Polyphasic sleeping

It seemed inevitable that I would one day try to go polyphasic with my sleeping. After some good-natured badgering from a friend who is on the system, I’m now sleeping only 20 minutes every 4 hours, around the clock. I’ve been on the new paradigm since April 9. For the most part, it has been a good experience, so far.

It’s ironic that I change to this kind of sleeping at about the same time as Steve Pavlina switches back to monophasic sleeping. He had some good reasons for leaving polyphasic sleeping, some of which I also note as downsides, below.

For those not familiar with polyphasic sleeping, the theory is that the body/brain only really need a certain amount of sleep (perhaps mostly REM) and that the body will compensate for lack of sleep by making any sleep you get the proper kind of sleep. And 2 hours (or so) of sleep is apparently enough. So with a schedule of 20 minutes 6 times a day, I get about 2 hours of REM sleep.
Links for more information are at the bottom of this post.

I sleep at around 5:30AM, 9:30AM, 1:30PM, 5:30PM, 9:30PM, 1:30AM. I set my alarm for around 25 minutes. And most of the time I just go right to sleep, have some nice dreams, and get up easily. Most of the time…

Polyphasic sleeping is like treading a very narrow bridge across a deep and swift river. Your goal is to cross the bridge, and if you fall off, you have to swim back upstream and start crossing the bridge again. The path is narrow because this is the bare minimum of sleep you need. If you have one mishap with a nap (any caffeine, kids running around yelling, etc.) then things are going to get screwed up, you fall off, and have to start over again. But it is possible to get across, and when you do, you feel great.


  • Obviously the big reason to do polyphasic sleeping is to have more time. You get 5 or more extra hours per day. Remember, though, you need to do something worthwhile with those hours.
  • Refreshing naps. You feel good and refreshed from each nap. My feeling of alertness is as good or better than monophasic sleeping.
  • More vivid dreams, that you remember. I’ve never really remembered my dreams, now I have a dream six times a day and remember most of them.
  • Excellent, jaw-dropping, thing to talk about at cocktail parties.
  • You feel really great when the system is working.


  • You’ll be very, very tired sometimes. If I get off the schedule, or have any caffeine it takes me over a day to get back in synch. And the nighttime hours of that day are spend being painfully tired.
  • Social awkwardness. You really have to nap within an hour of naptime, If you’re out, or at work, etc. it’s hard to do that. It creates strange situations, but I have usually been able to work something out. (sleep in the car, postpone a nap up to an hour, etc.)
  • You feel awful when the system is not working.


  • Having no long sleep period makes each moment run into the moment before it. There are no defining moments to mark time by. If I continue with the paradigm, I’m going to try to work something in that I do at the same time each day so that I can use that as a reference point. (the naps don’t work because there are too many of them.) The words “Yesterday” or “tomorrow” really don’t mean anything to me without a long sleep period. When I’m doing polyphasic sleeping, it’s hard to know when to use those terms. During my two oversleeps (where I accidentally slept the whole night through), the words made complete sense the next day.
  • My daily routine is nonexistant. I try to do each of the things I like to do somewhere in each day, but the Magic of Every Day has gone away. Making a scheduled time for these things (exercise, meditation, guitar), will be important. But right now, there are times that I’m too tired to do some of those, so can’t necessarily do them when I want to.
  • Caffeine screws everything up. I really miss green tea. Sometimes I think I can have some at the beginning of a waking period, or if I’m tired and need to stay up through a nap. But every time I’ve done this (twice) it as completely derailed me, and I’ve overslept.

Informative Links

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3 comments on “Polyphasic sleeping”:

  1. You keep at it Jonathan. From my reading and experience, you are doing better than 95% of the people who try this. And I love talking to you at 4 o’clock in the morning.

  2. Awesome Review!
    i loved it. Myself i have tired the Everyman sleep style over a period of 10 days and found it amazing. One 3hour and 3x20min sleeps,(a total of 4hours a day too). Having some of the same experiences i value the moment even more. It has been a good training for my body that now when i want 20min to sleep, i can do so easily 🙂

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