Hacking Sleep


Polyphasic sleep is a method for increasing the amount of time you spend awake during the day. By sleeping only twenty to thirty minutes every four hours you can stay awake longer. The short time you do spend sleeping the body is in REM sleep, which is the most restful phase. This technique has been used by many famous inventors. I first stumbled across this idea in an article on Kuro5hin. This mode of life can be very difficult to adjust to. In the first few days you probably won’t be asleep when you are trying to. You must strictly follow the sleep schedule. Skipping a nap will probably cause a major crash. With limited sleep a nutritious diet will become very important. Hack-A-Day reader [Nick Busey] is a week into his second attempt at switching to the Uberman cycle and is blogging his progress. If I were to attempt this I would probably get something like the Earlarm to help out. Of course if you’d rather sleep more you’re probably better off with the 28 hour day.

59 thoughts on “Hacking Sleep

  1. hacking people, people belive lies!!!
    You can tall them all the time! with a little organization you can do less work and make people happier!!!!

    **long-term effects of this are not known**

  2. Hey guys i saw this earlier and this has got me thinking. I’d really like to try this over the summer when i’ve got a couple of months free. It seems really interesting if it does work. Only downside is that you can only do things in 4 hour blocks. Leaving work pretty much hopeless surely?

  3. Allright, a thing about the guy wanting to do 1 hour intervals. Bad idea, if you want to sleep less but still have non-REM sleep and theta waves, sleep in 90 minute – 110 minute cycles. Your brain functions in these cycles and the cycle has everything you need, if you interrupt it you get cranky and feel like shit. The reason the Uberman method works is because your depriving your body of REM sleep so much that eventually right before you die of exhaustion. Your body kicks in and you start sleeping PURE REM sleep. So you get 2 hours of REM sleep/day whereas the normal sleep cycle of a chunk of 6-9 hours gives you 1.5 hours of REM sleep/day. Theoretically the Uberman method, once your body adjusts and you don’t pussy out. Is more beneficial and you live longer (leonardo and some other great figures did it, they lived longer?) Back in 2002 there was a huge internet craze on this, and glenrhodes did an article on how he does it. Through his method your getting 4.5 hours of sleep a night, with a focus on cycles, through this method you get the theta waves and non-REM sleep as well. Its less hardcore.


  4. Hey guys I dont want to be rude to anyone or hurt anyones feelings here, but that sleep plan thing is TOTALY MORONIC!
    Restful,continuous sleep is one of the MOST important things your body needs for overall good health!
    Just because youve ‘heard’ that some inventors in the past were successful with this, dont be so naive, get some real facts about biological sleep cycles and clinical sleep studies.
    There is always an exception to most rules, so Im sure that somewhere in the world in the last hundred or so years there HAD to be a few
    biological algorythmical deviants (freaks of nature)that slept like this, but that certainly doesnt mean we could do it. These people most likely had SLEEP DISORDERS! and dealt with it in their own way, as there was no sleep disorder medical treatment back then.
    As a matter of fact during that time cocaine and amphetamines were very legal as medicine and their use was highly encouraged by MANY doctors, as a result just about everyone used.
    I wonder if its just a coincidence that the average persons(single dose) stimulant high usually lasts between 2 and 4 Hrs. Hmmm…
    Also REM sleep does NOT set in right away, it can sometimes take several hours.(for a reason)
    They specifically teach that in college, but if you still need proof, try spying on people as they drift off to sleep(seriously) you will be really surprised at how long it takes.
    The US military has been doing this sort of thing for YEARS to students in its Special Ops and Combat Arms type schools.It simulates the rigorous mental hardships of a lengthy battle/war. Basically it turns your brain into jello, and they want to see who will crack, and who can hang in there and still do an ok job. Those will be the few that they select.
    Also interogators use your EXACT sleep plan to agonize the prisoner until he eventually breaks. They dont call it sleep deprivation for nothin!

  5. I don’t think this will be easier, because instead of worrying about going to sleep and disrupting your work every 12 or so hours, you have to worry about sleeping every 4 hours. It just doesn’t work.

  6. This really isn’t that dangerous. I usually skip a night or two of sleep, and a 4 hour nap makes it feel like I’ve been sleeping all night. It also gives me the same amount of energy. I’ve been interested in different sleeping patterns, but this method looks like it would be too much in the way. I usually just get a good night sleep every other day or so, which gives me overall a little bit more awake time.

  7. #21, and anyone else thinking that the way the majority of society sleeps right now is the way humans are supposed to do it. Your wrong.

    As a matter of fact humans are genetically supposed to have at least two periods of sleep a day. Why do you think you get tired around lunch time? Contrary to popular belief it is not because of a lack of food. It is because humans are made to at least take a nap around that time. Any Europeans on this board? Siesta ring a bell there for anyone in the US.

