Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Hardware Hacking

Are Alternative Sleeping Patterns Effective? 260

Posted by Cliff
from the making-the-most-of-REM dept.
shmookey asks: "Some people have adopted some unusual sleeping habits, which they believed help them work. The concept is simple: be active for a few hours, sleep for half an hour, wake up and then repeat. This supposedly maximized your effective REM sleeping time and cut back on wasted hours of idleness. Hack-a-day has a nice article and some links on this, which re-ignited my interest. Does anyone on Slashdot actually do this? How do you make it fit in with earning a living? What sacrifices do you have to make to live this kind of lifestyle?" Called polyphasic sleep, or "The Uberman's sleep schedule", this is not something to dive into lightly, as it requires rigid scheduling, and there may be unexpected complications and other issues. Has anyone tried this? What were your experiences?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Are Alternative Sleeping Patterns Effective?

Comments Filter:
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday January 27, 2006 @06:46PM (#14584016)

    An excellent writeup on the Uberman sleep schedule can be found here [everything2.com].

    In the past I've restricted my sleep to as little as three hours a night for several weeks without ill effects, but I've never tried the Uberman sleep schedule. Now that I'm older, I seem to need my sleep much more desperately than I used to (I get physically ill if I get less than five hours sleep per night), so I doubt I'll be trying it anytime soon.

    I have a friend who decided to try it during his long period of unemployment (in fact, I first heard of it from him), but he dropped out after a few weeks. I suspect that he just enjoyed sleeping too much to give up so much of it. ^_^
    • by undeadly (941339)
      In the past I've restricted my sleep to as little as three hours a night for several weeks without ill effects, but I've never tried the Uberman sleep schedule. Now that I'm older, I seem to need my sleep much more desperately than I used to (I get physically ill if I get less than five hours sleep per night), so I doubt I'll be trying it anytime soon.

      No wonder that you get ill with so little sleep for prolonged periods. It's not without reason that sleep deprivation is a torture method.

      • by eric76 (679787) on Friday January 27, 2006 @10:28PM (#14585685)
        I went for about 10 years on about 2-3 hours of sleep most nights starting when I was about 39 or 40.

        There were some exceptions, but not all that many.

        At first, I'd get about 2-3 hours of sleep a night and then crash for a few hours about every 10 days. After doing that for few months, I got to the point where I didn't need to crash very often.

        About two years ago, I had some kind of infection that seemed to be more of a nuiscance than anything else. A couple of weeks later, I had a relapse that lasted a couple of weeks. During that time, I spent more time asleep. Since then, I haven't been able to get by on so little sleep.

        Now I'm back up to 6-8 hours a night.

        I miss all that extra time I had.
    • by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid@gmail. c o m> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:01PM (#14584144) Homepage Journal
      In the past I've restricted my sleep to as little as three hours a night

      'Fess up, you still do it, otherwise how else are you going to get all those first posts?

    • by Qazimov (225653) <dougNO@SPAMdigitalspark.net> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:33PM (#14584436) Homepage
      I don't know that I could pull it off now but for my Senior summer (after a Junior year of slacking) I found myself taking summer classes from 8am-12pm Monday through Friday. This of course was the same time when parties were going on weeknights and quite simply I wasn't going to pass those up.

      My solution was to sleep in a 12 hour cycle rather than the normal 24. For 2.5 months I was fully rested, never cranky, and hangovers didn't seem to phase me. I would sleep from 3-6 am and pm every day. After the first two weeks I started to keep the cycle for weekends and I did feel that my body had adjusted to it. I fell asleep fast, but wasn't tired until just about time to go to sleep.


      I guess part of the quation should be that you can sleep for short periods of time as long as you only need to stay awake for short periods of time. Maybe alcohol was the catlyst that made it all come together. Anyone who wants to fund a study on this idea should contact me ASAP.

      P.S. - I like Vodka and Rum.
      • by Headw1nd (829599) on Saturday January 28, 2006 @12:28AM (#14586301)

        It's been a while since I've posted, but this one brought me back. Many years ago, I did the same thing.

        When I was in high school, as an inquisitive young lad I had heard about alternative sleep patterns. Upset at the wasteful 8.5 hours I was used to sleeping, I decided to try one. School forced to be awake from 7:30am - 2:45pm, so I decided to adopt a pattern of sleeping 3-6, both am and pm. I would get to stay up later, and get a whole 2.5 hours extra. I kept this up for nearly a year, as I recall. There was one major drawback, though, that forced me to stop.

        It wasn't fatigue, weight loss, narcolepsy, or a steady erosion of mental faculties that forced me to stop though. In fact, I felt better than I had previosly. No it had nothing to do with the how much I was sleeping, but when.

        See, the problem was I was sleeping through some of the more important hours of the day. That time after school was a prime time for socializing, running errands, keeping appointments, in short doing anything that involved interacting with the outside world. The time I got in return, roughly 10pm to 3 am, was next to useless. Due to curfew laws, it wasn't even technically legal for a 16 year old to be out for most of that time. If I did go out, who was I going to see? Who the hell is up at 2am on a Tuesday? Nobody I knew. So I had really nothing to do besides read and watch late night television. I was trading the prime hours of my day for late night infomercials. (Back then, there were no MMPOGs, and the internet was not much to look at, but the point remains salient today. Perhaps even more so.) That's why I stopped.

