Polyphasic Sleep – Introduction

This is one of a series of reports on old Barcamp sessions.

As adults we tend to do monophasic sleep, once in every 24 hours. Some cultures follow the siesta pattern, and babies everywhere sleep when they feel like it. Polyphasic sleep comes naturally to some!

I usually observe monophasic sleep except when things become excessively busy with work or with study. As a student I learnt to “get more hours in the day” by adjusting my sleep. Completely unguided, I discovered strategic naps helped me through University. I didn’t sleep in lectures, but occasionally (especially in exam season) I would have days where I would return to my room for a one hour sleep.

Years later I stumbled on a (now defunct) web site which explained not all humans are a natural fit for a 24 hour day, and the author had discovered he could work, rest and play perfectly if he adopted a 26 hour day. He researched polyphasic sleep and blogged about it.

Experiment and find what’s right for you. For me that’s monophasic sleep unless I’m under pressure. When needed, I can quickly transition through siesta (2 days) and then use Everyman3. After the pressure is off, I take a further 2 days to transition through siesta back to monophasic sleep. I’ve never succeeded with Everyman2, and have never felt the need to progress to Everyman4 or beyond. Everyman3 is right for me, in short bursts, and never for more than seven weeks.

I have no intention of trying Uberman, though apparently it was a regular habit of Leonardo da Vinci. When the pattern is more intense the intervals and lengths are more critical. Getting Uberman wrong leads to fractious bouts of anxiety!

• Monophasic – one core sleep of 8+ hrs
• Siesta – one nap of about 1 hr and a “short” night time sleep
• Everyman2 – 5hrs and 2x 20min power naps
• Everyman3 – 4hrs and 3x 20min power naps
• Everyman4 – 3hrs and 4x 20min power naps
• Everyman5 – 2hrs and 5x 20min power naps
• Uberman – no core sleep – 6x 20min power naps, spaced out perfectly

slider graphic showing different sleeping patterns - not to scale
Not to scale

My advice? We’re all different, listen to your body!

Everyman3 works for me because I space the power naps evenly throughout the day. I also allocate 30 mins, in order to fall asleep and secure that valuable 20+ mins. Once I’m in the zone, I can be asleep within 2 or 3 mins. Transitioning in sometimes means 30 mins of no sleep, but just rest. I don’t get worked up about it, 30 mins of relaxation is great, and I know that within 2 or 3 days my body will be in tune with the idea of going to sleep on demand. Transitioning in and out of Everyman3 is key. And if that takes a little time, I just chill.

Once, on a radio show, several guests complained that Uberman was wrecking their lives. I was the only guest who advocated polyphasic sleep. I stressed that it works for me because I take care with transitioning at both ends. I only use Everyman3 when I need to (usually once per year, and usually for a 4 week period) and when I adopt that pattern I have a strict rule to nap at precisely the right times each day.

Your mileage may vary!

The Weedkiller Letter

This is a story which I regularly tell clients, and occasionally I have had the chance to present it to an audience during  some meetings of the Tech Community.

The story can be variously referred to as:

• The weedkiller letter
• The 80 20 rule (the Pareto law)
• Ditching the D clients
• The Soho film production company

It used to be on AudioBoom (formerly AudioBoo) until they changed their business model a few years ago. Originally I posted it (during the festive season) on Monday 20 Dec 2010 and the audio track is here for anybody who prefers a 4 minute podcast.

And if you want the quick version in plain text, this is it:

There was a small Soho film production company, with 2 directors, a total staff of about 10, and a client base of around 40, which offered services to people who wanted 30 second TV adverts, 30 minute training videos, and 3 hour blockbuster movies to rival Hollywood. They didn’t get many of the latter, but they did get a lot of the other two.Every year, on the day of the office Christmas party, the full team would gather in the main production room, sitting on the few chairs, on the tables, and wherever they could, and listen to the directors give an informal annual review. These were the days before the internet and digital systems, so everybody worked in the same place. As part of the “what’s been good” and “what’s been bad” discussion, the staff were allowed to speak freely. Each year, something like this would happen:

• Staff A: “Remember Tom, and the perfume advert, he was a nightmare.”
• (The other staff all make confirmatory noises.)
• Staff B: “And Dick’s training video! He was trouble!”
• Staff C: “So was Harry, with his documentary!”

The two director’s, sensing the sentiment in the room, agreed. “Tom, Dick and Harry . . . OK, we’ll send them the weedkiller letter.”

And the staff knew exactly what that meant. On the 31st of December, a Special Delivery letter would be sent to each of these separate customers. At its core the letter had this basic message “Dear Tom, it’s been lovely working with you this year. We can see that your approach is a bit different to ours, and we think that you would be better served by a different sort of film production company next year. We wish you all the best for the future.”

Nothing derogatory. Simple facts, simple dialogue, and a clear message that we do not want your business.

This happened every year, on the day of the office Christmas party, and every year the staff go out and have the most marvellous Christmas party ever because they know that next year they won’t have to work with Tom, Dick and Harry.

It is said that you get 80% of your satisfaction from the top 20% of your clients. And you get 80% of your aggro from the bottom 20%. If you could slice off the bottom 20% of your client base you would lose 80% of your aggro. Perhaps 20% is a bit drastic, but as with the Soho film production company, maybe you could dispense with 5% or 10%?

The best gardeners in the world do not keep a patch for the weeds. In business, should we?

a nice garden