    Having just one major period of sleep per day is not the way humans have developed, it is the way we are forced to be because of societies demands: the work day etc.

    To tell the truth, I only get one period of sleep a day. I actually researched all this a few months ago and looked into it, but the problem is that it just doesn’t work with my schedule.

    If you actually read into this the first few weeks are bad, but after that the body adjusts and is used to it. The body can adjust to things #21. xanth (19) was totally right, the body works in 90-110 min cycles normally, but that is _normally_. As stated in nearly every description of this method, the body can adapt to the new cycle.

    I suggest you do your research before you go around randomly calling things “moronic” and attempting to turn them into conspiracy theories involving special ops and secret government agencies.

  8. Yeah, we all do that, what your describing.
    But these geniuses are suggesting 2-3 hours of sleep aday, broken up into short naps, for an indefinite period of time. So retarded you couldnt even call it a fad. Its just sad that there are so many marks on the net who will believe anything that sounds cool to them, with NO knowlege of the posters, or any credentials they may or not have to make them an authority on a given subject. I guess it never fails, theres one born EVERY minute!

  9. I read a bit of information a while back in the Cyborg 101 book. I tried it a couple times (usually a week or two at a time). I am a firm believer that this is a great thing to try, but a couple things I noticed. It seemed to me that an *excellent* health program is absolutely necessary… regular exercise, lots of fresh fruits, vegatables, and proteins (also noted in Cyborg 101 (check archive.org for grasshopper.com about 6 months ago). Keep yourself busy doing things you think make the trouble worth it… It’s hard to convince yourself to wakeup when you just sit around and watch reality tv.
    Also I found it very handy to carry around a cellphone with a silent/vibrating alarm (so I can nap in the library)

  10. wow, okay so does anyone have any studys that this is bad for you? it seems people have tried things like this i know a few people who sleep 2 times in short amounts. i actually feel better if i only get 3 -5 hours a night max then if i get 7-9 hours of sleep but when i get less sleep i take a nap mid day… Im pretty shure this guys got as good point but the intervals wouldnt alow much of a scedule

  11. A few years back I tried to limit my sleeping to four hours per day. Didn’t matter when I started, but I would only sleep for four hours a day. The first week sucked. then the body kicked into it. I was loving it, I was getting along just fine. About two weeks in a few odd things started happening.

    First, I started remembering each day as if it were two days. “This morning”, became “yesterday” to me. I could live with that.

    About three weeks in I noticed that little scratches I had gotten weren’t healing in the time I was used to them helaing in.

    Four weeks and I developed a rattling cough…..time to stop.

    The proper nutrition people have been recommending would help, I’m sure, but the fact remains that if you live any sort of demanding lifestyle, I was a 12 hour a day carpenter at the time, then your body needs time to heal. If your job consists of a more sedentary lifestyle (and, no, I’me not putting that down, scientist’s thinking for 12 hours is just as difficult as carpentry, just less demanding on the body) then you might get away with it.

    The four hours a day thing was working great for about a month. Also, before that time I was used to about 8 hours a night, now I average about 6 with little difficulty.

  12. Dude dont take this the wrong way, but I kinda tend to lean towards YOU being the retard. 32 only spelled 2 words wrong in that whole post, and one of them looks like a keyboard typo. Is this an intellectual discussion forum, or are we going to just ignore the WHOLE point of a posters input and nitpick on a couple(2) of misspelled words? Besides that dudes a carpenter; I bet in REAL life, if you were to bad mouth him to his face like that, hed very easily knock you into tomorrow without even trying. But no, you hide behind your proxy talking smack like a true coward. You give us a bad name and should go play somewhere else.

  13. Nope, actually I quite enjoyed #2’s post. The Seinfeld episode was great.

    Maybe you need to read more, or learn to spell yourself there big guy.

    By assuming like that, you well, just make an ass out of yourself.

    Also, are all carpenters large? That’s very stereotypical. I’ll leave that discussion for the proper forum.

  14. No, they’re not very large, but one thats been doing it for a while will generally have very strong forearms, triceps and shoulders from swinging a heavy framing hammer or nailgun all day, every day. I know thats got nothing to do with this post, but you asked…
    So what was I supposedly assuming?
    Anyway I screwed it up too, the dude you blazed is really on #33. Unless the blog host is deleting other posts further up…
    So how was my spelling, professor Flaunt dzx?
    Did I get a good grade?

  15. My idea was for a 25 hour day. (24*60)/25 = 57.6 mins. That small enough to not notice the difference and have an extra hour that feels like an hour. What would you do with your ‘extra’ hour?