        As a side note, after I stopped, it took a long time for me to completely shake the habit. Even in college, if I wasn't careful, I would fall asleep around 3 in the afternoon, whether I was tired or not.

      • Out of curiosity, how did you feel if you didn't take the mid-term 3-hour 'nap'? I mean, if you stayed up through that sleep period for one day, on a 24-hour cycle, were you rather useless during the 2nd 12-hour cycle?

        Someone on kuro5hin awhile back posted about his experiences changing to the uberman schedule, which admittedly is different from the schedule you were on. He said if he stayed up for more than 5 hours or so straight, he would just turn to a zombie, until he got the necessary 20-30 minutes

    • Actually, naturally, a human will go to a 25 hour sleep cycle when not affected solely by the sunlight, so instead of an extremely short day before sleep, it would actually be more effective to just stay up longer between sleeping the amount of time you would standardly sleep. In effect, you would be shrinking the sleeping:awake ratio, so it'd be doing the same thing.
      • For a few years (1999-2003), I had a job that let me set my own hours, and I decided to stop setting my alarm clock in order to investigate my own biological clock.

        It turns out that I naturally fall into a 28-hour day, with 20 hours waking, followed by eight hours of sleep. Conveniently enough, the number of hours in a week is evenly divisible by 28, so I also ended up with six-day weeks, with 120 total waking hours per week. A normal, sleep-8-hours, wake-16-hours week produces only 112 waking hours, so I e
    • I inadvertently tried this in undergrad; I had one night that for whatever reason I only got two hours of sleep. The next day I felt great, so I repeated this for the entire week. As I remember, I was alert and felt better than I did on seven hours.

      The problem was that friday night, I sat down on the edge of the bed, and slept straight through for 15 hours. (the first several in an upright position, until my roomie came home and tipped me over) Maybe spacing out cat-naps would work better, but I'd be c
    • ...But I wrote the follow-up pretty recently, and I had to put it on LJ because I lost the pwd on that E2 account like, ages ago, so I imagine nobody's really found it yet. ;) It pretty much answers all the questions I've collected over the years about the experiment, and it makes me wish like hell I'd kept better notes.

      'Tis here: http://pure-doxyk.livejournal.com/229675.html [livejournal.com] ...Or follow the link on my homepage. I totally miss that schedule, it was the best sleep and the most awesome gig, and thank you
  • Hmmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scott Lockwood (218839) * on Friday January 27, 2006 @06:47PM (#14584024) Homepage Journal
    I really wonder. Biologically, we process melatonin best between the hours of 12:00am and 2:00am. I'm wondering, with our biology hardwired that way, is any alternate sleep patern ever effective?
    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday January 27, 2006 @06:52PM (#14584058) Homepage Journal
      My wild ass guess would be "yes". My wife told me about a fellow who followed around wolves for awhile. Apparently, they sleep in regular spurts of 15 minutes at a time. He was able to keep up the schedule during his studies (and even commented that it seemed to keep him more alert) but that it never became natural.
    • I don't sleep, or barely sleep, and it works fine for me. ;)
      • I used to regularly spend 72 hours awake while working on scallop trawlers, others on the boat did the same, the first mate usually got pissed on the way home! The catch was 36 hrs working straight through, the other half was steaming, taking 2hr shifts on watch, Even though we had bunks for the trip, nobody I know can sleep with their arse leaving the bunk every few seconds. A bigger problem is when you eventually get in the car to head home you start hallucinating, it's like a mild acid trip. When my hea
    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)
      Furthermore, last week's Science News had an article about how melatonin seems to block cancer, particularly in women. Since we make and process it mostly at night, we apparently lose its benefits when staying awake then, even if that's our regular pattern. The consequences are that a study noticed something like a 300% increase in cancer among female night shift workers.

      All things considered, I'll stick with ol' Ben Franklin's advice.

    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pete6677 (681676)
      Biologically, we process melatonin best between the hours of 12:00am and 2:00am.
       
      I've always been skeptical of studies that claim the body does something best between certain numbered hours. How does the body know that it is 12 AM? What if you suddenly cross a time zone; would that throw off this process? Perhaps melatonin is best processed a certain number of hours after awakening, but how would a certain time have anything to do with it?
      • Re:Hmmm. (Score:2, Insightful)

        Because, our bodies have a fairly good idea of when it's light, and when it's dark. It's not that our bodies know it's midnight, it's that they know it's dark, and typically, it's between these hours, somewhere in that 2 hour span, that we process melatonin.

        The six most important words in the English language are, "May I please see the report?" Rather than just being skeptical, read the research. :-)
        • Does that mean you have to go to bed at about 5pm in the middle of the winter to avoid cancer (at this latitude - about the same as New York)?
      • IIRC, the human body basically schedules its sleep requirements according to two basic schedules, one related to daylight and one related to how long you've been awake and how active you've been. For most people, that combination puts the most effective melatonin processing in the early hours of the morning.

