Wednesday, 19 August 2009

GTD: Biphasic Sleep Experiment – Trial Summary

So, we are finally here. One month ago I started my biphasic sleep experiment (if this is all new to you, I recommend you read my previous posts). I just wanted to take some time to share my thoughts on biphasic sleeping with you in the hope that it offers some insight (and perhaps inspiration) for you.

What Were My Aims?

In a nutshell, I felt like I had too much that I wanted to get done, so I wanted to see if I could make more time to make some headway and clear some items off the task list.

I had accumulated a rather large backlog of (to be blunt) crap. General administrative things like emails, RSS items, and household work. Alongside this however, I also had a rather large backlog of ideas that I at least wanted time to brainstorm on to see if there was any opportunity for an interesting and fun project.

Basically, I just wanted to really get stuff done.

Did I Meet My Aims?

This is the brilliant bit.. ALL of the backlog of crappy administrative items were completed within the first 2 weeks of the trial! This allowed me to then start doing other tasks that I wanted to do rather than had to do.

With that crappy backlog cleared and now in a nice “maintenance” schedule, I now find myself spending a lot more time working on projects that mean something to me. TBH, I met my aims and then a whole load more – I was expecting for the trial to be soaked up with clearing the backlog, not spending three weeks doing what the hell I wanted to! Excellent!

What’s the Catch?

Of course, as with all things, they come at a cost. For me, these are the most noticeable “issues” I have had to, and perhaps still dealing with:

Lead-In

This is basically the tiredness that comes with moving from one sleeping pattern to another. Very much like jetlag, you will feel drained for a few days. For me, this was relatively light (2-3 days) but I know some people can really suffer.

My advice here will be to either create a transition period, make sure you are well-nourished, avoid caffeine to “pull you through” (you will only be kidding yourself) and ensure that your sleep periods are well-honoured (make sure they are uninterrupted and make the minutes count).

Social Aspect

While it’s great that biphasic sleeping does not interfere with your (normally) core working hours (0900-1700), it can have a real impact on evening social events.

During week three I really fell off the horse because I had a number of evening engagements that I really struggled to meet. In the end the sleeping pattern got shot to pieces and it then blew everything else to pieces (including my productivity). I’ll be honest, this is something I am still getting to grips with.

I think the main problem here is me. I need to be more assertive when arranging things with other people that I cannot break the sleep pattern. I have also (this week) moved my evening nap to an earlier slot (1830-2000 rather than 1930-2100) which I think will actually help a lot.

Physical Impact

I am (or at least I think I am) pushing the bar quite high with only 4.5 hours sleep a day. Another contributory factor to me “falling off the horse” last week was me adding physical training to the mix. I found it really ground me down quite quickly. And coupled with a badly-practiced sleep pattern it really messed me up.

Now, I need to be clear, I do not think this a problem with biphasic sleep. Rather, me being a jackass and not sticking to the plan. I have now got myself back into routine and ensuring I have a good diet, with plenty of supplements to fill any nutritional voids. Moving my evening nap has also helped a lot since I sleep pretty much straight after exercise, so as soon as my body is put through the mill, it has a chance to recover (FYI, I workout, take 10 mins and have a good proteins/recovery shake then sleep for 1.5 hours, this gives the shake plenty of time to work it’s magic). Pushing yourself hard is fine, being stupid is not.

Family Life

Now, this is not so much an issue for me since I don’t have a girlfriend/wife or kids. However, I can imagine this would really be a problem for some. Based on zero experience, do with this what you will.

  • Educate them, let them know what’s going on and that Daddy/Mummy cannot have their sleep interrupted unless its a real emergency.
  • Accommodate your significant other. They are probably going to miss having you around when they go to bed. Understand they have needs too. Now and then, why not see them off to sleep and then get back to work. The amount of time/productivity gain you will have will still be massive and the sustained relationship will do you good ;)
  • Return he favour. I know you are trying to get stuff done here, but think about what means more to you. Your family are going to have to change a lot to accommodate you and your “crazy” sleep pattern. Try to prioritise/organise your work and household chores to help them out. (e.g. if your up at 0200 and winding down from your evening work, why not prepare breakfast so people can wake up and go?).

