New design and biphasic sleep update

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.


Comments

  1. Jeff Sarris says:

    Although biphasic sleep may sound trendier than it is, I still find testing sleep patterns to be interesting. I’m big on following your circadian rhythm, just had a conversation with James about this actually. I know you typically would wake up early, would you also consider yourself a morning person more so than a night person? I only ask because I’m curious if the nap gives you a second “morning” or if you still naturally feel more productive in the early hours of the day and slightly less productive in the later ones. Although you’re not tired, do you see productivity shifting at all? I’m typically useless in the morning hours (several hours after I wake) and really seem to hit my stride once most people have settled down to sleep at night.

    • Johnny says:

      I’m both… a night person AND a morning person. That’s actually what started this. I wanted to be able to stay up late and still get up early. In practice, that degenerated and I tended toward the “morning” side (which is what I’d pick if I had to) because I wanted to be able to go to sleep at the same time as my wife. I’m most productive in the AM, so it was nice to maximize that.

      I had a bit of a chat with James about this too… was very interested in how she doesn’t have a clock in her bedroom and just gets up.

      The nap doesn’t really give me a second morning. What defines the morning is dark and quiet, and there is neither when I get up at 3-4. I do get a minimal second burst of productivity, but it’s nothing like the morning. Generally I’ve been cranking out 4-6 hours before anyone is up and then doing more leisure/family stuff and phone calls during the day, with some more traditional “work” thrown in where necessary. The vast majority of my important stuff happens while it’s still dark out.

      I naturally wear down on productivity in the early afternoon even without this schedule, which is one reason I liked it… putting a nap during my “dead” time seemed logical. It’s not that I get tired… I just get bored. Something could be done and I think, “Meh, I don’t want to.” There’s none of that in the AM.

  2. This design kicks ass.

    The only way it could have been better is if I’d done it myself. Rock on!

    • Johnny says:

      It’s like I’m trying all flavors! Soon I’ll be running three sites that were all custom-designed by different kick-ass folks.

  3. Michelle says:

    LOVE the new design! It’s so textured. Interested to hear your updates on biphasic sleep, too, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about. The thing I was worried about was trying to go to sleep in the afternoon after my husband had woke up (he works nights), but your sleep schedule wouldn’t cause that. However, I might still not get a lot done as he typically gets home from work around 3-4 in the morning! Still, it’s something I’m going to think about…

    • Johnny says:

      I think it’s important that it makes sense with your schedule. If a nap was a huge inconvenience, this wouldn’t be sustainable, but it’s not. And if it is, this schedule is flexible enough that I can skip it if I need to. I’ll get tired earlier and will need to make it up that night, but it’s definitely do-able… not so with more advanced polyphasic stuff from what I hear.

  4. Dude…love the new kick-ass design! I’ve been testing the biphasic sleep, but I never seem to get around to the afternoon nap. After a week of sleeping 4.5 hours or so a night with no naps, I’m starting to feel a little brain dead. Not tired…just stupid. I’ll have to work a little harder on making time for the afternoon nap; Stupid Jerry always manages to get me in trouble…

    • Johnny says:

      That’s ridiculous, dude! It’s like saying that you’re going to go parachuting, but you’ll just keep the jumping part and skip the actual part with the parachute. It’s not the same thing and I’m not surprised it’s not working for you!

      • Laughed HARD at the metaphor!

        I actually went home and crashed out for about an hour last night, and felt pretty damn good when I woke up. Going to keep at it, because it used to take a solid hour of hitting the snooze button for me to wake up (especially on a Saturday), but this morning I was wide awake and ready to kick ass before my alarm even went off!

        Thanks for the tip!

  5. Wally Conger says:

    Bitchin’ new site design, Johnny! As for sleep cycles, I seem to naturally get by on just 5 hours — to bed by 1 am, up about 6 am.

