Right now I'm two weeks into my experiment with Polyphasic Sleep. So far so...-so, haha. It's been up and down. Before I get into the details of what I've been doing and how it's affected me, I'm going to give some background information on what polyphasic sleep is.
I suppose the best way to start is by defining monophasic (1 phase) sleep, which is what most people do. You sleep 8 hours (more or less) at night (usually). Polyphasic (multiple phase) sleep, on the other hand, involves sleeping more than once a day. The thinking behind it is that by sleeping more often, you can lower your daily sleep requirement and therefore have more hours in the day to get things done.
There are a few different variations of polyphasic sleep. They basically fall into two different categories: Uberman and Everyman. Uberman involves only taking 20 minute naps. Six per day, every four hours. This requires a lot of flexibility in one's schedule, I currently don't have enough to pull this one off. Everyman involves taking one core block of sleep at night, with naps taken throughout the day. There are a few different variations, you can read about them here.
I first heard about polyphasic sleep from a friend who mentioned that Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic, and creator of WordPress. It interested me because I never got good quality, restful sleep out of 8 hour per night, monophasic sleep.
I've chosen to take the two-nap approach. I've been sleeping for 4 hours per night (I looked over some articles today, and realized I should have been taking 4.5). Then I take a nap around 2 and another one around 9, give or take up to 2 hours. Looking back at my sleep journal, I was pretty good at going to bed at 3 and getting up and out of bed at 7...for the first 4 days. My problem is that I generally don't fall asleep quickly. With monophasic sleep, this would lead to me either sleeping in or - on days where I could't sleep in - feeling like crap and pounding coffee to get through the day. With polyphasic, I'm getting to sleep for my core sleep quickly and doing so consistently, but my success with the naps has been spotty at best.
I've been trying to really control my nap times and keep them in a small range, but I've been inconsistent with how I take them. Sometimes I set a 30 minute timer, sometimes 20 minutes. Sometimes I get up even if I haven't slept, sometimes I give myself a second timer.
I've generally had pretty good energy levels on this plan so far. However, my ability to focus hasn't been what I would have like it to be. I'm working on a new organization and planning system adapted from reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As I get it more ingrained into my daily routine, things should go more smoothly.
In the next two weeks I'm going to make a few tweaks. First, I'm going to go from 4 to 4.5 hours per night (which I should have been doing all along really). Second, I'm only going to nap when I'm tired, and only on a 30 minute timer. This should help me adjust more quickly and thoroughly. The Everyman schedules are supposed to have a couple of hours of flexibility when it comes to timing naps, so it's not something to be too scared of. I'm just going to track it in my sleep journal and analyze the data over the next few weeks. I'm also going to cut out caffeine completely.
Hopefully with these adjustments I'll be able to make a much better adjustment to this new sleep schedule. I look forward to sharing my experience with you soon!