Closing Thoughts on my Polyphasic Experiment


Time to swallow my pride and admit defeat on this little experiment!

Today I’m wrapping up my two-and-a-half week polyphasic sleep adventure.

I wrote my two-week update on Monday feeling invincible, but so much has happened this week that has triggered some introspection and realization that this phase might not work out.

An accurate visualization of this week’s emotional rollercoaster

It’s worth mentioning that just because this experiment failed doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable. I’ve learned so much in these past two weeks about myself, my work habits, my own lifestyle preferences and more — I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So anyways, here are the quick reasons why I’ve stopped polyphasic, followed by some key learnings and next steps.

Why I stopped:

  • Physically, I looked exhausted 24/7. I grabbed lunch with a friend yesterday who asked if I was about to fall asleep at the table — I felt fine, but apparently looked like I was on the brink of passing out. Not ideal. At the same time, the dark circles under my eyes haven’t improved as much as I’d hoped for and I’m looking a tad zombie-like these days. Again, not ideal.
A self-portrait
  • In terms of exercise and fitness, I just don’t think it’s feasible to exercise or stay properly fit on just four hours of sleep. I’ve been missing my workout routine and having to skip out on physical activity because I’m either a) too tired or b) need to preserve my energy until the next nap just doesn’t feel like a healthy lifestyle.
  • It has been great to go two weeks without coffee or alcohol. Hitting pause on those two things feels good, a sort of “debrief” from old habits. That being said, there is something inherently enjoyable about a cup of coffee in the early mornings that can set the tone and pace for the rest of the day. I’ve really missed that aspect of life. I just finished my first caffeinated coffee as I write this — mmmrrhmm…

Key learnings:

  • I’ve learned a lot about when I’m most productive and when I need to just step back and chill for a bit. The nature of being awake around the clock has opened my eyes to early-morning working and the beauty of a mid-afternoon nap.
  • 20-minute naps are magic. Honestly. I used to think that if I was exhausted that I needed a 2–3 hour afternoon lie-down just to catch up. It turns out that those extended periods can be detrimental to your energy and throw off your entire sleep cycle. 20 minutes is actually an optimal time to get some restorative sleep without going too deep (resulting in a case of the groggy).
  • Polyphasic sleep is possible, but I don’t know for how long. That being said, I wouldn’t trade my learnings from the last 2 weeks for anything. There were incredibly challenging days and days where I felt like I could accomplish anything. You take the good with the bad, but for me I realized that there wasn’t a sustainable long-term play in the cards.

Next experiments:

  • I’m still on my week of Soylent. It’s going great (day 4 in progress at time of writing!). This is certainly a sustainable addition to my routine. I’ve found that replacing 1–2 meals per day with Soylent (and even adding some protein powder after a workout) feels great and starts the day off so smoothly.
  • Biphasic, perhaps? Rather than reverting back to an old monophasic schedule, I’m going to experiment with a biphasic schedule that lets me fit in early morning work hours. My tentative sleep schedule for the next few days is 10pm — 4am then a nap either in the late morning or early afternoon.
  • I think the key thing is to remain flexible and open to failure. Listening to my body will be important and it’s not quite worth forcing a change that makes me feel or perform worse. Let’s optimize for the good things in life!

So that’s it — I won’t write any more about polyphasic sleeping at this point. Thanks for reading…onward to the next experiment!