I was intrigued to learn recently that Tim Ferriss’s forthcoming book, “The 4-Hour Body,” has a chapter about getting by on 2 hours of sleep in a night. I don’t know whether Ferriss is suggesting that 2 hours of sleep is sufficient multiple nights in a row (i.e., that this is a sustainable low-sleep strategy), or whether he is focusing on how to be refreshed after a single night of very little sleep, but the subject is related to a recent fascination of mine.
I had always believed that I needed eight hours of sleep each night. And, in many cases, I slept even more than eight hours (e.g., on weekends). Then this past year I started waking up at 5:00 am each day (intentionally, in order to be more productive), and I inadvertently discovered that I can function well on six hours of sleep per night. So lately I have been watching for low-sleep strategies. Here are the two strategies I have discovered so far:
1. Reduce your sleep gradually over time. Although I have not been able to get a copy yet, there is a book on this topic (Sleep Less, Live More by Everett Mattlin). I have essentially implemented this strategy without meaning to. How low could I get my nightly sleep before I started feeling adverse effects? I don’t know, but right now I’m happy with six hours a night.
2. Sleep in shifts. I found an article on-line about this, but now I cannot seem to locate it. Here is the idea, though: Instead of sleeping in a single block of eight hours (or six hours, or whatever), sleep a few hours at a time. For examples, you might decide to sleep from 6 pm to 9 pm and again from 2 am to 5 pm. The total sleep time is six hours, but it is broken up. One advantage is that you end up with free time in the middle of the night when no one will interrupt you or your work. A major disadvantage is that the rest of the world is on a single-block sleep schedule; this strategy would be almost impossible to implement if you have a spouse or children.
It is easy to imagine other potential strategies (e.g., I am sure some people use caffeine or other drugs to reduce their sleep time, although I believe that would be a mistake), but these are the two low-sleep strategies I have encountered that actually have a following.
Why do people use low-sleep strategies at all? Many people want to be more productive and live more of your life. If you save two hours a day, that’s 700 hours in a year, the equivalent of almost a month! I will keep experimenting with this, and hopefully have new sleep strategies to share in the future.