BEGINNER GUIDE: The Choice of Sleeping Right

Balancing Opportunity and Cost

The Battles between Extra Wake Time & Productive Time

Oftentimes, I receive questions about the compromise of either extra wake time or productivity, well-being and motivation. Things are not as easy as they look…

Extreme Schedules

Q1: I would like to start with E3 (4 hours). I don’t have any napping experience, though. Or, actually, I want to get to Uberman (2 hours) later on. Is this a good plan?

A1: As a beginner, E3 cold turkey is a rough start. However, it is fair and doable if you really need the extra time and have enough motivation. Emergency situations, for example, which keep your adrenaline up. Keep in mind that this adaptation is not going to be easy, at all. Unless you’re a short sleeper, or have low sleep requirements though, I doubt Uberman is going to work. 

Is It Really the Extra Wake Time?

Triphasic-extended (18 hours awake) Triphasic (19.5 hours awake)
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  • Easier adaptation
  • Can be more productive during adaptation
  • More flexibility after adaptation
  • Harder adaptation
  • Potentially more crippled productivity during adaptation
  • Less flexibility after adaptation

Further Analysis

Q2: Okay, so I know that I sleep more than 8 hours on monophasic, but I really want to do the standard E1 (6.3h). However, E2 with a Pronap also looks very tempting. Which one should I pick, if I do not want to cripple my productivity entirely?

A2: Well, the problem is that you’re already reducing ~2 hours of sleep with your E1, let alone the E2. At some point during adaptation, things will get quite overwhelming. You probably will need to exert efforts when it matters the most to not oversleep. Your productivity will suffer at some point in time. Thus, I think you should except it as part of the game; there is no easy getaway with sleep cut. 

It brings me to the game of productivity-extra wake time. With extra wake time, you can do more things; however, it is only true if you are very alert and really know what you’re doing. Otherwise, brain fog, etc. will slow your reactions and… you won’t really gain any extra time while you have to battle to just stay awake.

Overall, I strongly advise you to think twice about the levels of sleep reduction you want to achieve. If you can adapt to a sleep schedule, no matter if it has “a lot” of sleep, you will feel great. The adaptation is also a bit easier. And feeling great is the key to high productivity.

Would you rather have an 18-hour productive work, or 22 hours but half of that is spent on constant struggles and endless adaptation? Also, when you put long-term calculations on the table, is it worth it if you can only stay on Triphasic (4.5h) for only 2.5 months when it already takes you potentially ~2 months to adapt to it? Think carefully! 

Social Life & Sleep Times: Achieving the Best of Both Worlds

Dark Period & Social Life

Q: Please look at my situation and tell me what I should do. I’m really confused. 

So, I would like to remain on E1, 6.5h core. Keeping at least 2 hours of dark period before the core would be amazing. Hence, I need an 8.5h stretch of time just for myself. I also need to wake up at 6 AM for classes. For my core and dark period, I would like to start them after 8 PM and before 9:30 PM. Am I right that I can still maintain social time with my friends in the evening? 

A: Alright, that sounds like quite a lot of things here. Let’s sketch your schedule out first. 

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Dark period vs evening social time
  • With this setup, your E1 is the same as it was before. You don’t move the sleep times as you’re still adapting.
  • Your dark period starts at 8:30 PM now. This means there’s only 90 minutes before the core. I personally don’t think it’s quite a problem given that you already have and 8-hour dark period, and your core sleep is decently long. 
  • Yes, you can have some social time with friends, as long as you remain in your dark period. Which means, you should wear red glasses and avoid blue light exposure during this time. 

In sum, sometimes you may have to sacrifice certain aspects of sleep hygiene to some degree. In a pinch, for schedules with high total sleep like Biphasic, you can get by with less than 2 hours of dark period before the core. For this case, it is not a major problem. 

Dark Period Prevents Scheduling Viability

Q: After looking at all the options, I think E2 (with a late core) would work best for me. I plan to do a 4.5h core and 2 20-minute naps. However, I cannot sleep at 11 PM because of evening commitments with family. If I sleep after midnight, I fear I do not get enough SWS due to somewhat taxing exercise. The dark period is also a problem. I can’t start it any time earlier than 11 PM… This sucks so bad. Should I switch to E1 instead?

