29 October 2005

Sleep Less, Do More?

Polyphasic sleep is one method devised to reduce the overall need for sleep. Discovered and practiced by many people over the centuries, it has a cult following now, with its own blogs and no shortage of halfhearted experimenters prepared to sacrifice a few hours sleep for the greater knowledge of mankind.

How it usually works is that a person gets enthusiastic about the idea of sleeping only four or five hours of sleep a night while retaining good energy levels and high levels of alertness. Then once the person starts radically changing his sleep patterns, he quickly loses enthusiasm for the experiment. This is the way the world is. Daily cycles of darkness and light. Humans evolved here, managing to fit personal habits within the overall scheme of things. To go outside the natural order is to tempt the fates. Who can do this and survive?

There are other methods of reducing sleep. Gradual reduction of the single block of sleep, perhaps augmented with one or two nap periods in between blocks, is a common method. Others go in for the cold turkey method of dropping 90 minutes every two or three nights until down to approximately 4.5 hours a night. Usually a single half hour nap is inserted in the afternoon.

An allowance of two weeks of pure hell is expected in the beginning, before the body somehow adjusts itself to the new schedule. Advocates of the shorter sleep cycles claim great things for energy levels and alertness, as long as the schedule is followed closely and good nutritional habits are adopted.

Modern life is not oriented around a schedule that demands naptimes. During the daylight and early evening hours, most people are expected to be flexible in order to meet occupational and social demands. Nevertheless, a lot of things are changing, thanks to the 24 hour internet and news/financial cycles. Freeing up two or three hours a night for creativity, work, and personal enrichment, might be the same thing as adding a month or more to your year.

Think about it.
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