        And yes, suddenly changing across several time zones does mess it up. Jet lag is basically the resulting shock to the system while the two stimuli seem to be contradictory.

    • I really wonder. Biologically, we process melatonin best between the hours of 12:00am and 2:00am.

      What do you mean we? Humans are biologially different from one another in small ways. Some people are tall, short, fat, skinny... Whats to say some people process more melatonin best at 12noon?
      • Whats to say some people process more melatonin best at 12noon?

        Yeah, but they're aussies and kiwis, so we don't talk about them! :)

    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrSkwid (118965)
      I have chron's disease

      I'm under doctors orders to be in bed by midnight and to get up when I wake up and not use an alarm clock (& I usually ready to get out of bed about 9.30am).

      Life gets in the way of this sometimes and if I have a few late nights or early mornings then I get pain in my intestines.

      It's not so much of a hardship and I don't complain but I know that whenever I ever have to catch a flight in the wee hours of the morning then I pay with more than feeling sleepy.
    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Walt Dismal (534799)
      Since I discovered meth, I don't NEED melatonin. But I do need a new set of teeth. And I still write great code after being up for 96 hours straight, like the time I wrote most of Internet Explorer. Sometimes I make mistakes though when I fixate on the spiders on the ceiling and all those noises outside make me jumpy but nosirree I don't need sleep. I'm thirsty. Where's my Jolt?
  • by Eightyford (893696) on Friday January 27, 2006 @06:52PM (#14584062) Homepage
    We all know how well this stuff worked out for Cosmo Kramer.
    • He did alright. He was getting a lot of stuff acomplished that he never had time to do before. The only drawback came when he passed out on top of a girl and woke up in the bottom of a river with chains around his ankles.
  • by Some Guy (21271) on Friday January 27, 2006 @06:53PM (#14584079) Homepage
    Let me tell you a bit about my experi... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Friday January 27, 2006 @06:57PM (#14584113)
    What limited info I know about long-term sleep deprivation is that its very deceptive. Subjects think they are fine once they get used to it. But objective tests show significant declines in cognition performance. The point: feeling fine and being fine are two different things when it comes to sleep and the brain.

    Before embarking on this, I'd get and baseline some cognitive tests (memory, reaction time, logic) to ensure that the new schedule isn't adversing affecting your brain.
    • Anecdotally, from game development, I can confirm this. After about 10 hours of straight work, productivity drops off dramatically, although the performer's perception of productivity doesn't drop off until maybe 14-16 hours in. Obviously there are exceptions (such as when you're really 'in the zone' on something, or have a Eureka! moment 11 hours in or something), but generally that seems to be the case.
    • I've basically slept anywhere from 3-5 hours a night for the past 20+ years, with no ill effects. I catch a cold maybe once a year, and most people think I look about 5 to 10 years younger than I am.
      As far as cognition goes, I'm a surgeon and my patients do well.
      I'll sleep more when I'm dead
    • I read about this some time back in Steve Pavlina's [stevepavlina.com] fascinating sleep diary.

      One thing he mentioned specifically was polyphasic sleep wasn't sleep deprivation.

      I think the idea is that you're never more than 4 hours away from sleeping
      at any time during the day.
      • My god, that blog has changed since the last time I looked at it!

        I don't recall there being any ads at all back in... November? October? I think he was a week or two in at the time, and I definitely remember the "A Wife's perspective" entry. Maybe an AdWords box. Though I suppose I could have had a stricter AdBlock config on that computer.

        But an ad banner below each headline on the category archives? Three sets of Google Adwords on the individual posts? Plus the other sidebar ads? That seems a bit exc
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That is a complete lie! I don't sleep more than an hour a night, and I feel great! I do not loose any brain function, in fact I once had a dog that kept peeing on the floor. We cured him by when I went to the office party and got really drunk. What were we talking about?
    • Hi, I did the writeup on Everything2 about this schedule. I felt fine for the nearly six months I did it, and I was in school at the time doing 22-credit-hour semesters on a double philosophy and math major. I don't think my grades suffered, but I wasn't monitoring specifically for that at the time, so hmm.

      I think you make a good point--and I think the advice to do some initial, during and post-testing is a great idea; somebody should totally do that. Um, I can't at the time being, so it'll have to be so
  • polyphasic sleep (Score:2, Informative)

    by UncleBoy (45706)
    check out http://www.stevepavlina.com/ [stevepavlina.com]
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:04PM (#14584169) Homepage Journal
    I can't remember where I read this, but apparently our urban ancestors had different sleep habits than we have today.

    If I recall correctly, they would go to bed early, wake up about midnight, play around and eat for a few hours, and then go back to sleep. Then they would wake up early in the morning.

    You could find vendors who would go down the street offering apples and such for sale in the middle of the night at that time.

    Pretty weird.

    Our habit of sleeping all in one chunk is probably a result of World War II, where the military enforced that sleep habit. Other than that, rural people live like this (sun up-sun down) for obvious reasons. They couldn't miss a moment of daylight.

