Cycle works for me. After reading up on what others have tried, I thought, “Why not take advantage of the freedom I have in my work and structure my sleep habits accordingly?” I’ve got three thoughts that have given me a determination to try the Everyman Sleep Cycle.
1. I’ve Been Sort of Doing This for Years
I’ve always been a big believer in naps. My sleep pattern hasn’t been as tight as a polyphasic pattern, but I’d say it is similar. I would sleep from 10 p.m. till about 4 a.m. (6 hours) and take about two naps during the day. I usually wouldn’t go to bed during the day, but I would kick my feet up on my desk and take a snooze when I got sleepy at the computer. Since I am self-employed, why not? My sleep patterns were loose—hardly disciplined, just the way it worked out.
Does this sound slothful? To the industrialist it does. It would be difficult to do this in a traditional 9-5 job unless I skipped lunch break for a nap (which apparently some polyphasic people do).
The industrialist may look at my pattern as lazy, but I’ve found it to be incredibly productive. For years this has been my routine, though not as structured as the Everyman. If I was at my desk doing something that is somewhat boring, I’d naturally get sleepy and take a little nap. I would wake shortly after more refreshed and ready to take on the boring-but-necessary project again. I’ve found myself much more productive and I have years of productivity to prove it works.
The skeptic is out there, I know it. They’ve been conditioned to think that 8 hours per night is good, and 16 hours of work is expected. My studies have shown otherwise.
2. Monophasic Sleep Is Assumed to Be Healthy
The more I study Polyphasic Sleep Cycles, the more I discover there hasn’t been many studies on it at all. Some bloggers have come out against polyphasic trials, claiming they’re unsafe and bad for the body. There are two objections they make to dissuade people from trying alternative sleep cycles: sleep depravation and lack of studies.
Yes, sleep depravation is bad—it’s used as a form of torture—but polyphasic sleep cycles are not depravation. Instead, it zeroes in on the efficiency of your sleep by maximizing the level of deep sleep in the time you allot to sleeping. You don’t deprave yourself of sleep anymore than a dieter deprives herself of food. I’m just being more disciplined and thoughtful about it, that’s all. Makes perfect sense to me.
The second objective people make to polyphasic sleep cycles is that it is unhealthy. “There has been no empirical studies showing it healthy,” they claim. However, there hasn’t been empirical studies showing the 8-hour schedule as being necessarily healthy either. The monophasic sleep schedule works great for people stuck in the industrial age, but there is no reason for someone like me to remain loyal to that.
In fact, there is a stack of evidence that shows simple naps—at least a biphasic sleep schedule—as beneficial. One of Michael Hyatt’s most shared articles is on the benefits of naps (Why You Should Take a Nap Every Day), and he cites a Harvard University study that showed that a 30-minute nap boosted the performance of workers, returning their productivity to beginning-of-the-day levels.
There are advantages to nap taking, and that alone pushes back on the industrialized 8-hour-sleep/16-hour-awake schedule. It makes sense to go with a schedule, or at least try, to overcome the obstacle of time in your life.
3. The Advantages Are Sooo-Weeet!
There are variations to the Everyman schedule, the ideal to be considered one 3-hour sleep pattern with three 20-minute power naps throughout the rest of the 24 hour day. Here’s the image of the sleep cycle taken from Wikipedia:
Take a good look at this and consider the extra time a sleep schedule like this would provide. The Everyman would give me a total of 4 hours of sleep, but lead to 4 hours of extra time per day. Do the math:
- 4 hours X 7 days = 28 hours extra per week
- 4 hours X 30 days = 5 extra days per month
- 4 hours X 1 year = 2 extra months per year
- 4 hours X 20 years = 3.3 extra years to life
For a productivity junkie like me, these advantages are too attractive to ignore.
Considering all this, I started the Everyman schedule on March 9. Heading into my busiest season of my year (setting up debate camps and publishing curriculum for next school year), I knew my sleep would be sacrificed anyway. I figured, why not give a disciplined schedule a try?
I’ll post more on this later, but here’s my observations three weeks into this: I love this! I feel like I’ve finally discovered healthy sleeping. I’m still “experimenting,” but I’m thinking I’m going to stick with a disciplined sleep schedule for good.
There is a lot to consider, and I will post on these considerations in the future. Keep posted by subscribing to ChrisJeub.com, and let me know what you think.
What do you think of the idea of a polyphasic sleep schedule?