  16. Why do the numbers keep changing? If something is deleted can you at least leave the original numbers, just with some missing? Anyways in my post when I said 21, it is now 23, and 19 is 21.

  17. well i hope your satisfied!!
    I was showing my mom the sleep thing, and she was right here when you said that and she was VERY hurt. She went downstairs crying!
    How could you do this??!!
    One day I WILL find you, count on it.

  18. I don’t like that people are knocking this sleep schedule by saying “it’s unhealthy”. Sure, our third grade teacher told us that we need a good night’s rest, but blindly following instructions isn’t what hackaday is about. Would any of the hacks presented here exist if somebody had heeded that warning sticker on any electrical component? Don’t knock it unless you’ve actually tried it and didn’t like it.

    Personally I’d love to try this schedule, but working on a farm prohibits that, as I have to “make hay while the sun shines”; my workday is determined by the amount of daylight we can get.

  19. there’s an excellent book by claudio stampi entitled “why we nap” that goes into great detail about how people’s needs for sleep evolved, how sleep and napping functions, and how the polyphasic sleep schedule affects people. it’s hard to find online, but i was able to find it at the local university library. i highly recommend it for anyone who’s truly interested in the polyphasic sleep phenomenon.

  20. You got this backwards. During Rapid-Eye-Movement sleep, brain activity is most like being awake and least restful. The sleep cycle is most restful when it gets to the third-fourth non-REM stages (deep sleep)- at this stage, brain activity wanes and basal metabolic rate gets the lowest (heart rates in the 40’s are not unusual). By polyphasing, persons adjust their sleep cycle so that they shorten REM sleep and get to the deep sleep phase quicker, without wasting time in REM. Essentially, our physiology adjusts to less sleep by making the best of what little sleep we get.

    Polyphasing is widely-used by solo transatlantic sailors who need to remain awake and vigilant most of the night. You don’t just “go try it”. There are sleep coaches who get these sailors into the polyphasic cycle and their routines have to be highly regimented for this to work for them. However, when it does work, they become some of the fastest sailors in the world. Then they gradually adjust back to their normal sleep schedules.

  21. If you liked this you may also like a sleeping hack called “clear dreaming”. It ia a really cool thing. All you have to do is to wake up 1 hour earlier than you usually do (try to do this with a alarm) for one week (some people need 2 weeks). When your body is used getting up 1 hour earlier try suddenly to get up in the normal time. You should experience a stste called “clear dream”: you see the dream but you also aware that you areactually dreaming. In this state, your mind is belongs to yourself, you are not a passive watcher you are an active participater and you can do all kind of crazy stuff. So far I had 3 clear dreams.
    there are many ways to enet this state, I showed only one of them.

    good luck ;)

  22. I’ve done it for about a week during finals, although the system I’d read said 30 minutes every 6 hours and attributed it to Leonardo Davinci. On balance it’s a lot better than staying up for the entire period straight. It certainly takes the edge off a lot of extreme sleep-deprivation effcts such as eye-lid vibration, finding random things hilarious, and decreased attention and focus, but it’s definitely not as good as getting a full 10 hours every day. At the end of finals week I was very ready to go back to my normal heavy sleep schedule. Still, I did well on my exams, and that’s what counts. It’s probably an adaptation to crisis situations, so that people don’t keel over after days of almost no sleep. Wouldn’t recommend it long-term. But that’s just my unscientific personal feeling. It felt unpleasant after a week of doing it but not nearly as unpleasant as going only 2 days with absolutely no sleep.

  23. I think the polyphasic sleep schedule will be an interesting thing to try. I’ve set up a blog on my progress here: http://www.quandar.net/fook/wordpress/polyphasic-sleep/polyphasic-journal/

    I’m doing something like 30 minutes every six hours, but modified to fit in a 9 hour school day. It’s a bit unorganized because I’ve been sleepy since I started making that page. Dunno how far I will take this. I probably won’t do this too much, since it doesn’t really fit well into everyone else’s schedules.

  24. after being on the 28 hour schedule for over 2 weeksnow I have givven up. It is just too complicated in the middle of the week to function with the rest of the world, I am a college student, unemployed and I study online acording to my schedule, so I was a prime candidate to follow the 28 hour day. While I loved it, my friends couldn’t handle it. I would only recomend it if EVERYONE were to do it,

  25. My and my husband Paul Wakfer’s experience with a 28 hour day (6 day week) can be seen at http://morelife.org/personal/28_hr_schedule/
    Paul started this lifestyle near the end of 1999 knowing only that there had been sleep experiments with different day lengths for short times and that there was some conjecture that some people’s natural circadian rhythms were more in tune with a bit longer day, 25 – 26 hours. However, he had experimented with different sleeping schedules for himself many times in his life, in an effort to try to make the most efficient use of his time (for example sleeping two 3 hour stretches a day instead of one 7 hour – it did not work because he is too slow at getting going after he awakens). I joined him on this schedule when I joined with him in person in August 2000. More at the above link or follow the MoreLife one below through to our Personal Implementation.

