Mind-Body Connection: The Essential Link for Polyphasic Sleep

Mind-Body Connection:  The Essential Link for Polyphasic Sleep

I stumbled into success with polyphasic sleep.  When I read about how many people have tried and failed to adapt to the various schedules, I realized my luck in finding a couple of practices that set my mind and body up for success.  To my knowledge, this has not been written about anywhere else.  If you want to try polyphasic sleep, I highly suggest you practice these two disciplines first.

Intermittent fasting.  When my friend Tony told me about the Warrior Diet and how much he enjoyed it, my first reaction was a solid, “Good for you!”  I was not attracted to the idea of foregoing fresh fruit, a scrambled egg now and again, and other savory items for breakfast.  Not only did my friend skip breakfast, he passed on lunch, too.  How could you possibly have enough energy to sustain yourself until 4 or 5 PM?  I heard about it from him on and off for almost a year before I was convinced to try it—for a day.  The promises of increased energy lured me in.  He experienced benefits beyond this, but he knew me well and positioned this as the main benefit.  The only negative ramifications he experienced were on the social side of things.  I figured I could deal with that since I ate most of my lunches alone at my desk or in the café.  

The morning of my first day, I had a strong intention not to eat until 2 PM that day.  I said it out loud and mustered as much intention as I could behind the words.  Much to my surprise, I did not experience hunger, nor did I miss breakfast that day.  I did this day after day for a year.  I continue to be amazed at how effective this diet is for changing one’s relationship to food (you don’t need it constantly to have energy) and giving your body time to detox and slow down outside of sleeping hours.  When I later learned the role of metabolism and sleep, I realized I was lucky that I had obtained some control over this voluntarily.  This was the first powerful experience I had of the mind influencing the body for positive effect.

Cold-adaptation therapy.  One Monday afternoon, two friends and I shared a moment of extreme synchronicity.  We were walking and talking during lunch (as we all were practicing the Warrior Diet at this time) when one of us mentioned an interesting new practice they had read about over the weekend called the Wim Hof method.  I can’t remember who shared first, whether it was me, Nick or Tony.  However, the strange thing was that all three of us had read about this method for the first time that weekend.  This got my attention, as do all glitch-in-the-Matrix type moments.  I started the program that night and completed it in 10 weeks.  When I first started jumping into my pool that was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I would shiver uncontrollably.  By the end of the program and to this day, I can jump in and feel my internal core temperature raise.  I don’t shiver anymore.

Metabolism and internal core temperature are strongly linked to your circadian rhythm.  Thus, I believe cold-adaptation therapy and the Warrior Diet are essential upgrades prior to commencing an aspirational polyphasic schedule.  If you are just going for a single nap-based schedule, such as 6 hours of core plus a 2 PM nap, you won’t need these hacks.  However, for anything more challenging than this, I can’t recommend you begin without doing these bio-hacks first for at least 3 months.  You will enjoy the superpower of not being cold and not requiring food for energy—so what are you waiting for?


Belief: Empowering Polyphasic Sleep

I did not believe polyphasic sleeping was healthy or even possible until I met a practitioner in person.   Tom is a polymath and is a polyphasic sleeper.  Don’t take my word for it, though: check out his personal resume here.  He explained to me the polyphasic sleep schedule he developed during college that enabled him to take this many courses, graduate with nearly ten masters degrees and a PhD, all while doing research and working as an engineer to pay for school.  Things like this shouldn’t be possible, but they are.  Tom is living proof of it.  

For you to be successful in your efforts, you must believe it can be done.  Besides reading this blog or meeting polyphasic sleepers in person, how else can you generate belief?

Reflect back on your accomplishments so far in your life.  Are any of them remarkable to you now?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  However, what if you could go back and tell your eleven-year-old self you would do them?  Would that self have been impressed or surprised?  We can do much more than we think because what we think at any given moment is limited to our brain state in that moment, including all the biases that make it function so efficiently.   Recency bias, for example, is a common algorithm our brain runs to help us navigate the world.  This is quite helpful in making snap judgements about unimportant matters, such as the best way to drive to work during traffic.  Based on our experience the last few times with traffic, we can quickly make decisions that will likely give us a good path to work (of course we have Google Maps now for this, too).  However, recency bias is not helpful in bolstering our confidence for achieving a new endeavor—unless we are coming off a recent success.  How do we hack this bias?  We create some low-hanging fruit to go after.

For me, I developed several important routines prior to becoming a polyphasic sleeper.  I’ll write about them in more detail next time as they are critical components in the preparation phase; however, in this context I will share them as aids to bolstering my belief that our body and mind can do things seemingly impossible when properly linked.  I heard about the warrior diet (intermittent fasting) from a friend for about a year before I tried it.  Who would want to limit their food intake to specific hours of the day?  Not me, especially when I’m around free food throughout the day.  Yet over time, I decided to give it a try.  Just one day, I thought.  I did a fast from 8 PM to 2 PM the next day for nearly a year.  I felt energized and was completely surprised how I did not get hungry in the AM and did not need a breakfast meal “to start the day right.”  I had energy and focus, yet I was only eating between 2 PM and 8 PM.  I wouldn’t have believed it until I experienced it for myself.  

When I saw how my daily intention (I’m not going to eat until 2 PM) affected my experience of hunger and improved my energy and focus, it gave me a baseline of confidence to build on.  

What baseline of confidence have you already established?  If there is nothing recent, what goal can you set that will boost your confidence that you can do something that seems nearly impossible at first glance?  Perhaps it is polyphasic sleep itself.  If so, then stay tuned for the next post because I will turn you into an intermittent faster yet.