A fair bit of writing there, but as you can see, the “con’s” are actually reasonably minor (they are all “fixable”).

The Pro’s

Now, on to the good stuff!

You Will Get More Done

Seriously, I am still in shock and awe at how much I have done over the past month. Even if you just have a “trial” and nothing comes of it, the ToDo list will thank you! You are essentially working a double-shift with very few actual side effects once the ball is rolling.

You Can Do More

Sounds kinda obvious after the first one right? But the point here is different. I am picking up projects that I would never have had the time to do before. And these aren’t uninteresting (or at least to me) things like “do more spring cleaning” (although that’s fine if your into it) these are things I have wanted to do for a long time.

Your Brain Will Be Faster and More Creative

One of the strange things I noticed (quite quickly) was how much quicker my brain was working. It really does not seem to get anywhere near as tired as it did before. Ever. Even when working right thought the night it still functions faster than ever before.

Also, I am not a creative person, but I found myself naturally being more creative. I’ve started brainstorming left-right-and-centre on many topics (thank you MindMeister!). This again has led to some really interesting thought, reflection and project ideas,

You Will Learn to Sleep/Relax

This might sound weird, but you will learn how to fall asleep quicker. The minutes really do count with 4.5 hours sleep so you will want to make sure you are getting the naps off to a great start quickly.

I find that since starting biphasic sleeping, I can quickly get my body to a relaxed state. Much quicker than before. It’s not rocket science either, the Buddhists have been doing it for centuries. Even when not going to sleep, just being able to take 5, relax and clear you mind can be really helpful.

You Can REALLY Do More

This one was so good I thought I should say it again. Working in the midnight hours allows you to be much more focused simply because there is less external distractions (read “the rest of the world” – or at least most of it).

Wrap Up

So, I don’t want to go on about how “cool”, “hip”, “pop” and “fresh” it is. It’s a great system that has worked for me really well. My personal opinion is:

why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?

But, it may not be for you. It takes discipline. I already fell off the horse towards the end of the trial (but I have learned from it). It will be difficult, but take the system and adapt it to suit you. Sleep is a very personal thing. I hope you can take some of my experiences and use them in your endeavour to get more done.

I think by now, you have realised that my trial is over, I am still biphasic and at this point in time, I see no reason to return to monophasic. I am having a great time so why the hell would I stop!?

I would just like to say a big thanks to all the friends & family that have been supportive of the trial (and concerned for my health!). It’s been real fun going through the experience, and I hope the lack of stress has made me better company to be around :)

Of course, if you have any questions that you would like to see answers to up here, please ask!

4 comments:

  1. "Let them know what’s going on and that Daddy/Mummy cannot have their sleep interrupted unless its a real emergency." Bwahahahahaha that's good one. ;)

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  2. Posted on behalf of Dan.Z (original comment somehow ended up here)

    "You make this look gooood. Seriously, i've been contemplating this for a long time, and your lucid and thorough account of the experience may finally be enough to push me into a full-on trial.

    "Just want to know if you have any advice for the transition period, based on what you've learned: Specifically, how can one make himself tired enough to sleep in the evening without suffering through the day? And would you recommend staying put in bed for the whole 90 minutes, even if not tired enough to sleep?
    "

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  3. Hi Dan,

    To be honest, when you first start, you prob won't need help. But as your brain starts to really heat up as your transition, you may find it hard to then shut off.

    I personally go to bed with a book for 1hr before sleep. I always have a ton of reading to do, so appreciate the read time.

    Also, grab yourself some delta wave binaural mp3s and some good, comfy headphones, that will help put the brain into rest/sleep mode.

    I also find it good to get into things like meditation/tai chi/qiqong. Even if just for the ability to take a few deep breathes just to relax yourself.

    I hope this helps! If you have any more questions, please ask!

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  4. What a great summary! I really enjoyed all your posts on going biphasic. Are you still doing it?

    ReplyDelete