    **Kitty Antonik Wakfer

    MoreLife for the rational – http://morelife.org
    Reality based tools for more life in quantity and quality
    Self-Sovereign Individual Project – http://selfsip.org
    Rational freedom by self-sovereignty & social contracting

  26. i actualy almost do the opposite. i sleep half an hour and work 2 hours and have a 6 hours night… during those naps i often have my eyes open and go blind being fully alertuntil i shake it of and wake up. my work alows me to do so and lazy or not, it allows me to be calm and take a lot of shits from customers.

  27. FIY, there are many key hormones that your body will not release unless it hits stage 3 of sleep. Some of these chemicals include HGH(human growth hormone and melatonin. These chemicals play a huge role in repairing damaged cells and maintaining your immune system. There are also studies which confirm that REM plays a vital role in sorting and storing information into long-term memory. Just google for “sleep stages” or “impotance of sleep” and you can see for yourself that this might not be such a good idea. Although it is healthy to question the current systems and supposed norms of our world. Keep up the hackin!

  28. I’ve done something similar, totally intentionally.

    My fiance just changed jobs…and I work two jobs…and we have one car. One of my jobs has close to the same shift (as his) and is consistant..my other job switches from daylight to nightshift. I work the second job 2-3 days a week, and the consistant one, seven. There are many days that my only times to sleep are for an hour and a half at a time.

    I fall asleep quickly for the most part, and I almost immediately go into REM (I’ve been doing this for 3 months). I’ve went to sleep at 7 and woke up, feeling fully rested, having dreamed in 25 minutes. I also can’t easily sleep more than 3 hours at a time (normally I start waking up after 2).

    It may not be good for me, and I don’t seek to do this long-term…however, your body will adjust as long as you don’t just stop sleep altogether and deprive it.

    I hope one day to find one good job…have long sleep cycles and be even better rested…but for now, I’m very thankful my body has tuned itself to my needs….

  29. For almost a year I slept twice a day approx 4pm-8pm and 4am-8am. After a month or two, I found that 3.5 hrs for each worked fine too (prior to this I normally needed 8-9 hours regularly).

    At first it was hard getting awake, but after a couple of weeks it was no different from regular sleep. I felt rested and energized (i used to bike a lot). The hours worked well with a programming job too. Go to work after 8pm, work until 4am. If need be, go in around noon to meet with the non-programming folks.

    And then I moved countries, switched jobs and the schedule didn’t work anymore. Nor does it work now I have a wife and kid. I often wish I could go back to it though. It really was a great compromise and gave me an extra hour or so each day. The morning hours were really wonderful too. Very high productivity due to the lack of interruptions – and fewer opportunities for self-interruption!

  30. I spent nearly a year working on a 38 on 10 off schedule. I would go to sleep sunday night at 10pm and wake at 8am monday morning. The next time I would sleep was 10pm tuesday night until 8am wednesday. Then I would sleep again at 10pm thursday night and wake at 8am friday. At 10pm saturday I would sleep until 8am on Sunday and allow myself to nap or sleep as needed on Sunday to recover my sleep debt.

    At first I had a difficult time waking up at 8am on Sunday and going back to sleep at 10pm – my body didn’t like the short cycle at the end of the week but after 3 weeks of forcing the schedule I found I could wake at 8am Sunday and if needed nap at 2pm until 3pm and still get my body and brain to relax and fall asleep at the scheduled 10pm bedtime.

    This allowed me to have 38 hours of wake cycle that ALWAYS overlapped with work scheduling and I found that the 10 hour sleep cycle left me much more restful than any 26 hour cycle or scheduled power napping in order to reduce my total sleep down time.

    A few problems I had with the Polyphasic cycle were that I have always needed 20-30 minutes to fall asleep. Even deep relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, soft light/no light/whitenoise couldn’t get this down to a shorter length of time so the polyphasic cycle was actually an hour or so for me. 1/2 to fall asleep 1/2 actually sleeping. It didn’t increase my productive time enough to have to double the off cycle lengths to get the needed sleep in.

    The sleep schedule I described above was proposed to me by a friend of mine who adopted it while he was in Navy Seal training. I don’t know if it was their standard or not but he adapted to it and continues to use it to this day.

    The math alone makes it appealing over the polyphasic cycle. You can still sleep 10x 3 +/- a few hours. This gives you 30+ hours of rest a week without reducing your productive time or impairing your schedule too much.

    Just my $.02 from someone who has tried everything I can to regulate my irregular sleep pattersn.

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