Feeding the Elephant: Leverage the Power of Habit
How can you apply all of the above to polyphasic sleep? I have a few suggestions.
Feeding the Elephant: Leverage the Power of Habit
How can you apply all of the above to polyphasic sleep? I have a few suggestions.
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?
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.
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 yourself—what 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.
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.
There are hundreds of billions of ad campaigns unleashed on humanity daily across our phones, tablets, smart speakers, TVs, and radios. Almost anything imaginable can be sold or positioned through one of these mediums. Yet, despite all these ads you won’t find one that offers the one thing you want most: time.
Time is for sale. Polyphasic sleeping is the product. PS is the term used to describe a pattern of sleeping than involves more than one sleep episode in a 24 hour period. If you nap every single day then you are technically a polyphasic sleeper. Over 85% of all mammals are PS. We come into the world a PSer. Yet, our society is built around the mantra of sleeping 7 – 8 hours in a mono-phasic block. There is good science available around the harmful effects of sleep deprivation. There is great science around the benefits of sleep (check out Matt Walker’s Why We Sleep). There is very little science around the benefits (or harmful effects) of polyphasic sleeping outside of nap research. We will cover more of this in later posts.
I’ve been polyphasic sleeping for two years now while being a father, a husband, an author, a Director at a large tech company and I can tell you it is life-transforming. I have done things in the last two years I didn’t think were possible given my desire to be a good and present father & husband, maintain friendships, do well at work and still enjoy some loose time for causal reading and watching TV. In the normal schedule, I didn’t have time to take courses with MIT EduX, learn drums, practice piano, write a novel, read dozens of books on a single subject or take a daily nap. With polyphasic sleep, I have essentially created 4 extra hours a day of discretionary time. This is high quality time when I feel intellectually stimulated. It is not sleep deprived time where I don’t feel like doing anything but watching TV. What’s my schedule? The very best schedule I have found thus far is this: 8 – 9:15 PM (I sleep as I put my 8 year old son to bed), 2:00 AM – 6:30 AM (core sleep) and 2:30 PM – 2:45 PM (power nap). This gives me 18 hours of amazing energy. Many people sleep about 6 hours and in theory have as much time as I do. So what is so amazing about that? The difference is those people are sleep deprived walking through life like a zombie since they are not getting the recommended amount of sleep (science shows that if you sleep in one period you need about 7 – 9 hours of sleep). My brain, on the other hand, never has to go more than 8 hours without getting a fresh reboot. You can imagine it something like this. The brain is like an engine running with oil. Even with just a small thin layer of oil left the engine runs well. However even 20 min with no oil and the engine gets hot. Now imagine running that engine for 10 extra hours without oil! Not good for the engine, the car or the person trying to get somewhere. Even when I take my 15 min power nap (honestly many days I fall asleep and wake up within 11 or 12 minutes) I am adding some oil to the engine of my brain. There is a neurochemical called adenosine that builds up as the brain stays awake longer and longer. This power nap flushes it out and I feel better than I do with a cup of coffee and no nap. Thus, I have the same amount of hours, but they are in 4K versus SD with some buffering needed.
All this may sound too good to be true. I thought it was until I met someone who had successfully done it at the company where I work. He did it for 4 years at school and had multiple degrees to prove it. He gave me his pointers and instilled in me the confidence it could be done. I want to pass it on to you, my readers. I will begin to blog about polyphasic sleeping as a new core topic to themindhacked.com. I will share stories, tips and tricks and even peak at some of the science that exists to explain the phenomena. I hope you will find this as interesting as I do. If not, you owe it to yourself to at least learn more about a product that you won’t find anywhere else. Thanks for tuning in.
I had a rare experience during a lucid dream last week. I was flying, but it was not with any visual imagery. Though unusual, this wasn’t the odd part. Before I get to that, you may be wondering, how do you know you were flying if you couldn’t see anything? If you’ve haven’t flown in a dream before, this seems like a completely logical question. However if you have flown, you probably know the answer to it. I could feel the wind whooshing around me and I had the distinct sensation of propelling myself forward. It is hard to describe unless, well, unless you’ve flown before!
As I was flying something dark and threatening attached itself to me. It did not have a shape or a form that I could see, but I could feel it and perhaps I heard it when it landed on me. It was not pleasant. I do not struggle with nightmares, but it did give me empathy for those that do. As exciting as lucid dreams are because you are not restricted to physical laws of nature, you are also vulnerable to not so savory imaginations your mind concocts for whatever reason. I did not panic, but I remembered that this was a dream. Then I summoned as much energy as I could and I blasted all of the energy out of me at once. It worked. I freed myself from the thing that had attached and then sunk into a dreamless sleep.
