I figured I was due for a quick update on my biphasic sleep trial, but then something cool happened and I figured this could be a two-for post. One post, two topics. Now that’s efficiency.
First, the cool thing that happened. Those of you reading on my blog maaaaay have already figured this one out. (If, however, you’re reading this via a feed, in email, or on Facebook, you’re going to totally miss out on the main point of this post, so please hop on over to the site and join us online, will you?)
I got a new website design!
Cool, isn’t it? My client and Copyblogger regular Logan Zanelli is starting a new site at GenesisThemeDesign.com creating Genesis custom themes. I’m really psyched and love the new look. If you agree, give Logan a shout on Twitter (@LoganZanelli) or in the comments… and if you want him to create one for you, I have nothing but great things to say.
Okay. On to the update.
A few weeks of biphasic sleep
I mentioned recently that my 30-day trial as part of my “resolutionless resolution” for January would be biphasic sleeping. I’m roughly three weeks into January, and have maybe been doing this overall for 5-6 weeks since I started early.
Here’s what I have to report so far. Thoughts are in random order, just sort of as they come to me.
1. Calling this “biphasic sleep” makes it sound trendier than it actually is.
It bears repeating that I am NOT trying polyphasic sleep, which describes a handful of ways of trying to trick the body into getting by on maybe 2-3 hours out of 24. When I clarified what I actually am doing to someone, she said, “Oh. What’s exciting about that?” And my response? Exaaaaactly. As the always-entertaining Martin Stellar from Spain pointed out in the comments, less sleep at night paired with a single mid-day nap is simply called “how it is” in many countries of the world. But in America, where we think the idea of napping is lazy for some reason, people have to label it “biphasic sleep” to make it seem interesting.
2. That said, I am definitely sleeping less.
I seem to be sleeping from around 11:30pm to 3:30am, and then again from around 1pm to 2:30pm, for an average of around 5.5 hours. Some days it’s a bit less and some days it’s a bit more, but around that seems to be what I default to.
3. I have a short sleep cycle.
You might have noticed that my core sleep above is around 4 hours. I mentioned in the original post that you’re supposed to break sleep blocks up into multiples of 90 minutes for most people because that’s the length of time it takes you to go through one complete cycle encompassing all stages of sleep — meaning that a core sleep of 4.5 hours would make more sense. Many long-term biphasic sleepers, however, have reported that their cycles shorten over time, often to around 75 minutes. So, they’ll get more cycles per block. Mine seems to be even shorter than that, as near as I can tell (because you can’t really pinpoint when you fall asleep). I believe I’m at around 70 minutes, or maybe even 65. So I’ll naturally wake at multiples of that.
4. I don’t use an alarm clock.
One of the things I read over and over when researching this was that you should wake naturally, and that alarm clocks, which could easily wake you in the middle of a deep cycle, were quite bad in terms of letting you get proper rest. I often set an alarm for well after I’d like to wake up as a failsafe, but it almost never goes off.
5. I’m not tired.
I yawn first thing in the morning (no more than before, though), I yawn shortly before nap time, and I’m definitely ready for bed at bedtime. But, I’m very alert and awake during the rest of the day and it doesn’t feel odd at all.
6. Except on really heavy days.
Yesterday I ran a “pace” run as part of my marathon training, which means to run faster than the rest of training — i.e. at around your race pace. After that, I played tennis with Robin. This plus a full day of work did leave me feeling a bit on fumes. Not intolerable at all, but I could feel it. In general, I’ve learned to allow a bit more sleep when a heavy day is looming, but this one surprised me and I had gotten LESS sleep than the average.
7. I still need some willpower.
Whenever I used to wake up, regardless of whether I’d gotten 6 hours or 9, I’d usually want to stay in bed. Even dragging my ass out of bed on weekends after sleeping until 9 (ungodly late for me) was tough. That remains. Although I wake without an alarm clock, it’s very tempting to just roll over and go back to sleep.
8. Taking naps takes some getting used to.
Even after getting my body used to the idea of sleeping in the middle of the day, I’ve really struggled with naps for a simple reason: I’m very aware of how much time I have. Because there is workday left after a nap, I don’t want to oversleep. So I’d typically set an alarm for an hour and a half out and then begin trying to sleep. Ten minutes later, I’d eye the clock and realize I only had 1:20 left and had really better fall asleep soon. Then, five or ten minutes after that, I’d realize that I’d have to fall asleep NOW if I was going to get in a full cycle, so I’d add time to the clock. Then the cycle would repeat. Yesterday may have been my first truly successful nap. I told myself I didn’t care how long I slept and set the alarm 2.5 hours out. Eventually I fell asleep and woke after maybe 1:10 had elapsed, totally refreshed.
9. Loving the productivity.
The other points above have been about tips and tricks and notes, but let’s not forget why I’m doing this: The extra time. There’s really no other way to say it than this: This concept surfaced for me at a time when I NEEDED it. I’m working on several big projects, training for a marathon, and a few other things. I would have had to eliminate something if this schedule hadn’t been giving me an average of four hours before anyone else in the house is so much as stirring.
10. I haven’t required “a stimulating task.”
POLYphasic sleep (which, again, is not what I’m doing) relies on sleep deprivation to get you to fall asleep for scheduled naps fast and efficiently. When sleep deprived, people typically say that they need a stimulating task to keep going… i.e. they may be able to work, but if you give them a book or sit them in front of the TV, they’ll probably collapse. That hasn’t been my experience. I’ve watched a few movies and done a lot of reading and I’m not nodding off unless it’s right before a nap or bedtime.
11. No performance complaints.
In addition to the creative work and writing I do, I also lift weights two times a week, play tennis and racquetball, do Yoga, ride my regrettably-stationary bike, and go on runs that are 2-3 hours long. None of that seems to be compromised. I run well and haven’t noticed strength loss other than what I’d attribute to spending less time in the gym and more time on the roads.
12. No seeming health issues.
After scouring untold volumes of reading on this topic, I found that the main indicator of unhealthy sleep deprivation is “feeling tired.” Since I haven’t felt very tired, I tried to find more analytical indicators and found things like “increased blood pressure” and “elevated resting pulse rate.” While I haven’t had my blood pressure tested yet, I have been watching my pulse. Under 70 is supposed to be good. Yesterday morning, after two cups of coffee, it was at 42. My blood sugars (I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic) seem unaffected.
I guess that’s it. If anyone has questions, ask away in the comments below.