How one person "cheated sleep"

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Yeah, the problem with polyphasic sleep schedules is that they’re not sustainable. Society doesn’t really accommodate nonstandard waking hours, so you’d have to have very understanding employers/significant others/friends/family/etc. if you wanted to try this kind of thing. I knew a guy in college who attempted the polyphasic Uberman, and he couldn’t maintain it without skipping a lot of classes. It did not end well.


Running my own polyphasic sleep experiment right now, it’s called “My baby is almost 3 months old.” It’s actually not too bad, given that I work for a pretty progressive employer who let me have a month off and then work half days remotely for 2 more. As long as you have 10+ hours to pack it all in, and none of the pressures of modern life, no problems getting back to sleep, a properly tuned metabolism, neighbors that will cooperate with the hours you need relative quiet…I mean, what is so hard?


Thanks to a long period (10+ years) of being chronically short on sleep, mostly due to inconsiderate family members, stories like this make me cringe. My circadian “rhythms” now resemble experimental jazz, and I have to follow a fairly strict routine to get enough sleep. At least I live alone now, which makes it easier to keep a schedule.

Once in a while I’ll fall into a traditional polyphasic schedule for a few weeks, going to bed early, waking up in the middle of the night, and then falling asleep again after an hour or two. Usually I just read a book. It’s all right until I need to run errands on the way home from work, or go to the cinema, or do anything else that shifts that very early bed-time.

I am tired (pun intended) of people treating sleep as the enemy. It’s essential to one’s physical health. Anyone who brags about being in great physical shape on little sleep either is a liar or has a lot more waking down time than they think.


It’s not a standard if we didn’t vote on it!


I feel your pain. My baby is 10.5 weeks old. Luckily he’s just started sleeping solidly from around 11pm to around 5-6am and then he sleeps again for around 3 hours straight after his feed.


I’ve never been brave enough to try this, I have a sleeping disorder and I learned the hard way that messing with it and losing sleep lead to suffering. Maybe one day.


I may be mistaken but it seems to me that this trope (finding a way to stay ‘energetic’ on less sleep a day) is mostly discussed in the US.
I wonder how much of it is because of a culture that glorifies workaholics and make it so that many people need to work two jobs to make ends meet.


Contemporaries! Our daughter was doing 5+3s for a while, but lately has gotten into way more radical polyphasic rhythms, 2x3, 2.5+2+2.5, etc. We think she might be trying to get into some lucid dreaming or astral projection. Should have never let her watch Waking Life… Maybe it’s part of this new regression therapy thing she’s into. Well, whatever gets her past Primal Scream, Janov was off his rocker with that stuff.


“All the cells in our body require nutrients and produce waste. Blood
vessels supply these nutrients throughout the body, and lymphatic
vessels collect the waste from all parts of the body except the brain.”

I’m not sure when this was written, but as of 26 days ago, it is known to be false. A lymphatic connection to the brain was discovered recently.

reporting on this Nature article


It’s not a standard if we didn’t vote on it!

Non-sequitur. Nobody votes to go to school, or for the right not be murdered by their neighbours.

But we take these things as pretty standard…

This type of ‘sleep hacking’ is very fashionable amongst young white males who think they can conquer millions of years of evolution - just in order to squeeze a few more ‘productive’ hours out of the day.

Probably the best account of polyphasic sleep is Steve Pavlina’s long and detailed account of his experiments with Uberman scehdules. Ultimately he gave up because he couldn’t carry on a regular social life.

Apart from the social aspects, I find it quite arrogant, pointless and frankly, a little ignorant to suggest that polyphasic sleep is any kind of alternative to a traditional consolidated sleep schedule (or maybe a bi-phasic schedule if you can manage it.)

Astronauts, round-the-world sailors/aviators, polar explorers - yes, they all have good reasons to mess with their sleep schedules, but anybody else risks the fate of Icarus and getting their wings burnt.

Sleep science only started in the 1950’s, but what we’ve found out in that time is that disrupted sleep schedules will, for certain, if practiced for long enough, produce a whole host of detrimental health conditions. Some of them minor. Some of them chronic, including cancer (Google “night-shift work cancer” if you dont believe me.

Couple this with the risks of slow cognitive decline (due to build up of toxic proteins in the brain), and even an increased risk of Alzheimers, messing with your sleep is not something to taken lightly.

