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Blog: Polyphasic

An attempt at polyphasic sleep.

This is an ongoing experiment. It is related in inverse chronological order (older posts appear at the end of the page).

I have interrupted it for a period crowded with talks & conferences. I am renewing it with the 4h Everyman 21 of April onward.

First day of the second journey

Today I will have another try at polyphasic sleep, this time adopting a more extreme configuration: the Everyman 3 naps, with four hours of sleep per 24h and cycles of 5h awakes.


The timetable I have chosen is:

  • core sleep: 23:40—2:40
    • awake: 2:40—7:40
  • 1st power nap: 7:40—8:00
    • awake: 8:00—13:00
  • 2nd power nap: 13:00—13:20
    • awake: 13:20—18:20
  • 3rd power nap: 18:20—18:40
    • awake: 18:40—23:40

Fifth night

This is the record for the first five days.


It is a bit difficult and/or uncomfortable to hold to a strict adherence for the timetable of the two short power naps, but these can be moved around a bit in the everyman to accommodate a meal, a meeting or other obligations in the real world. It is also sometimes uninviting to go to bed, even if technically possible, just because one would rather keep enjoying using more time doing something else.

In the whole process, the most difficult (for me) is the period just after the large sleeping slot. It was particularly difficult on days 2 and 3, but became easier from then on. Advancing the first power nap would enhance the situation considerably. The periods after the power naps have always been very good, with no sleepiness and no hard feelings. I never had any problem to fall asleep.

Thus, the main difficulty, as far as I am concerned, is to get awake from the large slot, which, as I have already noted at the beginning of this blog, has always been a tortuous passage into the day for me. This can be tamed with a premature power nap.

Another difficulty, not documented there as it occurred on the sixth day (which is still ongoing), is that if the mood goes down—due to difficulty or lack of progress in work, for instance—there is a terrible load and it becomes extremely difficult to find energy, will and resource to get out of bed. This, however, might be an independent problem (keeping high spirits even in demanding times). Power naps on the other hand also offer a welcome break in this case.

I still don't know how far the scheme can be continued but apart from technical complications in keeping the schedule and not preferring peace of mind and comfort of a warm bed, I see no evidence it cannot be sustained for arbitrary amount of time.

Fourth night

I should say fourth day rather than fourth night, as the process makes everything a big, large day.

Third day has been the toughest, with a few moments of acute tiredness, with more important deviations from the sleeping schedule. I realized that micro-naps of 5 or 10 minutes also help to clear a feeling of extreme sleepiness. Still, most of the time awake has been spent completely normally. As I also work most of the time (on some task or some other of various difficulties, including writing this blog on the easy end and doing research on the difficult one), it is also conceivable that tiredness becomes occasionally more acute. This was also the case in monophasic phase.

Today is smooth and easy again. The fourth night was also the occasion to see how this would affect Elena, who was back from abroad. She had only mild opposition from me doing this. Actually she got interested enough to wonder if she should try. I could get up quietly from my core nap, between 01:19 and 06:09, without waking her up. It was a bit later because we had watched one episode of Attenborough's Life series. I didn't fall asleep which is often the case when watching something in bed. Either the scheme is indeed working or the show was captivating enough to keep me awake.

So far my intention is to carry it on further as much as possible. I would also like to compile more systematic information from the literature. So far I only got empirical evidence from eager and curious individuals but who seemed to have no academic credentials related to the topic. I found only one negative assessment denouncing the technique. I will need to learn about such points as sustainability, how to stop, coexistence of various schemes, possibility to alternate monophasic/polyphasic phases, etc., or I will have to discover all this by myself. Possibly the painful way.

Third night

Yesterday, for the second night, the period just after the waking up was not working: I felt tired and was not comfortable. I had to finally advance the time of the first power nap, after which I felt great again and could stay alert till the time of the second power nap which I didn't need but took anyway (in fact even a bit later than I should have). When came the time of the third core sleep, that I took on time, I felt however very sleepy and was about to take it earlier.