    I wouldn't be surprised if various patterns of sleep were highly effective. I know my children like the naps during the day, even if it means they only get 8 hours of sleep at night instead of 10.
    • I know my children like the naps during the day, even if it means they only get 8 hours of sleep at night instead of 10. It's called a 'siesta'. It's an incredible new invention by children - all part of their plot to take over the world!
    • That describes my sleep schedule, but then, I do live in New York.
    • by Valiss (463641) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:52PM (#14584613) Homepage
      If I recall correctly, they would go to bed early, wake up about midnight, play around and eat for a few hours, and then go back to sleep. Then they would wake up early in the morning.

      Actaully, my boss is EXACTLY like this. And frankly, as someone with a normal sleep cycle, it's annoying as hell.

      Imagine coming in to work on a Tuesday and have 15 e-mails from your boss timestamped 9pm, 9:10pm, 1:13am, 2::20am, then a few more in the morning.

      I first thought that he never slept and never stopped working. As it turns out, only the latter is true. But that must go hand-in-hand with being the owner and manager of a company.

      Either way, he comes across to his employees that he's insane. But perhaps that is what he needs to run a business.
    • I recall hearing, though I forget the source, that what profoundly changed sleep patterns was cheap and widespread lighting. Oil lamps and candles could be expensive, so esp. in winter people didn't stay up so late. When the sun went down, most people went to be shortly there after. With the advent of cheap gas and electric light this changed dramatically.
    • If I recall correctly, they would go to bed early, wake up about midnight, play around and eat for a few hours, and then go back to sleep.

      It's called a disco nap, or if you're from Texas, a honky zonk.
  • Be careful. (Score:3, Informative)

    by david.given (6740) <dg@co w l a r k . c om> on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:05PM (#14584179) Homepage Journal
    If you're playing with alternative sleep patterns, take care. It can have all sorts of unpleasant side effects, including playing with your mind, changing your emotional makeup, and so on.

    If you forcibly deprive someone of sleep, they end up with physical brain damage and then die. You're unlikely to be able to do that to yourself, but... take care, okay?

    • I knew it! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Shawn is an Asshole (845769) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:36PM (#14584469)

      If you forcibly deprive someone of sleep, they end up with physical brain damage and then die.

      So it is true that my boss is trying to kill me. I though I was just being paranoid.

    • I was reading about 'devils touch' or whatever its called, a state in which you know youre sleeping, youre really half awake but completely paralyzed. There I found it:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_Paralysis

      This is a possibility when you mess up your sleep cycles. It happens to me when I'm travelling, almost never in normal life. It is said that it can happen when youre brought quickly back from REM. Fear and bewilderment are felt, but it can really be scary at times.

      I think other dangerous states can
      • Yup. Check out the "Night Hag Syndrome", too. I've never actually experienced it myself, but I've met people who have. The tricks the mind can play on one during sleep paralysis are pretty amazing.
      • I used to experience similar symptoms while half-asleep on a desk in class.

        The truly odd part was that I retained voluntary control over my fingertips and toes, and I could eventually wake myself up by twitching around until it moved my hand, then use that to move my arm, and so on. Also, math tended to make more sense when I couldn't move... ...or maybe I was just hallucinating.
    • If you forcibly deprive someone of sleep, they end up with physical brain damage and then die.

      Got a reference for that? I'd be interested to hear about it. It might well be true, but it's certainly new to me. I'm not expert by any means. But, as an amateur sleep deprivation enthusiast I'm not totally ignorant of the subject.

      I've never heard of humans dying, or suffering any long term ill effects associated with sleep deprivation. (Not counting what happens when you drive your car into a tree or halluc

      • Got a reference for that? I'd be interested to hear about it. It might well be true, but it's certainly new to me. I'm not expert by any means. But, as an amateur sleep deprivation enthusiast I'm not totally ignorant of the subject.

        Well, most of that came from the same rat study you mention (via Wikipedia). But there are occasional diseases in humans that cause an inability to sleep (fatal familial insomnia) and they seem to always lead, via dementia and permanent personality changes, to death, via rather

  • by Tribbin (565963)
    Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after. -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    • You know I can never go to sleep immediately after programming. I have stupid 'for' loops going through my head I can't make them stop!
      • Try a break. /coding joke
        • by Anonymous Coward
          This joke would have been much more effective if you had taken the following steps to maximize its humor:
          1. Do not explain or identify the joke as such. Your readers will understand it and laugh, if it is funny. Do not force my hand.
          2. Do not use malformed "close tags" in the style of Fark -- at Slashdot, we know that this should have been properly opened with <joke type="coding"> and closed with </joke>. Just haphazardly inserting a slash followed by some space-separated words is an offense to your
    • She should have listened to me :

      Less yap, less kidnap.
  • Idiocy! (Score:5, Informative)

    by DissidentPhoenix (848080) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:08PM (#14584201)
    Polyphasic sleep isn't an effective long-term way to decrease your overall sleep time. For starters, it tends to take people a certain amount of time to get to sleep, which changes depending on time of day and overall sleep debt that has been built up. This wastes precious minutes.
    As well as this, there have been quite a few studies that have examined what happens to people who try polyphasic sleep. The results tend to involve an ever-increasing sleep debt. You could try looking for the '90 minute day' - most participants who come out of those experiments will afterwards sleep for quite a while. That's pretty strong evidence that they've built up quite a bit of sleep debt.

