'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Polyphasic sleep


Steve Pavlina had an interesting five months doing it.  Dr Claudio Stampi did it while sailing solo, studied it, but doesn't recommend it.  Buckminster Fuller did it for two years and only stopped because everyone else didn't do it. Leonardo Da Vinci may have done it all his life. Thomas Edison did it in his lab, Winston Churchill in his armchair.  Albert Einstein, Lord Byron, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Alan Alda all did it and were probably more successful because of it.  Babies do it all the time.  My son Tom is trying it out.

It's called polyphasic sleep.  As opposed to monophasic (one block a day) sleep or diphasic (includes a siesta) sleep.  
Also called the Da Vinci sleep schedule, dymaxion sleep, segmented sleep, power napping, the sleep of genius, and Uberman sleep.

Most people are familiar with stories about torture by sleep deprivation.  The idea is that you can make someone go mad by waking them after they have fallen asleep but just as they begin their R.E.M - rapid eye movement sleep - generally believed to be associated with dreaming. (People, when woken from REM sleep generally report a dream.)
We know from studies that we must have REM sleep.  Or we eventually go mad and die.

However if we can't get it, either by situation or choice, it seems we can adjust as long as we can nap.  Even short naps in which we get only twenty minutes sleep, as infrequently as six times a day.  Apparently our REM sleep kicks in much earlier, within 5 minutes of falling asleep, and we get all the REM sleep we need.

Why would anyone want to do this by choice?  

Because you get more time to do all the things you want to do, because you're sleeping only for a total of about 3-4 hours in 24.  In fact, some people have said they not only do this, they feel better too, more of the time.  They say they are more creative, more energetic, plus get a lot more done.  Think The Mona Lisa, buckyballs, electricity....  

Most people don't sleep this way, because most other people don't.  
And because the first three days are pretty rough, and most people aren't good at postponing their gratification.  

What would you do if you had four hours more each day?  

What could you achieve if you had 28 more hours every week?

Wikipedia - polyphasic sleep.
Steve Pavlina - very interesting diary of his polyphasic sleep experiences.
Ririan project (power napping and how to do it)
Tom's recent blog at three weeks on the schedule.
A good mp3 20 minute gentle alarm.  (It starts with the alarm to allow you to set the volume.)


  1. Hmm ... I dunno. I do nap, quite often. I don't always sleep well at night, tis true...

    I sometimes fall asleep in front of the TV too - does that count?

    It's interesting. I'm tempted to say that there may be some people this is suited for, physiologically, and some that it isn't suited for. However, thinking about it, it may well be how our ancestors slept, in the dim and distant times of prehistory. If you have enemies or predators it makes sense not to be sound asleep and vulnerable for hours on end.

  2. Yes, I thought about that too. At the very least, some would have taken shifts around the fire at the cave mouth, to make sure it didn't go out.

  3. I do this! Sometimes, if I have only four or five hours to sleep, I'll grab a 20 minute nap the next day, often as part of my 45 minute lunch. (I set a countdown timer on my watch. 20 minutes.)

    Before this, I never actually read anything about the magic of 20 minutes. I had no idea others had tried this. Plain experimentation and experience has taught me that 20 minutes works best to refresh the mind.

    If you really want some extra time, ditch your TV and keep your movie watching down to 2 per month maximum.


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