Or maybe you should look at this another way.

The US military has been trying to create the sleepless soldier ever since WWII. With hundreds of $millions spent in advanced research, they have made virtually zero progress:

So, if you think you can hack your sleep better than the US military can, good luck.

Otherwise I suggest forgetting about these arrogant fantasies about the insignificance and unimportance of sleep.

Do some research and you’ll find that instead of being a burden, sleep makes you smarter, better looking, fitter, and is the third pillar of health (along with nutrition and exercise).

Sleep is God. Go worship…



At least it hasn’t harmed your ability to craft enjoyable metaphors.


Thank you for that! But to be honest, it did for a while – the last few years of that period, I had a hard time understanding figurative expressions, remembering things, keeping on task… sleep deprivation sucks so much.


My closest friend has had sleep issues related to PTSD for five or more years now and it’s a sad thing to behold. He has what he calls “microsleep” attacks where he can’t help but fall asleep despite driving/speaking/doing whatever. And taking Lumina and similar drugs usually ends in him having really strange sleepwalking episodes–not long ago I got a call from his wife at ~3am, with her being really worried that he was sitting, nude, in his car, and trying drive the vehicle somewhere.

Given that I go through short periods of insomnia myself, I can sympathize with the difficulties imposed by sleep deprivation. In fact, if I might add, I get seriously pissed when people turn up their noses at using the word “torture” in conjunction with sleep deprivation, because anybody who’s gone through a period of no sleep completely understands how horrible it can be.


I practice a polyphasic sleep pattern and have for most of my life, but it’s based on weekly schedules rather than daily ones, and the schedules change depending on my work/study habits. I call it the hospo-student pattern (Hospitality worker/student). A typical example would be

Monday - Waking at 10am for Midday class. Hitting the sack for an standard 8 hour sleep.
Tuesday - Waking 8am for a Lunch shift followed by assignments. Hitting the sack for a short 4-5 hour sleep.
Wednesday - Waking 8am for classes and assignments. Hitting the sack for a short 4-5 hour sleep.
Thursday - Waking 8am for classes, followed by a Dinner shift. Hitting the sack for a short 4-5 hour sleep.
Friday - Waking 8am for classes, followed by a Dinner shift. Hitting the sack for a long 12 hour sleep.
Saturday - Waking 3pm for a Dinner shift. Hitting the sack for a 9 hour sleep.
Sunday - Waking 12pm for either relaxing or more assignments. Hitting the sack for a standard 8 hour sleep.

Admittedly this kind of schedule results in the same weekly total as getting 7 hours a night, and can require careful dosing of caffeine, alcohol and marijuana to truly perfect; but as someone that has practiced it for years I can promise it is sustainable, and those Friday night* 12 hour sessions are truly glorious.

*Technically, there is no Friday night sleep in the Hospo-Student schedule, and this sleep is deferred to Saturday morning/afternoon… but I digress.


Do you work for IEEE?


Am I the only one who thinks the sleep-4-wake-2-sleep-4 story sounds like a BS internet myth? I never see it with references, and the rationale (“it died out once we got lighting… which for some reason we didn’t need for those two hours.”) is always bunk.

It might have happened in some small communities, but I can’t see it being universal.

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The problem as you have described it there is a matter of your circumstances and your chosen place in your chosen society, as you perceive it. The probble, as you describe it is not inherent to the acts of scheduling sleep that you ascribe it to.

In fact, in other societies at other times, that sleep schedule was the natural evolutionary response - nobody had the internet to communicate their radical new sleeping schedule… we mostly all just did that. And then we invented interior lighting, and timeclocks, and mortgages.

Sounds like our modern 24 hour world with electrical lights and rigid schedules is the only REAL normal, to you? If so, I’d say maybe the horns are on the other side of that bull.

Nope. Believing ones gut in the face of evidence because reasons, while discounting evidence because mirror-of-above-reasons is a surprisingly common way that humans project their own ignorance onto others as a way to defend against an inability to conceive of or value the experiences of others. Other times it’s just a dick move by a bored kid.

Not saying that either is exactly what happened with your own, personal, assessment of the facts here. Who would I be to assume such things about your POV or call your experience ‘bunk’ like that?