This leads to me to an interesting question – what is the best way to handle unpleasant occurrences in a lucid dream? You will read many accounts of handling nightmares that involve realizing the terrorizing agent is simply an disassociated side of yourself. Once you realize this, you can embrace the dream character with love and integrate it back into yourself. I believe this works and is a vital, if not advanced practice. However, I have had friends who have told me about encounters with strange and powerful dream characters who they could not control. Up until this experience, I had not met anyone or anything that seemed to have a malicious intent. I did not get the sense this thing that found me flying in the darkness was a disconnected part of myself that I needed to express love to. However, maybe I am still missing the point and all such experiences deserve that.
I had just finished Carlos Castaneda’s book Journey to Ixtland a day before the experience. In it there are references to in-organic beings, or entities as he calls them, who are sometimes friend and sometimes foe when they reveal themselves to us. Perhaps reading this sowed the seed in my subconscious that led to my experience while flying. Or maybe it helped prepare me for the encounter. I’m not sure. In any case, if you are new to lucid dreaming it is good to be aware of the fact that not all dreams have desirable elements all of the time. Lucid dreaming does not mean you have 100% control of all the dream material. Yet, it does mean you do not need to succumb to fear if you do come face to face with something that is menacing or threatening. If I had to do it over again, I think I would start with love and if that didn’t work, blast it like I did. I guess that strategy works pretty well in life, too.
The phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone” comes from a Counting Crows song called “Big Yellow Taxi.” The refrain goes, “The paved paradise / And put up a parking lot.” For my dreaming life, this adage holds more than one nugget of truth.
It’s been almost three years since my last post. Ironically it is labeled the Power of Intention. My intention towards cultivating my dream life has been diminished. Why? They paved paradise and putting up a parking lot. The parking lot that replaced my rich lucid dreaming life are productive waking hours. In January 2016 I became a polyphasic sleeper. I slept for 3.5 hours at night followed by three twenty minute naps. I did this consistently for eight months. It was amazing. And it wasn’t all at the same time.
With this extra time, I read over a dozen books on a subject I wasn’t familiar with and never would have invested the precious four hours of discretionary time a week. However, with about four extra hours per day, I was able to indulge my curiosity into Buddhism. But I didn’t read for 28 hours a week. I also took up drums, wrote a novel, audited MIT classes online and ensured that my wife was happy with clean dishes, bills paid and enough bananas on the table every morning. What’s the catch?
There are a few catches, but they are not what you might think. Was I tired all the time? Only until I learned how to nap on demand anytime, anywhere. This took about 3 weeks. Most people don’t last the 21 day adaptation period. However, I had motivation. I wanted to start a company. Interestingly enough, a company that would leverage my knowledge about sleep and dreams, lucid dreaming in particular. So I formed lucidreality.io and learned how to use wire-framing software, spec’d out a user interface and worked diligently in the middle of the night with one of my tech co-founders. I will write a separate post on polyphasic sleep to give you all the tips. For now, I want to talk about what it did and didn’t do and the price I have paid. Perhaps in laying this all out I will find the holy of holies, a middle way for my own sleep and dream practices.
Many people asked me why I stopped after eight months. I had just come back from Burning Man where the polyphasic schedule held up surprisingly well. I realized I missed one critical aspect of my nightlife – dreams. In the polyphasic sleep I experienced, I had few high quality dreams and even fewer lucid ones. You can read that polyphasic sleep encourages lucid dreams. However, the schedule I followed did not lend itself to them. I could nap during the day and fall straight into REM. When I discussed with a prominent sleep medicine specialists he told me this was a sure sign of sleep deprivation. One of the classic diagnostics for narcolepsy is heading straight to REM during the daytime.
Starting in September of 2016, I went back to a regular sleep schedule. I slept between 7 – 8 hours a night. How did it feel to sleep that much after such a radically different schedule? Actually, the differences were minor and they favored the short sleep schedule. I was as shocked as anyone. What I missed more than the extra time each day was the incredible feeling of having woken from a 10 – 15 minute nap and feeling great. I am a morning person and when I was doing the polyphasic schedule I felt like I had 4 mornings every 24 hours. I had more zip to my step and my mind seemed sharper (debatable whether it actually was according to researchers I trust) when I slept less in total sleep time but more in episodes of sleep. However, one day of long slept led to another and several months later I was back into my old routine. However, I had lost the intention to lucid dream, even though that was the whole point!
