Last year, I tried a drastic lifestyle experiment: polyphasic sleep. It was a successful proof of concept, but it was a little too drastic for the time. A couple months ago, I announced I was thinking about giving it another shot. Well, I’m giving it another shot. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been experimenting to find the best possible combination of tips and techniques to give myself a better chance at succeeding long term. I’ve got big dreams and plans that have a hard time fitting around the time I already spend at work and with family. So here’s a summary of what I’ve discovered:
Falling Asleep – This is something that I didn’t really have a problem with either time but a lot of people wonder how you can fall asleep in 30 minutes, let alone fall asleep and take a meaningful nap.
First, it helps to be tired but not too tired. If you’re too tired, you’ll fall asleep but you sure aren’t waking up after 30 minutes!
Second, consistent time of day helps a lot. For instance, I usually nap around 11am as part of my lunch break. If I have to work through that time, I get really sleepy around 11:30. It goes away after 15 minutes or so but my body was definitely planning on sleeping at that time. On the other hand, I have found it much more difficult to have consistent times at home, because even though my wife is much more supportive and understanding this time, there are still family duties, dates with my wife, errands, etc that need to be done, and I can only infringe on those so much.
Third, a blanket always helps me – I keep a small one in my car too. If it’s very cold (like it has been the last week here), I roll the blanket up a couple times over my hands and then let the rest hang down over my body and legs. Keeping the hands warm is generally enough to make me comfortable, and the blanket roll works better than gloves.
Fourth, taking several big, deep yawns (like ridiculously, cartoony big yawns) quickly gets me on the path to sleep. Doing this usually makes my eyes tear up, and since I’m laying down, those tears tend to drip down my face and into my ears. Kind of a pain, but moving my hands to wipe them away disturbs me and I have to start falling asleep all over.
Fifth, for each place that you plan to nap, find a position that works and stick with it! With me, I sleep on my stomach when I’m in my bed, on my side when I’m on my couch, and on my back when I’m in my car. If I try another position, I just can’t fall asleep (there have been tons of times I wanted to sleep on my side in bed – no dice).
Waking Up – Little surprise, this has been more difficult for me to get right consistently.
Sixth – find one alarm clock that works for you and use it everywhere. I use a timer program on my cell phone – that way it’s with me at all times.
Seventh – don’t even think about snoozing. The longer you’re asleep, the deeper you fall into sleep and the harder it is to wake up. Probably two out of I’d prefer not to disclose how many times have I actually gotten up after I tried to snooze. Usually I’ll have up several hours later and just go to bed.
Eighth – along the same lines as seven, don’t put the alarm within reach of your bed. I try to put it across the room so I have to stand up and walk, hoping that will jerk me out of sleep and give my rational mind a chance against my sleepy mind. Or you could just train yourself to respond correctly.
Ninth – don’t stretch your time between naps. I’ve found that if I ever have to go 7 hours awake in a row, I’m not going to get up when I take a nap at night. Ditto if I have to go 6 hours twice. Although it’s frustrating that situations like this happen, at least I understand how my body will react to it so I can plan accordingly. I go a little longer between naps during the day (4-5 hours) and then naps more frequently at night (3 hrs). I’m not sure if this is ideal, but I don’t have the flexibility that Steve Pavlina did.
Tenth – if you want it to happen, embrace the weirdness. Yes, I do take naps in my car while it’s snowing. It turns out that the driver’s seat on a Jeep Liberty reclines very close to flat. It also helps to point east, because then the sun is on the passenger side of the car and not in my eyes. If reading this, let alone imagining yourself saying something similar, creeps you out, then just do your daily hibernation and leave the last 30% of life to us!