  6. Tim Gary says:

    Logan did an amazing job with the redesign! Now I really look forward to seeing what’s in store of A.S.S. 🙂

    Doubt I could do the sleep cycle thing. Milo Kitty wouldn’t stand for it! …and of course he rules the roost. Of course, I we could just find the right food for him, he might be persuaded to let us sleep on our schedule instead of his. Just maybe.

    Don’t you hate people who just have to bring their cat into the conversation!

  7. Kim says:

    This is really interesting me as I have already been doing it and I didn’t call it bi-phasic, I called it “my fucked up sleep schedule.” I have to admit to not having great results- my main cycle is 2:30-7:30 and then a 1.5 hour nap at 1pm. I also didn’t do it consciously- when I began working on my own, I started working late, waking up to take my kids to school (when we left the Free School, we lost our flexible start times) and then crashing. But I’ve been doing it two years, fighting it the whole time. (But kids need to be mommed and work needs to be done.) I’m always bone-tired at 7:30, since I am a natural 4am-12pm sleeper, and most productive from 9p-2a- I’ve got to look into this more because there’s no way I can sleep before 2 or 3 and I don’t think school is willing to work with me on it. 🙂

    Maybe if I do it strategically and on purpose, it will be more efficient for me… Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Johnny says:

      You may find that consciously trying a bit shorter or longer on the core sleep may help. That’s 5 hours, and if you’re typical and have a 90-minute cycle, 4.5 might actually be more refreshing.

      With the nap and with the main sleep, do you wake up with an alarm clock? If you find a way to let yourself wake naturally (whenever it may be), that might really help you.

  8. Patrick Vuleta says:

    Nice design, Johnny.

    It’s like you, but better. And patterned blue tanned leather isn’t something you see everyday.

  9. Love the new look. Logan has definitely nailed it with this one.

  10. Jenny says:

    Logan did a great job, the site’s very spiffy~!!

    I’m glad I came by today and read this post. The biphasic sleep cycle is definitely something I’m going to try out. I’ve been suffering lately with the Michigan-winter doldrums (not blues, but really really tired and uninspired) and I’m wondering if this might be something to help kick it in the pants.

    Worth a shot and at the very least I’ll have some extra productivity hours. Late night-early morning are my hot zones so this is a brilliant plan.

    Thanks Johnny…you always manage to be helpful in some way.

    Jenny

    • Johnny says:

      Ugh… I usually get that winter thing too. Not this year, but usually. (Must be the marathon training that’s saving me.)

  11. Jen Adams says:

    I like the new site design, even if the contrast of colors isn’t as bright as it was before on my screen.

    This discussion of biphasic sleep in fascinating to me. I lived in Spain for a while and LOVED the siesta culture … but then you come back to the states and there’s that justification aspect of trying to make the world okay with the fact that you want a nap from 2 – 4 pm. Working for myself as a ghostwriter also makes things interesting, because as you’ve touched on in past posts, when people see you at the grocery store at 11 am on a Tuesday, they assume you’re not working, even if you’ve already done a 6 hour shift.

    I’ve been gradually getting back to naps. Balancing with my partner is a challenge, though – we both work from home, and he is a late-nighter for his core work hours, whereas I like early morning. How do you keep from waking people up, or are traditional sleepers just dead to the world while you’re working?

    • Johnny says:

      There’s no waking my family unless I fire up a jackhammer or something. My office is at the other end of the house so I just work quietly, but I’ve also ridden my stationary bike in the basement with the TV on and not bothered them.

  12. Yo, I said it once I’ll say it again…love the new site design!! Oh, and power naps rule!

  13. New design is good: very leathery, LOL. Masculine without being a dude-fest.

    I’m actually trying to get away from biphasic sleep because it actually was like two mornings with their attendant wake-up/ramp-up periods. And one sleep period always seemed too short and other too long.

    So that was my experience with it. Which I never set out to do, by the way, I just sorta slipped into it and had to work to get out of it.

    • Johnny says:

      Interesting. I’ve definitely found that it takes some willpower to get through those periods, but for me it’s been limited in duration and I feel great for the rest of the time. The tradeoff in productivity has been well worth it.