    You don't WANT to maximise your REM sleep at the expense of slow-wave sleep. While it's true that REM sleep tends to happen in 90 minute cycles mostly unrelated to the sleep/wake cycle, REM sleep is not the only goal of sleep. In normal people, it tends to happen most towards the end of the sleep period. It's also interesting to note that people suffering from clinical depression tend to have a greater ratio of REM sleep to non-REM sleep.

    It would be much more effective in my opinion to gradually decrease the amount of sleep you get each night by something like 15 minutes. Once you get down to around the 5-6 hour mark, you're likely to start to suffer for it, but if you break the rigid routine, you're likely to require less sleep than you did before decreasing sleep time. The theory goes that people who do this sleep more efficiently - they also tend to get greater periods of slow-wave sleep early in the sleep period.

    And of course, the so-called 'Uberman' cycle completely ignores the effects that light and dark have on people. Try looking up the research of Dr. Leon Lack into bright light therapy. If you are stupid enough to try polyphasic sleep, you might want to make sure that during your wake periods, you're exposed to quite strong light and during your sleep periods, you don't get any. Even if your sleep/wake cycle becomes uncoupled with the time of day - which is unlikely considering that people with different sleep patterns like this STILL find it more difficult to get to sleep at certain times of day - bright light and darkness will probably have a big impact.
    • yeah idiocy alright (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LordMyren (15499) on Friday January 27, 2006 @11:18PM (#14585963) Homepage
      For starters, it tends to take people a certain amount of time to get to sleep, which changes depending on time of day and overall sleep debt that has been built up. This wastes precious minutes.
      the whole point of polyphasic sleep is to get to a point where your body can instantly go to sleep. the first week is the problem because you arent trained for that yet, it takes forever to go to sleep after you slept four hours ago. the trick with polyphasic sleep, the way to learn how to do it is, you only put your head down on the pillow for the alloted time. sleep or no. by the end of day three a 15 minute nap is instant and divine. there is no "wasted minutes", only ever growing debt and madness which payoff latter by sending you instantly to sleep.

      As well as this, there have been quite a few studies that have examined what happens to people who try polyphasic sleep. The results tend to involve an ever-increasing sleep debt. You could try looking for the '90 minute day' - most participants who come out of those experiments will afterwards sleep for quite a while. That's pretty strong evidence that they've built up quite a bit of sleep debt.
      like most things in nature, growth is bounded. if you dont sleep for four days straight, you dont need 24 hours of consecutive sleep. polyphasic sleep simply finds that upper bound of sleep debt very quickly and forces your body to adjust to recieving and maximizing the short duration payments it recieves. That restlessness before sleep you spoke of, the inability to get to sleep... the point of polyphasic is to overcome that.

      REM sleep is not the only goal of sleep
      indeed, some people naturally have no REM at all. on the other hand, it does signify a very deep state of slumber. if you can get to rem directly, you're skipping many of "entering sleep" stages most people go through.

      "If you are stupid enough to try polyphasic sleep, you might want to make sure that during your wake periods, you're exposed to quite strong light and during your sleep periods, you don't get any."
      As for light cycles, most people sleep through some part of daylight. 15 minute and one hour naps throughout the day is not seriously going to injure your daylight exposure. Sitting in cublices all day will.
      ---

      In summation;
      You list a number of barriers to starting polyphasic sleep; trying to get to sleep in the middle of the day, trying to sleep during the light, &c &c. Its true taht these all can be barriers to entry but the point of the exercise is to overcome these barriers, to adjust your system, maximize sleep value and reap enormous temporal rewards. the question is "can we go to the moon?" and you start talking about how gravity's keeping us down... well great, the question wasnt "is it easy", the question is, is it possible.

      Polyphasic sleep isn't an effective long-term way to decrease your overall sleep time.
      Yes and no. Polyphasic sleep is an exceedingly effective way to get the magic 26 hour day. Yes, it really is. It works great, you feel fine (after you get adjusted & break through the problems establishing the cycle) and you're sleeping one third the time.

      What makes your statement right is the terms "long-term":
      Actually living a polyphasic sleep cycle, once you've started it, is extremely difficult. The cycle continues itself fine, without problems, but it is extremely inflexible to the callings of real normal life. It is an unstable equilibrium, waiting for the first moment of deviation to go spiralling out of control. Accidentally oversleeping can have devestating effects, missing a regular rest interval will crush you. When its working, it works fine, there are really no self evident mental defects, no externally discernable oddities (besides the disappearing every four hours)... but keeping it up is exceedingly hard to manage in a relatively busy world. Thats the biggest problem with polyphasic sleep, with normal sleep you can skip nights here&there,
    • The more I read polarised opinions like yours the more I warm to the idea that there is a wider biological difference between different people than is generally understood.