Motivation: The Secret Ingredient to Polyphasic Sleep

If I were to start a coaching practice for executives or other professionals who want to learn polyphasic sleep, I would require an application as a prerequisite. There are many things I would need to know to customize the program for them, but whether I would accept them as clients would depend on one question: why.  To be a successful polyphasic sleeper, one must have a compelling reason.  

I have known for some time that I wanted to write a novel.  I also knew that I wanted to start my own business at some point.  Yet I also knew that I am a family man who would not work crazy hours at the expense of relationships with my two kids and lovely wife.  The promise of the polyphasic sleep schedule called the “Everyman” was that I could do those things that were buried deep within me without sacrificing my normal life as a father, husband and friend.  With the enrollment of a deeper part of ourself, we can achieve a new means to navigate our time on this planet.  However, with a shallow goal, that deeper part of us will not rally to the cause.  I believe this is the fundamental reason more people do not succeed when they try polyphasic sleep.

My wife used to love asking this question to figure out what someone was really passionate about:  What would you stay up in the early hours of the next day to do?  For me, that question was even more to the point:  What would cause you to set your alarm for 1:30 AM after only 3.5 hours of sleep, get up, and then jump into a 50℉ pool?  Wow.  I look back on that schedule that I maintained for 8 months in 2016 and shake my head in disbelief.  The willpower it must have taken to do that for so long…well, it seems almost unbelievable to me, and I was the one who did it!  By 2 AM, I was wide awake and able to focus for 4 hours before my first 20-minute nap.  Those hours were completely free, unfettered by any demands on my time by family or work.  In those hours I started my first company and wrote my first novel.  I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

The Everyman schedule calls for 3.5 hour core sleep followed by 3 20-minute naps evenly spaced throughout the day.  I will share a much better schedule that I now use later in the series.  But for the thought experiment, imagine you had to do what I did everyday for one month.  What would motivate you at the deepest level of your being to get up 4 hours earlier than normal, day after day for 30 days?  Are you an inspiring writer?  Do you dream of starting a company?  Those are only two of an infinite number of answers that could pass my litmus test.  If someone told me they were passionate about learning and wanted more hours to read about a particular subject, I would be intrigued and want to know more.  What would they do with this learning?  What would it lead to?  If it leads to a new career that they’ve always dreamed about, then I would coach that person.  If it is just for knowledge’s sake, hmmm, I might have to pass.  I’m not sure that will be sufficient to plow through the adaptation period that can take up to 30 days before the routine feels routine.  

If you have read any of my other blogs on lucid dreaming, especially the one about how I came up with the origin of the blog title, you will know that I believe we have a deeper Self inside of us.  This Self comes to us in the shadows and speaks to us in whispers.  This Self reveals itself symbolically through dreams and more literally in slips of the tongue.   Perhaps it is this Self that led you to my blog and fans into flame your interest in polyphasic sleep.  If you can enroll that Self in your vision for a new life, then you have the intelligence on your side that goes beyond reason and is responsible for keeping seven billion hearts beating on the planet.  It is the same intelligence that can turn a piece of food you have eaten, be it meat or fruit or vegetable, into “you” hours later.  Stop a moment and think of the mysterious alchemy of that process we take for granted at least three times a day.  We do this Self a great disservice by calling it “un” or “sub” to what we value so highly, our waking consciousness.  Look deep within and ask yourselfwhat moves me?  What will move me so fundamentally that Life itself will grant me 25% more waking time in a day?  When you have that answer, you are truly ready to become a polyphasic sleeper.    


Polyphasic Sleep in 30 Days: The Creative Sleep Program

Two years ago in a Google doc titled “JB Mind Hacking Experiments” I wrote, “Still going strong! It’s incredible. I am really grateful for this, actually. Always learning.”

I had been keeping the “Everyman” polyphasic sleep schedule since Jan 2 of that year. I would go to bed at 10 PM, wake up at 1:30 AM, and then take three 20-minute naps throughout the day. With only a few exceptions, that was all the sleep I had been getting for those 25 days. By day 16, I was already writing enthusiastically about “my crazy sleep experiment,” as I referred to it with others: “It’s fricking awesome. Really hard to believe. But I am doing it.” What was so crazy was that I had freed up an extra 4 hours a day to do things like work on an iPhone app I had always wanted to create, read books on a topic that fascinated me, and take online courses from MIT. These weren’t sleep-deprived hours: they were high-energy, highly productive hours.

Since then I’ve found a much better schedule, and armed with almost two years’ experience, I’m ready to share with you how I did it. I honestly don’t know if it will work for you; you’ll have to experiment for yourself. Very little is known scientifically about polyphasic sleep, but there are plenty of good resources out there, including in-depth discussions on Reddit. I will share with you my journey and the key learnings. Since this blog started out with Lucid Dreaming, I will pay homage to the first book I remember reading on the topic called Lucid Dreams in 30 Days with my own blog series “Polyphasic Sleep in 30 Days: The Creative Sleep Program.” I hope it will inspire you to challenge what you know about sleep and the relationship between the mind and the body.  

This series will be broken into three main parts: preparation, adaption, and achieving flow. Each phase is critical, and it takes a fair amount of time and willpower to go down this path. Today there is no technology I know of to aid someone in becoming a polyphasic sleeper. Maybe one day there will be, but for now, you will need to harness your inner drive and steel your resolve, for it is NOT for the faint of heart. But on the other side, it is truly life-changing. I will share specifics of how I’ve spent this time that I’ve “bought” with my willpower and relentless experimenting to motivate you and to keep you focused during the preparation and the adaptation phase. Perhaps this new series is not that different from the blog’s original one. The dreams we create and achieve just happen to be when we are awake instead of asleep.