The same situation arose again today. I woke up tired and unwilling. I decided to stay a bit more, extending the sleep by the period of the first power nap (with no assistance of the alarm clock, I just closed my eyes and when I opened them again, 20 minutes had passed). Then I woke up and stood out of bed, but with no enhancement, I felt heavy and inefficient and after drinking a glass of water decided to take the first power nap anyway (that I had already taken technically by staying in bed by as much time a first time).

After that I now feel okay and alert again, although technically I consumed all my sleep credit for today! This points to the fact that the triphasic pattern is not working very well for me. I can sustain reduced amount of sleep but the core one is too short and the short ones are not well distributed during the day.

I don't know yet whether I'll take the power nap(s) or not, my guess is that I'll take one of them in the middle of the time and try to advance the core nap to an earlier time (00:00—04:30).

Second night

I woke up and thought right away I overslept and missed the waking up time, for I felt particularly alert and good. To my surprise though, I was only 2/3 of my allotted four hours and a half! Maybe I should have woken up, but I decided to go back to sleep and when the alarm woke me up in due time, then I didn't feel so good. I was dreaming, didn't want to get up and now feel tired and deprived of sleep.

Phase 3

I have been through phase 3: Sleep at 18:52, Wake at 19:17, Length of 0.4.

Still no difficulty to feel asleep. This time the waking up has been less easy, I have been a bit startled. I also woke up with slight headache, but nothing strong nor alarming, as I have them occasionally, albeit indeed when tired. Still I see it no ground to cancel what is still an experiment. I feel thrilled at the same time as experiencing new sensations and the added time this brings (particularly in forcing me to go to sleep, a sort of pomodoro technique which in the process compels me to complete certain tasks, for previously I would sluggishly loose big chunks of time always thinking I could go to bed a bit later; well, not anymore).

I also skimmed through experiences from other bloggers. It turns out the triphasic scheme which I have chosen is the less popular, which is a bit strange because it seems the easiest and the most practical. Some say it might not be effective, so this blog will have the added value on experiencing on that.

Of course the ultimate goal of any polyphasic sleeper is to go with the Uberman: six times 20 minutes, two hours sleep a day. This experience will serve as a background if I ever find the courage to try.

Phase 2

I have been through phase 2: Sleep at 12:13, Wake at 12:38, Length of 0.4.

An android sleepbot application assists me in recording the entries.

I had no difficulty falling asleep, I felt a bit apprehensive I would not be able to (for 20 minutes only). I had no difficulty getting awake either and would have kept sleeping if not woken up. I had dreams.

I started to feel the strain before the nap but now I feel totally refresh.

Phase 1

First phase is complete: Sleep at 00:52, Wake at 05:28, Length of 4.6.

This second entry in this polyphasic blog is later than the 4.5 hours I have actually slept (4.58 to be more precise) since I read in bed.

I feel fine, waking up was easy and smooth and I am now not particularly different than any other day.

I now have 6.28 hours (or 6 hours, 16 minutes and 48 seconds) of awake time ahead:


Which makes my first power nap scheduled for roughly 11:45. Good that I am an erratic eater as well! Second power nap falls at 18:21 and second big chunk of sleep at 00:52 again. I'll try to hold to these times as they are not particularly inconvenient for the time being. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I doubt anybody would notice any difference in my timetable!

First try

Today I will try polyphasic sleep.

I am an erratic sleeper. On the other hand, I am a good one, in the sense that I easily fall asleep when I want to. At the same time, I can sustain small amount or deprivation of sleep. My main and possibly only problem with the sleep process is getting awake, which I always find tortuous regardless of the amount of time I slept or of its quality.

I never tried to sleep under control and monitoring, not even in the monophasic phase (I tend to go to bed when I feel I need to and to wake up by myself). Putting some discipline into it is what I'll do from today onward, for some undetermined period of time. Also, I'll follow a polyphasic scheme, which means that I will break up the amount of time I sleep per day in several sub-sessions. I take advantage of the fact that Elena is in London visiting Imperial college for a few days to try that. Maybe I give up before she's back!

I decided to go for the Everyman scheme with two power naps, which mean one 4.5 hours major sleep episode complemented with two 20 minutes naps, for a total of 5.2 hour per day. Second entry of this blog will be early in the morning when I went through the first stage. Further records should track the feasibility and efficiency of this attempt.