      Most of the studies I am aware of on how humans react to different things (be it different sleeping patterns or food additives) fail to consider that the people in their sample group might be from a similar gene pool and so might react the same.

      Consider the different 'races' (don't flame me for using that word please :) of humans. One gro
  • by Nanuk (12427) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:10PM (#14584218)
    Polyphasic sleep [wikipedia.org] is used by Solo Circumnavigating sailors. It's the only way to survive. Taking 20 minute catnaps is a lot safer than trying to sleep for hours at a time. Or, for that matter, doing something as dangerous as sailing around the world by yourself while chronicly sleep deprived. I think there was a Nova that talked about this sort of thing a while back.
  • by qengho (54305) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:15PM (#14584269)


    this is not something to dive into lightly, as it requires rigid scheduling

    Pfft. Just have a kid. I guarantee that at least one parent will automatically do this.

  • by Retribution (35798) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:35PM (#14584458) Journal
    Well, not so much "experiments" as "crushing bouts of insomnia".

    I have, in the past, maintained sleep schedules where I averaged just under 3 hours of sleep a night for well over a month at a time. I know precisely how much I was sleeping because I kept precise logs, as per my doctor's request. This wasn't by choice--I simply couldn't sleep.

    You see, I've always struggled with insomnia, and twice in my life it's gotten this bad. As such, I've come to be aquainted with what affect sleep patterns can have on a person. I can say that a lot of what I'm reading in the "Uberman's Sleep Schedule" seems plausible, except the bit about not being tired. You're tired, damn tired, but you can't tell after a while.

    Naturally, the circumstances for me were a bit... different, but I can't really recommend a schedule like this. When you don't get enough sleep, you're never really awake. Worse, you can't really tell how much it's affecting you while you're still suffering from sleep deprevation--it's a lot like being drunk in that regard. Only the incredibly foolish (or incredibly experienced) think they can tell how drunk they are.

    What's the point of spending more time awake if you're only sort of awake?

    On the other hand, it's only fair to mention that my curiosity is in fact piqued. I'm tempted to try it myself, and see what happens. Worst comes to worst, it could trigger another long-term disruption in my sleep schedule, but hey, at least that's a known evil!
    • Well, not so much "experiments" as "crushing bouts of insomnia".
      I had a really bad case of that once - so decided if I couldn't sleep I may as well watch Babylon5 continously. Once I got up to season 5 sleep was easy.
  • by abiessu (74684) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:48PM (#14584582) Journal
    I tried the "uberman's sleep schedule" for two weeks about three years ago. The first week was rough, but the second went pretty well. The rigidity really is a crucial factor... I overslept once and couldn't get back into the schedule (on the 13th or 14th day).

    I've been working up a plan to get a schedule like this going again, but it's really tricky due to the various circumstances of real life... separate weekend activities/schedules from the rest of the week, parties or dates might last more than three hours... it's almost a catch-22 scenario for everyone past the age of four or so.

    But the 'thirty minutes every four hours' schedule isn't the only alternative... as another poster mentioned, sleeping in a couple separate blocks also works -- e.g., a 3-1-2-2 schedule (a total of eight hours sleep with one block of 3 hours, a block of 1 hour, and so on), or similar. I've heard rumors from some psychology friends that the most effective sleep schedule is different for each person; perhaps experimenting with a few representative schedules is worth trying.

    There is some good discussion on this very topic on everything2, just follow the wikipedia link through (e2 probably doesn't have quite as much server power): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uberman_sleep_schedul e [wikipedia.org].
  • by Ezku (806454) on Friday January 27, 2006 @07:53PM (#14584632)

    Steve Pavlina, apparently a man with a huge amount of people following his blog about various ways of self-improvement, has rather nice coverage on his experiment with polyphasic sleep [stevepavlina.com]. Long story short, he's been doing it for over 90 days now and claims to have improved his quality of life tremendously. It's a nice read, go check it out. Here's an excerpt from his entry on day 90:

    Mentally I feel very different. My brain actually feels different than when I slept monophasically. -- Its really hard to describe this sensation, but it sort of feels like my brain is soaking in a warm jacuzzi. I feel very mentally relaxed and unstressed most of the time, at least when I keep to my naps roughly on schedule. Maybe its because I always just recently woke up.

    Personally, I do think polyphasic sleep can have a positive effect. It just takes a lot of character and a suitable life situation to make it work. Not for everybody, but not bogus either.

    • Am I the only one who is alarmed by the phrase "it sort of feels like my brain is soaking in a warm jacuzzi" or by the idea that one might constantly feel like they just woke up in the morning?

      Don't we drink coffee because it gets rid of those sensations?

      • by lowe0 (136140)
        Agreed. If I were to spend most of my waking hours the way the first one goes, I'd be unemployed. I specifically go to work an hour early so my boss doesn't have to see me in that state, as he arrives just as my productivity is starting to ramp up.

