The fire and rescue crews got a pizza lunch in Kharkiv

The fire and rescue crews got a pizza lunch in Kharkiv courtesy of Pizza for Ukraine!

Donate Now to Pizza for Ukraine

Polyphasic sleep is a bizarre, almost consciousness altered state where your approach to sleep varies widely from the human norm:

Biphasic sleep (or diphasic, bifurcated, or bimodal sleep) is the practice of sleeping during two periods over the course of 24 hours, while polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping multiple times—usually more than two.[1] Each of these is in contrast to monophasic sleep, which is one period of sleep within 24 hours.  Wikipedia

With the very modern tendency to think that everything not "normal" is actually new, we tend to ignore our history. People as famous as Ben Franklin, Nikola Tesla, Winston Churchill and others were polyphasic sleepers. More

Back to Me

I am currently engaging in a serious relationship with Polyphasic sleep – you might, in fact, say that not only have we dated, but we took the plunge and just moved in together. And, now, we are in that difficult period of trying to adapt a new relationship to our previous partner(s) and life.

As examples from the last few nights, I:

  • Went to sleep last night at 9:30 and woke up at 2 am and I've been working ever since (its now 2 pm).
  • Went to sleep the night before at 140 am. Woke at 423.

And my schedule is flexible enough that I nap aggressively to make up for this sleep deficit. Still this is hard so here are my thoughts on surviving this brief descent into sleep madness.

Rule 1: It Isn't Forever

This doesn't have to be a forever thing. For myself it is tied to enthusiasm at the early stage of a project; that rapid ideation stage where everything is new, exciting and you just can't wait for the next step in the project. I currently wake with idea on the tip of my brainstem and rush to get them out.

Rule 2: Construct for Yourself a "Sleep Cave" or "Sleep Hide" like a Sniper's Hide

I can't believe that I'm going to admit this and put it online but here goes. Not only do I aggressively nap but I even have a particular napping spot. And, no, it isn't in the bed my wife and I share. Why? Because it isn't considerate to your partner who might have to creep around your weird ass to do something normal like put away laundry or watch a TV show. Yes, facepalm, it is a palette on the floor as if I was a first grader taking a nap. And, yes, the windows are covered. Why? Because when I do finally sleep, often after falling asleep at the keyboard, utter and total darkness – even at noon – is key.

Rule 3: Mess with the Need to Sleep with Light, Hydration, Food, Exercise or All of the Above

You can adjust your need to sleep by carefully altering the amount you have of:

  • Light; bright lights wake you up; darkness settles you down.
  • Hydration. This isn't just caffeine. Ice cold water works quite well for me.
  • Food. I snack aggressively. Pro tip: buy high quality grapes and drop them in the freezer. This is both low cal and cooling. Bonus pro tip: sprinkle kool aid mix on the grapes. Unsweetened if with red grapes, sweetened on green grapes. This bonus pro tip brought to you by the good folks at Metal Honey.
  • Exercise. My neighbors now see me go for walks in the middle of the night. I wonder what they think.

Rule 4: Be Damn Careful with Driving and Heavy Machinery

When you have been awake for a long time, you should know that this is risky. As often as possible, I ask my wife to drive. And, since I do quite a bit of wood working, I am inordinately careful with power tools.

Rule 5: The Loneliness is Unbelievably Hard

If you wake at 2 am then it can easily be 9 am before you even talk to another soul. This means that you can be entirely alone for 7 hours. Even introverts like myself have issues with that. My solution: I found online friends in other time zones via the Discord chat system. Say Hi if you see me.

Rule 6: You Can't Really Do This With a Traditional Day Job

I've done this with a traditional day job so it is possible it is very, very hard. This is something that is better as a consultant. When you have a day job and they notice you falling asleep on a Zoom call, well, it doesn't go over very well.

Rule 7: Problems with Coordination Mean Take a Break

Lack of sleep inherently leads to coordination issues. When you find yourself uncoordinated, that usually means to take a break. Or a nap. Or both.

Rule 8: Don't Be an Asshole; Polyphasic Sleep Makes You An Asshole

During this, I find often find myself irritated by other people. Be kind and try to settle down your inner asshole. Lack of sleep inherently makes you grouchy. To quote Robert A. Heinlein:

“Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Rule 9: Cups with Lids and Straws

If you look at rule 7, you are going to have problems with coordination. And do you know what that means? Spills!!! Save your workspace / keyboard from this in advance with better drink ware.

Rule 10: You Cannot Multitask

I'm a firm believer that personal multitasking is a myth. None of us are as productive as we think we are. Be careful with multitasking when sleeping less as you often fail to return to projects and leave tasks hanging. If I have to leave something hanging then I'm very careful to set a reminder on my phone to come back to it.

Rule 11: You Need a supportive partner

In closing, I'd note that pulling this off really requires a supportive life partner (if you are partnered). My wife has now seen this enough that she recently remarked "Oh yes I remember this" and was great about all this.

Treat your partner with additional love and care during these times. Thank you Rebekah.