How much time do you spend sleeping every day? I’m guessing it’s about 8 hours. Would you like to spend less time sleeping, and more time doing stuff you enjoy? Without being tired?
One guy called Uberman thought he would like exactly that. So he did some research into sleep, and found that of the 5 sleep phases that happen during normal sleep, only one is absolutely vitally important. It’s the 5th phase, called REM (rapid eye movement). It’s the phase during which dreaming happens.
You get about one and a half hours of REM sleep every night, spaced out throughout the night in 10-20 minute chunks. Uberman figured that if you could remove all the non-essential sleep, and only keep the REM, you would have 22-hour waking days. He experimented for a long time,and finally found a method that works.
It involves taking a 20-minute nap every 4 hours. That’s a total of 2 hours of sleep every 24-hour period.
It takes about a week for your brain to adjust. At first, it’s trying to go through the sleep phases in normal order. But it never gets to the REM sleep because you wake yourself up after 20 minutes. After a week (by this time you’re feeling like a total zombie), the brain finally realizes what you’re up to and adjusts. It jumps straight into REM the moment you fall asleep. And voila, you have 22 hours of waking time. Plus, you have actually more energy than normally! By the time you start feeling tired, it’s time for another nap.
When I first heard about it, I just knew I had to try it! It’s sooo totally nuts! So I did some preparation (like a huge to-do list to keep myself busy during the time it takes to switch) and gave it a shot. I thought I would make it.
Right. I got through my to-do list in about a day and a half, and started getting bored. I aborted the try after 4 days, since I realized I had no idea how I would fill 22-hour days.
Uberman’s sleep schedule is not for everyone. In fact, it’s for about one person in a thousand. But hey, it’s so totally nuts I just had to include it here!
Benefits of the Uberman sleep schedule:
- 22-hour waking days. Seriously, what else do you want?
- more energy than usual (unless you miss a nap). By the time you start getting tired, it’s time for another nap. So on average, each hour of your 22-hour day will be more productive than during your usual 16-hour days.
- 22 hours is a lot of time. You can get bored very easily.
- if you miss a nap, you’ll become a complete zombie until you get the next two naps in on time.
- the schedule is very inflexible. You can’t move the naps around much.
- it one week of getting used to. During this week, you’ll be a total zombie from sleep deprivation. It takes time for your brain to adjust and realize you want to get your REM sleep as soon as you lie down.
You can see there are some heavy drawbacks. The schedule is only for someone determined enough to stick through the transition period (one week is a lot longer than you think). You also need to be the kind of person who can fill a 22-hour day full of meaningful action and still complain about lack of time. Basically the mad genius type who’d accomplish twice as much as a normal human being anyway.
When I tried the switch, I went through some serious sleep deprivation (that’s normal for the transition period). I had some fun experiences with that, though.
Like one day I set my alarm clock, lied down on my bed, laid my head on my pillow, and the alarm clock sounded. I slowly got up and looked at it. Twenty minutes had passed in what felt like one second. It was the fastest I’ve ever gone to sleep in my life.
If you want to know a lot more about Uberman’s sleep schedule, check out Steve Pavlina’s account of his experiences. He successfully switched to the schedule and slept according to it for about five months. In the end he stopped because he had some changes in his life and couldn’t fit in the one-nap-every-four-hours anymore.
You can also find a lot more info there that would help you make the switch yourself, if you want to.
I’ll probably try switching again at some point in my life. But before that, I need to figure out how I would fill a 22-hour day!
Update, October 2010: More than two years since writing this post, I finally got a chance to try switching to Uberman! You can read all about my experiences here.