        And hey, it gets me out at 4 pm. You can't beat that.
  • by really? (199452) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:18PM (#14584835)
    Basically, I slept when I felt sleepy - it averaged about 50 to 90 minutes every four hours.
    It was REALLY great for me. I definitely got more accomplished. On the other hand, it was driving those around me bonkers. I was either sleeping or going 100 miles an hour at various, and always changing, times of the day/night; so, they could not rely on me for help/conversation/etc unless they could fit it in a certain period.
    Had to go to Europe and a "regular" sleeping pattern for a few months, so I changed back to "night" sleeping.
    When circumstances allow it I will DEFINITELY go back to what I now know to be poliphasic sleep.
  • by m-laboratories (840170) on Friday January 27, 2006 @08:46PM (#14585032) Homepage
    I have a friend who worked for a defense sleep research lab, before Provigil was available via prescription. They were dosing humans, monkeys, rats, mutant fruit flies, basically everything they could get their hands on just trying to find any possible side-effects. Despite a couple years of research with massive quantities of the stuff, they couldn't find a thing.

    There are two remarkable qualities to the drug. First, you can use it for days at a time, and it only loses effectiveness after about 120 waking hours. At that point you need to sleep - but you never crash; you just sleep a normal 8 hours, wake up refreshed, and swallow the next pill.

    One of the problems with a polyphasic sleep schedule is that it doesn't jive well with the normal structure of society. But with Provigil, you can still be fairly well synced-up with everybody else.

    Besides, why change your behavior when you can just use drugs?

    • I have a friend who worked for a defense sleep research lab, before Provigil was available via prescription.

      Links please... Something like this would be considered Major enough that the users will need to instantly plop something in their bookmarks listing - just like everything else on the Internet that gets plopped into a single bookmark listing never to be looked at again. :)

      Besides, why change your behavior when you can just use drugs?

      On a more serious note, such drugs could easily be classified as

      • Modafinil (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The substance is called Modafinil [wikipedia.org]. And I can say from, um, some people that I know, um, that it does what it claims to. The weird thing about it is that it takes a long time to kick in, unlike caffeine, and its effects last for a long time. Even weirder, you can't feel any effects from it at all - that's the point. It's not a stimulant and has no "feel good" properties of other stimulants - you just never feel sleepy. You can basically function fully normally on 4-6 hours a night with it. The only sid
    • I have a friend who worked for a defense sleep research lab, before Provigil was available via prescription. ... There are two remarkable qualities to the drug. First, you can use it for days at a time, and it only loses effectiveness after about 120 waking hours. At that point you need to sleep - but you never crash; you just sleep a normal 8 hours, wake up refreshed, and swallow the next pill.

      Oi. I'd say that's a bit of an exaggeration. I found that Provigil (or Alertec) was better than Ritalin, but not

    • I can testify that Provigil (modafinil) works incredibly well. The only side effect I've experienced is a tendency to exacerbate headaches. If you stay up too long, you begin to feel some peripheral effects of sleep deprivation. (Staying up for 48 hours straight results in some astereognosis, whether you're on modafinil or not.) It doesn't appear to be addictive, since it's easy to stop and doesn't seem to produce real cravings. It is, however, vaguely habit-forming, as you realize you can just take a pill
  • by mnmn (145599)
    My sleep cycle is really 30 to 32 hours. Thats just what feels normal. I have to force myself to sleep every night, and have trouble getting up in the morning. But on holidays, I just take the 12 hours sleep + 24 hours awake time which feels very natural. I've slept constantly for well over 24 hours, more like 28 hours, after having been awake for 48+ hours. This was when I wasnt working.

    I cant do short cycles, and I could never do afternoon naps. Once I'm out, I'm out at least 7 hours, preferably 12 hours.
    • My sleep cycle is really 30 to 32 hours.

      I started a similar schedule working rotating shifts as a mainframe operator long ago (10 years or so). I've always been a night owl, but working a day shift then a swing then two graves then a day made it possible for me to experiment. To this day, I'm most comfortable being awake 24-28 hours then sleeping for 6-10 (it seems to rotate seasonally). I also have to force myself to sleep and have trouble getting up. Apparently, Frank Zappa [cableaz.com] was a similar sleeper to us.

      A

  • I tried it off-and-on for a couple of years without much success. In the end, it seems that my body firmly insists on at least 6 hours of sleep per 24, but that's a bit better than the 10 it would take if I let it. I eventually decided the schedule's disruptive effects and the incredible amount of effort it was taking didn't yield a net gain.

    Probably the best bit of advice I can offer is to avoid caffiene entirely. When I experimented with having a little diet soda over the nighttime hours is the only time

  • by sjames (1099) on Friday January 27, 2006 @11:06PM (#14585896) Homepage

    There is no question that a nap has a great deal of restorative power. However, I'm not so sure that nothing but naps is best.

    The best thing I have found for memory, sharpness of mind, general energy ved my level, and productivity is to NEVER use an alarm clock. Of course, I telecommute so it's somewhat easier for me to get away with that. Interestingly, once I gave up on the alarm blasting me out of bed, AND on staying up at night after I get tired, I found that I settled into a natural rythem where I sleep approximatly 8 hours a night. After still longer, it became ALMOST reliable. That is, if I need to get up an hour earlier in the morning, going to bed an hour earlier will do it.

    It also greatly improved my general outlook (which was around the borderline of depression before).

