Sleeping Only Two Hours A Day?

Update: After lots of further research, I have changed my mind about the usefulness of this technique. I don’t recommend it at all anymore. If you’d like to really dig into this subject, I suggest reading this article by Dr. Piotr Wozniak. Here’s a brief excerpt:

The answer to the question “to sleep or not to sleep polyphasically” will depend on your goals and your chosen criteria. You may want to sleep polyphasically if you want to maximize the frequency of a waking activity (e.g. monitoring the instruments and the horizon in solo yacht racing). Yet you will definitely not want to sleep polyphasically if:

  • you want to maximize your creative output
  • you want to maximize your peak alertness, your average alertness, or minimize the impact of your worst alertness levels
  • you want to maximize the health effects of sleep, etc.

I’ll leave the original article here for history’s sake (for now). At some point I’ll probably write a new sleep article, so keep your eyes open – but only during the day.


Is it possible to sleep only two hours a day and still retain functionality beyond that of a caffienated dippy bird?

Apparently so. I’ve been reading Tim Ferriss’ newest book, The 4-Hour Body, and I was particularly interested in his chapters about sleep. While the first chapter, “Engineering the Perfect Night’s Sleep”, was great, I was more interested in the second, “Becoming Uberman”. It describes a technique called polyphasic sleep, which is a sleep method that allows you to sleep as little as two hours a day while still feeling fully rested and retaining normal functionality.

Polyphasic sleep involves taking multiple short naps, which are spaced at regular intervals throughout the day. This is much different than monophasic sleep, in which you go comatose for one gigantic, eight-hour block of time. When you sleep monophasically, only a portion of your time spent sleeping is spend in REM sleep, which is the sleep you want. If you recall from my prior post on sleep, your sleep cycle involves five stages. Only the last of the five is REM sleep, and the other four stages are essentially wasted time. You can’t eliminate this wasted time in monophasic sleep; you need it in order to get into those REM stages.

Monophasic patternUnder monophasic sleep, you go through about four REM stages in an eight hour period. Each REM cycle is 20-30 minutes, so you’re really only getting two hours of real REM sleep a day. Polyphasic sleep is different, because once you’re used to it, your body slips into REM sleep right away. Since you’re only napping for 20 minutes each time, almost the entire nap is spent in REM sleep.

Uberman patternThere are several variants of polyphasic sleep, including the Everyman method and the Uberman method. All of the Everyman types involve a large chunk of core sleep (still much less than eight hours) supplemented by several naps throughout the day. The Uberman method abandons the core sleep chunk altogether and uses six 20-minute naps for a total of two hours of sleep.

While the Everyman method seems to be the sane choice for someone just starting out, I’m going straight for the Uberman. The reason is simple – I want more time. Sleep is something I wish I didn’t have to do. With the Uberman method, I won’t have to do much of it.

I’ll be journaling my experiences with this sleep method as I go along – the results will most likely be recorded over at Bodybuilding.com, or maybe even here. According to Steve Pavlina’s reflection on his own polyphasic experiment, I’ll feel like a complete zombie for around a week. So anything posted during the next week may or may not feature infantile grammar and ideas even a hippo would dismiss as ridiculous. I apologize in advance. Hopefully this experiment will give me more time and boost my productivity. There’s only one way to find out.

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek and a wannabe pinball wizard (← as well as). After paying off $14K in student loans, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Facebook

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13 Comments:
  1. I honestly don’t understand WHY people would want to try this!?! I’ve been googling advice and this page pulls up.. I just started a full time job after being laid off for months, and I went from being able to sleep for 10-12 hrs ( I LOVE sleep), to only being able to sleep for two hours at a time! It’s killing me!! My job is 2nd and 3rd shift and my internal clock must just be really confused.. Can anyone explain why they would want to do this to themselves?! LOL

    • The draw for doing something like this is getting more time, so it’s especially attractive for entrepreneurs and people who just have a lot of projects to work on. It works better than simply sleeping for 3 hours because you spread out the naps throughout the day.

      However, after doing a lot of research, I’ve decided Uberman isn’t really a good option. However, doing something like a Siesta schedule can be awesome.

  2. Thanks for the tips, Corey – I’m thinking of trying this next semester if it makes sense with my schedule.

    Reuben – the most comprehensive source of info that I know of is PureDoxyk’s book on the subject: http://www.puredoxyk.com/index.php/the-ubersleep-book/

    Steve Pavlina also tried it out and published an extensive journal that’s worth a look. http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/10/polyphasic-sleep/

    When I was researching this, I found that there’s definitely a lack of true scientific study on the subject. Most of the data out there is personal account.

  3. I tried this in high school. The Uberman just wasn’t possible. However, I found that four hours of sleep at night, then an hour nap in the afternoon worked really well for me. I think it’s all about experimenting and finding what works for your body and, usually more difficult to figure out with polyphasic sleep, your schedule.

    • The way my schedule ended up being, I actually won’t be able to do it. However, I ended up getting Wednesdays and Fridays completely free from class and work, so I think that makes up for it.

      If you want to read an awesome account of polyphasic sleeping, look up Steve Pavlina’s journal about it!

  4. AWESOME! I am really wondering what you'll experience. I think every once in a while to adopt the same schedule, but with obligate things you will have to miss nap-time every once in a while and I think that will bump you out big time. Please keep us up to date, as I am really curious ;)

    • Thanks for the comment, Stefan! I’ve been doing a lot of research on this type of sleep since I wrote this post. It seems that there are different adaptation periods for each type of sleep – Uberman seems to take most people a month to fully adapt to, while Everyman will take 2-3 months. I’ve come to the conclusion that, since I’ll be working a 9-5 internship this summer, it isn’t worth it to try polyphasic sleep this semester. However, I’ll be signing up for next semester’s classes soon, so I’ll be able to tailor a schedule that allows me to do Uberman. I honestly can’t wait for next year so I’ll have time to try it! 

  5. your girlfriend appreciates that you will wait until spring break!!! She doesn't want to deal with a zombie Thomas

  6. Good luck with the experiment, I've had friends attempt the polyphasic sleep cycle and the crash of the first two weeks looked absolutely brutal. It'll be interesting to see if a college student could successfully get on the uberman.

    • Thanks! I’m a little worried about my exams this week, but I still want to give this a try. I’ll also be experimenting with certain types of nutrition while on this sleep schedule as well. 

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