Polyphasic Day 1

Knitted by my mother
Blanket care of Gale Leach
The first day is always one of the easiest. I’ve been through my first six naps, and I still feel coherent. Whether this is a factor of experience, pre-planning, or just remnants of my monophasic self doing okay on no sleep for a day, I don’t know, but I am hopeful that it’s a combination of all of these things that’s making it easier.

One of the things I’ve forgotten about polyphasic is that it gets lonely at 3am. My life is fairly different now than it has been in the past. I have a wife, roommates, a job. I’m rarely alone, and I’ve gotten pretty used to that. It’s a nice problem to have, I guess, considering how much I used to value my alone time. I get to do much more reflection, keep up with things I used to miss, and play more games. I’m considering grabbing a copy of Mass Effect 3, a game I’ve been eager to play, but haven’t had the time.

What do I hope to accomplish doing polyphasic? I know this is one of the big questions most people try to answer before they begin acclimation, but I find myself without much direction. I’ve always found that my reasons for doing it are very temporal–once I finish the series of small things I’ve been interested in doing (often acclimation itself is a goal), I run out of steam and desire to keep going. The last time I went through this, I stuck to it for a month, then gave it up when I went on vacation mostly out of embarrassment and a lack of desire to explain my strange habits to new people.

Instead, this time, I’m planning to focus on the why do I do polyphasic instead. I’ve always loved the way I feel when I’m acclimated. I feel I was born to sleep this way, and I remember vividly saying to my future wife, “This is the happiest day of my life” right at the end of my last acclimation. The calm that’s produced by knowing I have extra time, the knowledge that I’m the master of my body and mind, and the increase in productivity I get, coupled with the ability to legitimately nap at work all add up to one happy self.

Polyphasic Month 2012

Another month, another resolution. In the spirit of prepping for Burning Man, I figured what better what to mix things up than to go polyphasic again? This will be the fifth time I’ve attempted übermann style and I hope the trend that the more you do it, the easier it gets holds true. This will be the first time that I try it in a relationship, and I’ve got the full blessing and support of my wife. I’m pretty excited to have someone else looking out for me in this process, I relish the idea of not going through adaptation alone.

I’ve set aside five days for the initial deprivation and expect the next three weeks to be all I need for acclimation. I’ve taken as many precautions as possible, with all of the usual tricks in place. I’ve spent today (two days before actual acclimation) napping on time and have picked times that match with my schedule. I’ll be sleeping at 4:30, 8:30, and 12:30. My job had to go though this with me two years ago, so they know the drill. I’ve been offered an office to nap in with a comfy chair, so I don’t expect any problems there.

The only steps I have left are to decide when I want to stop, write my list of things to do while polyphasic, and then remember to eat enough to power the extra brain power I’ll be using.

I’ll be tracking my naps as closely as possible on my twitter account @morganengel and I will be keeping a running dialog here, so feel free to ask questions. Once more unto the breach.

Biphasic Sleeping Matrix

I built a simple matrix for when you should sleep on an ideal biphasic system assuming that you sleep 4 hours at night and 1.5 hours during the day. If you have a work or school schedule, this should help you figure out when you can work your midday naps into your schedule.

