I'm stealing sleep again! I love it!
Ah, yes, what's "stealing sleep"?
It's a dangerous but interesting strategy. It means having a hectic, busy schedule where you run on low sleep, and grab naps/short sleeps of between 20 minutes and 2-4 hours when you have a free chance.
I'm... not recommending it. But it can be a good time...
For me, at least, every time I sleep my mind kind of "resets" to some extent. Or something like that. Thus, for a short period of time (weeks, at most), I can get a lot more high level work out of myself when I'm on this kind of schedule.
It might happen on a day like this:
5AM: Phone call
Nighttime: Assorted phone calls to the other side of the world...
On a day like that, I might wind up talking from 5AM to 5:30AM, work another hour, then sleep 3 hours before the 10:30AM meeting. After that, work for a few hours, hit the gym, shower, take the 4:30PM call, grab a nap before the 7PM meeting, and work all night.
The really interesting and cool thing about stealing sleep is getting the productivity at the expense of being tired, but then sleeping off the debt during a boring waiting period like commuting on trains or buses or airports. That's the main time I go out of my way to steal sleep - when I know I've got a bunch of boring, broken-up, not-conducive-to-producing time in front of me. Sometimes I'll work all night before something like that even if there's nothing important or urgent - I do it just so I'm tired enough to sleep in the airport.
I'll usually set 3 alarms if I'm doing this so I don't sleep through them. The most interesting thing about it, though, is the way our memory works. It's not quite linear. When taking 2-5 sleep sessions per day, it seems like there's a whole hell of a lot more time happening.
When I'm on a steal-sleep type schedule, my sense of time changes a lot. I might look at my calendar, and I realize only one day has passed since an event that seemed to be a long time ago. Or I sleep two hours, wake up, work a while, and then realize it's still the same day that started 10 hours ago.
It's weird. It's hard to describe if you've never done it.
Actually, aside from the erratic amounts of fatigue, it's quite conducive to high level work for me. Usually, when I do something quite important, some part of me starts kind of patting myself on the back for the rest of the day. Yes, there's momentum, but there's also a feeling of "well, I did enough for today."
Sleep 4 hours, bam, feels like a new day and can jam on more work.
I don't recommend this. I don't recommend against it either, but there's downsides. It's not a sustainable long term strategy. But for short boosts, it can be rather remarkable. It feels like time is passing so slowly, and so much is possible to do...
A post is a better idea than sending out and having to explain my notes. I'll track down the files and get something put together for my site - hopefully in the next week or so.
My major was in Accounting with a minor in Philosophy / Religion Studies. If I had a lot of work to do I'd switch what I was working on after a 25 min nap like this:
2 hr sleep
2-3 hrs. accounting study / homework
25 min nap
2 hours philosophy reading / paper writing
25 min nap
1 hr accounting
daily chores / routine / email / etc
25 min nap
study time on whatever I had left to do
That's roughly it - I forgot to mention in the original comment that I also found the 2 meal, 2 snack schedule to be best for this sleep routine. High quality carbs like oatmeal were a big help in fighting fatigue and good protein. Kind of like a workout diet except I never went to gym while experimenting with sleep.
It took me three or four trials before hitting the sweet spot combo of sleep schedule and diet - I probably have all my notes on this saved on a flash drive if you're interested.
I'm trying to get some info on how polyphasic sleep works for people in different majors -- what was your major?
I used to use polyphasic sleep all the time when I was in college, and it worked really well for me. The biggest problem was getting the sleep durations and spacings dialed in just right. Eventually, with enough trial and error, I found a 'sweet spot' where I was only sleeping about 3.5 hours per day with little to no negative side effects (after the first 4 or 5 days). I should note that I only did it in short-term - no more than 3 weeks at a time usually - and the first few days of a cycle can be rough and disorienting.
It spaced out roughly like this:
7 a.m. - 25 min nap
11 a.m. - 25 min nap
3 p.m. - 25 min nap
7 p.m. 25 min nap
12 a.m. - 120 min sleep
The new Tim Ferriss book, The 4 Hour Body, has a short (but good) section on polyphasic sleep. It would have saved me a lot of experimentation if it had been published 5 years ago - worth checking into if you're interested in polyphasic sleep and the science behind sleep patterns.
There was a strategy I read about somewhere of sleeping 6 hours, then being active for another 6 - repeat as many times as needed. You get the equivalent of two days active time AND you sleep good hours. I haven't tried it or studied possible effects, but it sounds healthy enough for my taste and it's promising in terms of productivity.
Oh *man* do I miss being able to do that.
Small children plus regular job schedule equals no. But it's *so* much fun :-)
That's exactly what I do when I just NEED to get stuff done! A lot of people say that they can work for 20+ hours, well I can't, I feel super tired and can't think after 6-7 hours, BUT then I take 30-90 minutes of sleep and I feel like I slept a full night - back to work for another 6 hours, then sleep again (3-4 hours if it's 5 am :-) and so on.
I did it this past week, and today, after sleeping 9 hours straight, I woke up thinking "Wow, that was a long month!". It really feels like I've been working for a full month - not only that, but I got a month's worth of work done in a week! It's pushing the brain and body to the limit (after about a week, I just crash), but I sure wish I could do it every single day of my life... I can think, work AND LEARN (@Nathan) faster and better - it's like I switch from my Jeep to a F1 car :-)
So, the "no sleep" thing is not a recipe for success. Day Eight's target:
Day considered started: 9:50AM (no sleep)
Slept around 8:20PM. Didn't track.
The day wasn't an entire waste, I had a bunch of errands, phonecalls, things like that. But none of the really high level stuff.
When I first started this schedule, the whole day was a hard period. I was a zombie.
As I moved on, the days started getting ok and the nights were hard.
Soon I felt tired from 11pm-5am, but was ok after that.