A: I actually have a solution for you. Here’s how it is.

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Everyman 2 and dark period
  • If you are concerned with SWS, consider a 30-minute extension in the core. Hopefully you have normal SWS requirements. What’s left is REM sleep’s repartitioning into the core and the first nap. 
  • Your dark period can start at 11:30 PM, and your core can start at 1 AM. It’s only 90 minutes, but hey, it’s better than nothing at all. 90 minutes is still pretty decent for you to work around the evening hours. 
  • Since your core is still rather short, the biological night should lengthen the dark period. Here, you have at least 7.5 hours. It’s roughly similar to monophasic people who sleep ~7-8h per night, with no blue light prevention before bedtime. 
  • At least with this setup you won’t have to forfeit your E2 idea! 

Extroverted Personalities

Q: I’m a very socially active person. I really can’t live without chatting with my friends and all. Polyphasic sleep seems to have many constraints. Can I still do something? At least improving my sleep quality somehow?

A: Yes, it sure can work to some extent. Although, as you already know, your options aren’t much. However, that doesn’t mean you are powerless. Just a couple points for you to note:

  • Your best hope is Biphasic schedules. They have high total sleep, flexibility in sleep times and are convenient to schedule.
  • Having a lot of social time means that you have to stay awake for a lot of hours in a row. It is also very likely that you won’t sleep until at least around midnight. Unfortunately, this would disable a lot of schedules with more than 1 nap per day, as it seems. 
  • For beginners, Biphasic sleep seems like your best friend and fits your demands quite well. You can go to bed somewhat late at night, like 1 AM, while needing a power nap in the day like a siesta. 
  • You can still apply the principles of dark period, eating and exercising with regards to sleep times to further boost your sleep quality. At this point in time, you really aren’t looking for much, if at all, sleep reduction. Therefore, non-reducing or extended schedules (with small sleep reduction) would be best for you. 
  • As you gain more exposure with napping, you may be able to proceed to SEVAMAYL. Here you simply take naps in the day whenever you’re tired. You can take more or fewer naps depending on how busy you are. As long as you have the skills to fall asleep very fast with any naps, SEVAMAYL can be a very potent schedule for your life. 

To Reduce Sleep or Not To Reduce Sleep?

Q: These polyphasic schedules scare me. It’s so little sleep compared to what I’m getting right now. I need ~9-9.5 hours in bed each day to feel good. I wonder if nothing will work for me at all?

A: Well, I’d like to break down several misconceptions that have been flying around for a long time. Hopefully that’ll be clear enough for you to see a more well-rounded perspective. 

  • Because extreme schedules like E3, Uberman and Dymaxion ran amok in the 2000s, it only makes sense people think that’s all polyphasic sleep is about. It’s just a bunch of short naps and the total sleep is extremely low. 
  • There is no scientific basis whatsoever that you have to reduce sleep on a polyphasic schedule. Sleep reduction is merely a convenient tool for you to try it out because it’s appealing. 
  • Over the years, we have discovered the powerful benefits of napping, consistent sleep habits and a comprehensive lifestyle. This means that non-reducing schedules can still definitely enhance your sleep quality. 
  • Even if you do not reduce sleep, simple non-reducing Biphasic schedules can still teach you to nap. Over time, you can transition to schedules with less sleep with acquired napping experiences
  • Not reducing sleep means you have to learn to manage your own time very well. If you are very busy, you will have to learn quick problem-solving skills and adapt to the workload. Which is a great thing! 

After years of bad sleep during my wild high school years, I have learned the importance of good sleep. Of course, people look at “good sleep” differently. Except that bad sleep is a silent killer over the years. It slowly turns you into a real zombie. And there are many sleep hygiene techniques on polyphasic sleep for you to learn! 

Concluding Remark

This lesson has given you details and suggestions on different niches of sleep reduction and non-sleep-reduction. Therefore, I think it is necessary that you consider as many aspects as possible before starting out. Sometimes, it’s not about “as many hours awake as possible”. Factors such as social life, proper diet, sleep maintenance, productivity, etc. are what you should really weigh on. 

Regardless, balancing opportunity and cost is very difficult. But you’ll learn it as you persist. For the next lesson, we’ll look at some examples of my scheduling guidelines for real polyphasic beginners in the community. 

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