12:00:00 AM 4:00:00 AM 1:15:00 PM 2:45 PM
1:00:00 AM 5:00:00 AM 2:15:00 PM 3:45 PM
2:00:00 AM 6:00:00 AM 3:15:00 PM 4:45 PM
3:00:00 AM 7:00:00 AM 4:15:00 PM 5:45 PM
4:00:00 AM 8:00:00 AM 5:15:00 PM 6:45 PM
5:00:00 AM 9:00:00 AM 6:15:00 PM 7:45 PM
6:00:00 AM 10:00:00 AM 7:15:00 PM 8:45 PM
7:00:00 AM 11:00:00 AM 8:15:00 PM 9:45 PM
8:00:00 AM 12:00:00 PM 9:15:00 PM 10:45 PM
9:00:00 AM 1:00:00 PM 10:15:00 PM 11:45 PM
10:00:00 AM 2:00:00 PM 11:15:00 PM 12:45 AM
11:00:00 AM 3:00:00 PM 12:15:00 AM 1:45 AM
12:00:00 PM 4:00:00 PM 1:15:00 AM 2:45 AM
1:00:00 PM 5:00:00 PM 2:15:00 AM 3:45 AM
2:00:00 PM 6:00:00 PM 3:15:00 AM 4:45 AM
3:00:00 PM 7:00:00 PM 4:15:00 AM 5:45 AM
4:00:00 PM 8:00:00 PM 5:15:00 AM 6:45 AM
5:00:00 PM 9:00:00 PM 6:15:00 AM 7:45 AM
6:00:00 PM 10:00:00 PM 7:15:00 AM 8:45 AM
7:00:00 PM 11:00:00 PM 8:15:00 AM 9:45 AM
8:00:00 PM 12:00:00 AM 9:15:00 AM 10:45 AM
9:00:00 PM 1:00:00 AM 10:15:00 AM 11:45 AM
10:00:00 PM 2:00:00 AM 11:15:00 AM 12:45 PM
11:00:00 PM 3:00:00 AM 12:15:00 PM 1:45 PM

Drinking Alcohol and Polyphasic

So far, my latest acclimation has been a major success, and I’ve gained a lot of time and I certainly feel better and more awake than I have in years. As a polyphasic person, you are constantly dealing with social and peer pressures since you’re doing something so far from the norm. While this is the norm and certainly something you get used to, there’s some things I find myself having difficulty giving up. For example, many people have reported doing better on polyphasic when they’re vegetarian, but the one constant in all of the experiences out there seems to be no caffeine and no alcohol.

When I first adapted in 2004, I was fresh out of college and surrounded by people who loved to drink. Living in a college town, I’d go to bars, order a root beer, and watch the crazy, drunken people do their thing (this is an endless source of entertainment, by the way). As I became more used to sleeping this way, and as my desire to drink grew, I eventually tried drinking while polyphasic with mixed results.

I have a very fond memory of being at a party where everyone had been drinking, and they all knew about my schedule. My naps were 2, 6, and 10 and so when the 2AM nap came around, I let the whole party know I’d be passing out in my car for a while. As an aside, make sure when you pass out in your car, that you’re in the passenger seat. Inebriation in the driver’s seat can be interpreted as intent to drive and we don’t want you getting a DUI for taking a nap. One of the reasons people don’t drink on polyphasic is that you sleep really deeply when you’re intoxicated, and the chances of listening to the rational side that says you want to get up on time are far slimmer. This time, however, everyone from the party came out to the car and were all peering in through the windows when I awoke. I immediately got up, to their cheers, and rejoined the party. It was a rare experience, but also a testament to how supporting my group of friends has been.

Recently, I’ve tried drinking while on polyphasic and I’m less satisfied with the results. I’ve often found that missing a nap during the day makes me want to sleep for about 2 hours a night. The same thing seems to happen for drinking. Each drink throws off my system about the same amount as staying awake for a nap, and if I get drunk, I often slip back into something like monophasic. I’ve wondered if this is a sign that I’m not fully acclimated yet, even after 2 months. I’ve been somewhat lax in my focus toward acclimation, and though I get most of the benefits, I think I might do better if I stuck to the schedule more.

Driving and Polyphasic

First of all, be careful when adapting to Polyphasic of any kind. Not only can you feel tired at an instant, but microsleeps and the like can cause you to drop off before you know it. If you happened to be driving while that tired, you could be a huge danger to yourself and others. Always err on the side of caution. When you’re on polyphasic, the whole point is to have more time, so why not take that extra time and drive slowly, carefully, and only when you’re fully awake. If you HAVE to drive and are tired on polyphasic, take a nap first. Few things won’t wait 20 minutes more and it might just save your life.

This weekend, I drove to LA and back through the night. Driving in the middle of the night is always an amazing experience. In California, we have traffic everywhere, and even at 3:30 in the morning, there’s people on the road. Even so, there are so many fewer people that driving in LA in the early morning feels like a joy. If you’re fully adapted and don’t mind the quiet, I highly recommend doing all of your travelling while the world sleeps. When you get there and everyone’s just waking up, it’s a neat feeling.