      Plus, as my marathon training progresses, some of my runs get quite long, so it’d be huge chunks of time away if I did them at normal times. So this morning, with 15 miles to run, I left at 5am and knew I could be back at a reasonable time.

      Sure, the nap does offset that a bit because I’m asleep for a period during the day, but other than weekends it doesn’t matter because my son is at school and my daughter is napping herself if she’s home.

  14. Erica says:

    The new design looks great!

    I think I accidentally followed a biphasic sleep schedule when I was in college, and it worked great for me. Wish I could do it now, but unfortunately it doesn’t work with the job. (Yes, yes…I know. One more reason not to /have/ a standard-issue job, or maybe one more reason to move to Spain.) The getting up is always the hardest part. I’m glad it’s working out for you!

  15. Scott says:

    Logan hit a home run with the site design, looks great!

    I would love to try biphasic sleep, but my schedule is too erratic to get a regular nap in right now. I’m curious if this type of sleep schedule has an effect at all on metabolism or muscle recovery. Sounds like your training is going great, but I was wondering if that popped up at all in your research? Also, you still running in Vibrams?

    • Johnny says:

      Actually, the guy I kept finding over and over when searching for this was Scott Bird, who wrote about his experiences here, at StraightToTheBar.com (two points for guessing what that site is about): http://www.straighttothebar.com/2006/10/biphasic_sleep_30_day_summary.html

      Scott B. and I are most concerned with strength and not hypertrophy, so it’s hard to say if it affects hypertrophy if that’s your goal. I will say that I’m a reasonably big guy and I’m not getting any smaller. You might consider a minimalist approach like Darden’s High-Intensity Training if it’s a concern.

      Endurance seems totally unaffected. Can’t say re: metabolism, but because I’m diabetic and can kind of gauge how much stuff is moving through my system based on insulin usage, I’d say things seem normal.

      And yes, still training in the Vibrams, but not exclusively. Even the neoprene Vibram Flows aren’t waterproof, so if there’s any snow on the ground and it gets on the uppers, it will melt and soak into my sock… where it then freezes. Because I don’t want to lose my toes to frostbite, I won’t run in them if the roads aren’t totally clear. So on snowy (or rainy) days, I instead wear a pair of Inov-8 Gore-Tex shoes I picked up, which are totally waterproof.

  16. Man, you’re a beast, TEARING IT UP on the exercise!

    At the start of the 4 Hour Body Tim Ferriss talks about when Richard Branson, the Virgin mogul, was asked what he felt the key to productivity was, he said “Exercise”.

    It’s cool to see that it seems like you’re staying in shape doing stuff that’s fun which is a awesome way to keep it up. I gotta admit though, Racket ball kicked my ass as beginner. Not just my body but my mental ability to follow the ball flying 100 and whatever miles through the air in the little box. Great workout though.

    I’ve been using the Tim Ferriss sleep 4.5 hour thing for about 5 days now and I’m loving it. The naps in the middle of the day have been a challenge also but one thing I’ve incorporated has been the use of Hemi-sync Deep Relaxation CD that I listen to on headphones. It knocks me out but it takes like 10 minutes. Now, to get to Victoria’s Secret to get me one of those fancy pants leopard print eye shades to REALLY induce the coma even faster.

    Another ritual I’ve started is getting half my body weight in ounces in water into my body. This book… “Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life: You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty!” by F. Batmanghelidj has completely opened my eyes to how VITAL water is to everything your body does… WAY BEYOND “Drink it because it’s healthy.

    This guy takes you deep into why it’s so crucial all the way down to the cellular level. And for a Why learner like me, that is music to my ears.

    I can’t recommend the book highly enough. He was introduced to me through Tony Robbins while he was speaking at Tony’s Living Health seminar. Check out his stuff, I think it might make you even more productive and strong than you’re already becoming!