    I do know that sleep deprivation is insideous and causes it's sufferers to underestimate their impairment.

  • About two years ago, I tried to induce this sleeping pattern. I made it about 36 hours before crashing, having basically not slept at all in that length of time. I slept for 14 hours after that. My understanding is that it takes another few days to get past that, but there's a chance you'll begin hallucinating. Choose carefully, and, most importantly, make sure that you don't have to do anything -- or drive anywhere -- for about a week after you start.

    I wrote a journal entry [slashdot.org] about it at the time.

  • by dkktav (918476) <dkk@miBLUEt.edu minus berry> on Saturday January 28, 2006 @01:03AM (#14586465)
    I've read of studies (but not directly read their research results) that indicated a significant risk to giving up real sleep, and making do with only naps. Be careful about sleeping less than about 4 hours a day or in blocks of less than 90-180 minutes unless you're doing it for a short time (e.g. to meet a deadline). My experience is with day cycles varying from 6 to 48 hours. Let me explain their ups and downs:
    • 48 hour day

      I did doubledays (48-hour day cycles) extensively when I was working as a sysadmin and got stranded by Boston's subway (the "T") shutting down for the night. At first I took naps, but soon started working through the night and all of the next day, being awake for 36 hours of 48, and at my desk working for 30 of those. For reference, this is when I was about 27-30 years old.

      • pro: You can cut your daily startup time pretty much in half by starting your day only half as often. This is especially useful when that startup time is large (e.g. a long commute).
      • con: I couldn't do software development or real learning on this schedule, because it was difficult to concentrate 20+ hours into my workday. As a senior sysadmin, I did fine, but I switched to sleeping nightly when I started taking college classes again. Also, I had to sleep 7 nights one week due to external pressures, and immediately shot up in weight. (I was still eating for 4-day weeks, but sleeping all 7 nights.)
    • 24-28 hour day

      You're all probably familiar with this one, so what's to tell? The 24 works far better with the rest of the world, but 28 is more natural and probably a bit more productive, if you function in near-total isolation, anyway.

    • 12 hour day

      I did this one for most of my sophomore year in college. Two 9-hour periods of awakeness, each followed by 3 hours of sleep.

      • pro: Allows you to function pretty well with the rest of the world, while requiring only 6 hours for full sleep.
      • con: If you have family or other people close to you, they'll likely be unhappy that what used to be their main social time with you is lost to your evening sleep period. On the gripping hand, much of the US population spends those hours staring at a television screen, so maybe it isn't a social time for you.
    • 6 hour day

      I was on this schedule for only 2 weeks (when I was somewhat over 30 years old), but it felt great. It took me no getting used to, I never needed an alarm clock, and I felt invigorated. I spent 4.5 hours awake, then 1.5 hours asleep. Every meal was breakfast.

      • pro: Requires only 4.5 hours for full sleep. Still has sleep in large enough blocks that normal sleep cycles take place. It once gave me the line (joke unintended at the time): "I really have to go sleep now -- I've already pulled one all-nighter today."
      • con: The wake/sleep schedule becomes much more rigid, even small delays in bedtime hit hard. Few occupations allow for this sort of sleep schedule. It is particularly impractical if you have significant overhead for each waking period (e.g. a round-trip commute every 6-hour "day" versus every 24-hour day).

    Long before I learned of REM cycles, back before the information age (in the 1970s), I plotted my waking times and learned that I woke easily at multiples of 90 minutes after I fell asleep. I would typically wake after 7.5 hours, but also woke easily after 6 or 4.5 hours. With effort, I could wake up after 3 hours. These are the 90-minute cycles of natural sleep. I think it unwise to go for a long time without getting 90-minute periods of sleep, and I've heard of research studies that back me up on that.

    The more 90-minute sleep cycles you have in a row, the more "watered-down" the later ones become. The first hours of sleep are the deepest and most important, while the later ones are just a few steps down

  • I'm on it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by foonus (950198)
    I've been doing the Uberman sleep schedule for the past month. So far it's going great. Obviously my knowledge is all subjective, but based on my performance in school, I haven't lost any mental faculties. After spending some time on the schedule, it becomes less rigid (which seems to be the primary complaint here). Just during the past week I've started moving my naps around by as much as 1.5 hours, with no ill effects. So far this is working better for me, as I can take less time between naps at nigh
  • I go to sleep when I'm sleepy, and I wake up when I'm rested. This seems to result in a 25 to 28 hour cycle, depending on what time of day I start the "day" and what I'm doing. (For some reason, having new video games around makes the cycle longer . . .)

    Every once in a while I run into problems at work thanks to this (I'm a coder), and some people just don't seem to understand it. It can also make meeting up with friends more difficult. However, I'm far more productive - partly because I often end up workin
  • For one quarter in college, I'd sleep from roughly 10am to 6pm. I'd work or be social from about 6pm to midnight. I'd spend midnight to 8am on school, hacking code, and whatever else I came up with. Then all my classes were morning classes. My roommate hated it, but I never had to talk to him about it because I was asleep or gone while he was awake.

Gee, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

Working...