A Night in the Wilderness

I recently joined some friends on a trip to Yosemite for a little bit of camping, hiking, cooking, and merrimaking in general. This was my first real outdoor experience while on the Ubermann sleep schedule. It was also an interesting test to me to see how some of my theories might hold up in similar situations.

I’ve always imagined not needing a hotel room in various places when on Ubermann. Since you don’t need to sleep more than 20 minutes, you could theoretically sleep in a casino lobby in Vegas, in a hotel lobby in San Francisco, in a Denny’s in Hawaii, or in any rental car anywhere. In 2005, I was polyphasic during a trip to Reno and, while everyone slept, I stayed up and played blackjack. While not the most productive way to spend my time, it was my first real taste of accomplishing something with my extra time that was in stark contrast to everyone else. Up until then, most of my extra hours were spent alone or, at least, not in very social situations.

Being polyphasic in Yosemite was a completely different experience. I didn’t bring a tent or a sleeping bag with me, I just bought a lot of firewood and sat by the fire. I read for a while, watched the fire, wrote a little, and thought a lot. The sounds of the forest, the crackle of the fire, the glow of the moon, and, when it set, the glow of the stars all seemed a little more clear when experiencing the entire night from beginning to end. I can’t remember ever watching sunset to its completion and then the entire sunrise, just watching and enjoying the nature around me.

Fire seems to be an excellent way for me to stave off boredom–there’s something primal and mesmerizing about watching it, playing with it that keeps the mind alert, even if the activity is pretty dull in description. Just one more fun way to enjoy the extra time you have.


The Uberman Sleep Schedule consists of six 20-minute naps spaced evenly through the day. This is a total of two hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, and is generally believed to be the least amount of sleep you can get in 24 hours without being sleep deprived. While it provides the most extra time in a normal day, it is also one of the most difficult schedules to adapt.

Uberman is by far the most famous of the schedules, supposedly having been followed by Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Edison, and more. Many of the other blogs you’ll find on the internet have begun or focused on  Uberman.

Uberman is my schedule of choice, and so most of the posts about my experiences will be about Uberman.

Polyphasic Sleep—A Primer

Polyphasic sleep is a catchall term for sleeping more than once a day. Since the term’s inception, the polyphasic community tends to agree that it also involves a schedule of some type, often rigorous or well-defined, but not certainly so. It’s been attributed to famous people like Thomas Edison, Buckminster Fuller, Leonardo DaVinci and more, but whether those people actually practiced it is mostly unknown for sure, though Buckminster Fuller did keep quite a few records on his sleeping patterns. My own experiences with polyphasic sleep revolve around a schedule known as Uberman—a series of 6 20-minute naps spaced 4-hours apart. For more information on schedules, see the schedules page

The question I get the most in regards to my sleep schedule is “does it really work?” The answer, in short, is yes. I have successfully adapted to a polyphasic schedule like many other people and I now sleep significantly less than 8 hours a day. Over the course of the last 48 hours, for example, I have slept a total of 2.5 hours. There are many schedules to which you can subscribe, and some of them will work better than others.

My friends often comment that they “love sleep” and would hate to give it up, but my personal belief is that sleeping 6 times a day shows more love for sleeping than sleeping just once a day. The length of the time spent sleeping rarely matters, especially since it’s so hard to know how long you’ve been asleep. Not only that, but when you dream for 20 minutes, it feels like you’ve been asleep for 2 hours. Imagine if you could feel like you’ve taken 6 2-hour naps a day but only slept a total of 2 hours at all? That’s how I feel all day.

The science behind polyphasic sleep is minimal at best. Scientists don’t really know why we sleep, let alone how modified sleep schedules would affect us. If you’re considering polyphasic sleep as an option, be careful. If you take it lightly and end up sleep deprived, serious health hazard can occur, not to mention that being tired can be dangerous if you’re driving, walking, or using heavy machinery like the can opener.