  17. Cool new look, Johnny! I hadn’t visited in awhile, so I guess my timing was good! 😉

    I love the idea of being totally rested and recharged after only 4.5 hours! Whether I can get myself to *actually* nap in the afternoon is the big question. But given how much I have on my plate right now, it would certainly be worth giving it a try. Some schedule adjustments would be necessary, but you’ve got me thinking…

    Looking forward to reading your updates!

  18. Val says:

    Hey there Johnny, I was curious how long it took your body to get into the biphasic schedule enough so that you weren’t needing the alarm clocks at all. This is something that interests me, but on days where I’m not waking up to an alarm clock (weekends, where I often don’t need to be up for anything right away) I’ll often tend to really sleep in (like over 9-hours of sleep sleep-in). I do love taking naps though so the idea of this sleep schedule does make a lot of sense. I’m just more curious how to get your body to get into it, during those initial getting-used-to-everything weeks.

    Now to just convince more employers of the benefit of mid-day naps. 🙂

    • Johnny says:

      Well, I really never NEEDED an alarm clock. I typically woke a few times during the night, so I just started getting up and staying up during one of those. Now that I’ve settled in, I usually stay up the second time I wake up… I’ll normally wake around 1-1:30 and then sleep again until 3:30-5. Five is really pushing it, and on those days, I won’t often take a long nap. It seems to have allowed my body to adjust to what’s needed… i.e. if I NEED more sleep on a given day, it knows to not let me wake up at 3:30 because then I’m going to get up.

      I think that if you start paying attention to when you want to get up and “setting a mental alarm” by telling yourself you want to wake up at a certain time, you can start to make it happen. Also, there are apps on smartphones that will give you a progressive alarm. On Droid, one is called “Gentle Alarm” and it gives you a light alarm first that you won’t wake up to if you’re in deep sleep. It has a way of (apparently) nudging you out only when you’re in shallow sleep.

      Alternatively, I guess I’d just set the alarm for a 1.5 hour increment from when you think you’re actually falling asleep and then adjust it back and forth until you fine a time it’s waking you that doesn’t leave you all groggy.

  19. Johnny says:

    Anyone who was interested in the sleep aspect of this post, I posted my concluding thoughts about it at the end of this new post:

    http://johnnybtruant.com/slow-carb/

  20. Karri Flatla says:

    When I was pregnant with my first and at home by myself (I stopped working b/c I was so nauseated I couldn’t concentrate), I fell into a similar pattern except I’d “sleep in,” probably b/c I was so exhausted from the pregnancy. But my natural rhythm seemed to be to stay up ’til about 3am and wake up at 9-10am and then maybe a nap mid-day.

    I wonder though if now I could pull this off with a 4-5 hour core sleep and the mid day nap … though it seems you’d have to be religious about the nap or it all falls apart. I feel like hell on anything less than about 7.5 hours …

    Anyway, this is pretty compelling stuff to a night owl like myself.
    Karri

    • Johnny says:

      No, you don’t. For more extreme polyphasic schedules, you do really have to stick to the schedule, but not with this. I routinely miss a nap or two per week and I’ll get tired by the end of the day, but that’s it. You can sleep normally for a few nights and go right back to it. I couldn’t do anything without flexibility, believe me!

  21. Henrik says:

    Hi Johny,
    Thanks for the articles on biphasic sleep. Investigating the subject. Just curious, are you still on the same 4.5+1.5 h schedule as mentioned in your posts? If so, how has the schedule affected you long term and do you have anything special to “report”?
    Thanks in advance, regards Henrik

    • Johnny says:

      Nah, I quit after maybe 6-8 weeks total. The problem was the nap. I felt fine and not tired, but it was incredibly inconvenient to nap in the middle of my day. But it worked great while I did it, IMO.

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  2. […] December and then filed it in the “cool but impractical” folder. However, after reading Johnny’s experiences with it, I’m sorely tempted to try it. I’m not sure it would up productivity quite as much as […]

  3. […] the place (like Johnny B. Truant, who’s documenting his experience on the slow-carb diet and biphasic sleep. And you, dear reader, probably have some experiments of your own brewing in the […]