This gets me to a fascinating point about lucid dreaming. Despite how amazing it is, despite how many times I’ve had a powerful lucid dream, it is way too easy to pave over the experience with something that seems more valuable, more productive. Why is that? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe because lucid dreaming falls into a spiritual discipline category. Spiritual disciplines are hard by their very nature but lead to wonderful fruit in one’s life. Perhaps it is because lucid dreams are not stored in memory the same way as consensus reality conscious experiences. Thus, we don’t have the same strength of recall of them and over time they fade. For me, every few years I meet someone who sparks my imagination a fresh about lucid dreaming. Recently, I met such an individual and his passion for lucid dreaming has reignited my own. Hearing him describe his lucid dreams reminds me of what I have lost over the last few years.
There is another thing I took for granted. I never sought out with any ambitions to be a blogger. I thought keeping a blog of my thoughts might be helpful if I ever wanted to write a book on lucid dreaming. Thus, when I saw users subscribing every day I never paid much attention to it. In fact, I suspected it was spam accounts since my comments are full of advertisements for this drug or that supplement. All of this started in 2016 when I put up the lucidreality website and posted a link to the blog. A few months ago, I was convinced the company wouldn’t need my help so I took down the website I had put up as a placeholder. As soon as I did, the new subscribers to the blog dried up. Earlier this week I checked to see how many people had subscribed in the last eighteen months. Five thousand. For professional bloggers or even non-professionals that number might mean nothing. For me, it was an eye-opener. Seriously? I hadn’t even updated the blog in almost three years and people still thought it worth getting notifications when I had? OK. Another paradise lost. I recently put the website back up and of course the stream of new subscribers has not come back yet. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.
I haven’t gotten to all the “catches” of polyphasic sleeping, nor have I described my sleep schedule now. All in due time, my fellow sojourners. Until then, I will leave you with this question: What paradise have you lost because of paving your own parking lot? I hope you will stay with me as I try to regain that which was very precious to me.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine who encouraged me to set an intention before speaking to a group of people. Even though I have been using intention in my mindfulness practice for over a year, it had never occurred to me to use intention in my work.
Setting an intention at the beginning of a mindfulness practice, whether it be yoga or meditation, is a powerful way to set your whole mind in a single direction. Perhaps intention is the modern prayer. It works. Becoming an effective lucid dreamer hinges on being able to remember to do something, recognize a dream, based on a prior intent lodged deep into the mind. The first documented method for lucid dreaming with scientific backing was Stephen’s Leberge’s MILD (mnemonic induction of lucid dreams). The MILD method is setting an intention when you are in the drowsy state after waking that the next time you have a dream you will remember you have a dream.
A good stepping stone is setting an intention before you go to bed that you will think about your dreams prior to opening your eyes. See if you can get to the point where you don’t open your eyes until you’ve asked yourself the question, “What was I just dreaming?” The more you see yourself doing this the more you are building a critical skill that will aid you in your lucid dreaming practice.
The preparation stage for dream yoga is to experience consensus reality as a dream. This seems counter to our Western instincts to “call a spade a spade.” We “know” that waking reality is not a dream, so why call it one?
Yet, do we really know? The famous statement by Descartes, “Cogito Ergo Sum” has lasting power because of its truth. This was the penultimate realization he had after many thought-experiments about what one can truly know for certain. For example, he realized there is no way to know whether or not one’s brain is contained in a large jar (the brain in the vat argument) being controlled by an evil being. The Matrix movie is a popular expression of this timeless debate. How do we really know what we are experiencing is real? Answer – we don’t. We know we exist because we have consciousness. Beyond that, everything else is calculated guesswork.
Ready to try an experiment this week? Join me in thinking of life this week as a dream, both when you are awake and asleep. Here are some practical ways to reinforce the “life is a dream” concept.
1) Notice when you want something badly. “I really need a coffee,” or “I’ve got to have that dress.” This is an example of the mind grasping for something external. Though it is common knowledge that happiness is not found externally, we all still chase after the myriad distractions of life. When you notice intense desire, tell yourself, “This desire for coffee is a dream” or “This desire is no more real than when I want a coffee in my dream.”
2) Affirm your desire to recognize you are dreaming before sleep. Think back on the days events and imagine it was all just a dream. Try to feel the same way about the day as you do about your dreams.
3) Don’t move when you first wake. When you rouse from sleep, don’t even open your eyes. Instead ask yourself, “what was I just dreaming?” Go through the details several times before writing it down. If you weren’t successful in becoming lucid in the dream, don’t worry. You have a whole new day to experience as a dream.
These techniques are not the common techniques you will find for lucid dreaming on the internet today. However, they are the foundation for practicing continual awareness. While Tibetan yogis have been practicing lucid dreaming for 100s of years, today’s WSJ article shows that it is only now moving from the fringes to mainstream.