The napping hack – a risk free major productivity boost
|June 20, 2013||Posted by Koanic under Uncategorized|
Holy shit, I just went from level 4.0 to 4.5 with a single change: polyphasic naps. Not only did it give me a half level as soon as implemented, it also will permanently increase my speed of leveling, and largely replaces my need for nootropics. Plus it feels much better, results in greater alertness and productivity and mood.
Over the years I’ve experimented with polyphasic sleep, with very bad results. My health wasn’t sufficient to support good sleep anyway. Attempts at polyphasic adaptation resulted in weeks of lost productivity.
Now my health is much better. I have a regular, predictable work schedule. My main problem was that the beginning of my new test prep job is frontloaded with prep work. This resulted in me having to pull two all nighters in a week recently. I managed it, but there were inevitable productivity lulls on off days, lowered quality of life, reduced health. In sum, an all nighter could put me down to a high level 3 temporarily, something I don’t want.
I started working on this problem from various angles. I continue to improve my prep efficiency by targeting effectiveness first, efficiency second. I regimented my entire routine with a set of org-mode checklists: morning, lunch, work leaving, evening, cooking yogurt, and test prep. I focused my hand koans on measuring performance. I also ordered more supplements to improve overall health level.
Part of the problem was time waste in the evenings due to fatigue and inability to smoke in my apartment, which led to sessions of smoking outside watching videos while doing no work. Also, my uncomfortable apartment desk made long work sessions there difficult, tiring, and lowered adherence.
Improved prep methods and checklists helped, but it still came down to going to bed on time, and being faded in the evening made that difficult. Also, the midafternoon lull was shifting my test prep work into the evening, thereby shifting bedtime later. This was a biological problem. When you fadeout, there’s not much willpower can do. It’s like swimming against the current.
Quite by accident, I arrived at the solution. I decided that if I was going to fadeout immediately upon arriving home at 6:30 – 7pm, I would simply schedule a 20 minute vampire nap then. I did so and voila, the evening fadeout disappeared. I marveled as I sped through my evening routine.
The next day I applied this same method to my afternoon fadeout. Rather than stay in the office through lunch, I walked home and took another 20 minute nap. Voila, the semi-productive afternoon internet wanderings were replaced with speedy focused regimen execution. (Of course, this is only possible if you live close to work. As always, logistics is paramount.)
The next day, despite my improvements, an avalanch of prep worked forced me to study past 12am. I was accomplishing more, but doing it to a higher quality – work expanding to fill the available time. So I decided to try napping through the all nighter. Result – one nap around 12ish, worked fast, in bed by 2:30. Woke 8am next day, not fatigued, continued to adhere to regimen.
I estimate that I can drop from 9 hours sleep needed to 6 hours simply by spacing three 20 minute naps through the day. But the advantages are greater than a 2 hour gain would suggest. The brief naps constitute mini REM sessions that allow for more iterations of intuition and memory consolidation. In terms of r-mode processing, I am tripling the numer of days I can live. This results in a major insight and sharpness boost, and a major increase in productivity bandwidth, beyond what linear extrapolation would suggest. Since insight is usually the limiting factor for leveling speed, this is very important.
As you can tell from the cognitive gains described above, napping mostly replaces my need for nootrophics. I don’t want to take any long-acting stimulant that would reduce my napping quality. Many nootropics would do just that. Cigarettes are great for this, in that the high doesn’t interfere with REM sleep immediately afterwards, and probably enhances it.
Note that I needed to be a bit sleep deprived, rushed, and have a very regular schedule to pull this off. Polyphasic napping requires Circadian stability and existing sleep debt for adaptation.
I also needed to be able to calm and clear my mind completely when getting into bed. The koans help do this. I particularly like a recent edit – “3 seconds breath” has now become “3 seconds smoke”, evoking the calming sensation of a long cigarette drag all the time. But also, Cyborganize and thorough checklists allow me to complete “download” everything into my trusted system and just fall asleep. If anything uncaptured pops up, I simply use my phone to email it to myself and then go back to sleep.
How do I wake up from naps? There’s always a moment of dicey suckage when the alarm goes off, but I’ve found an excellent method that uses the addictive smartphone for productivity jiu-jitsu. When the phone’s alarm first goes off, I’m not allowed to touch it until my eyes are open. I will half-sleep through the alarm as it gradually wakes me up to coherence. Then my next action is to open the phone, which has its screen set to maximum brightness, and start reading my email.
People LOVE reading email. It’s like crack. So of course the more tired I am, the more willing I am to do it. Meanwhile, the bright blue light from the screen is pouring into my wide open retinas in the dark room, pumping “daytime” Zeitgeibers into my sleep brain. After half an email or so, I’ve gone from groggy meth addict to German efficiency expert, and am zooming out the door.
Next let’s talk napping mechanics. The Polyphasic Society is the best site on the web for polyphasic sleep. Here’s their napping mechanics – I suggest you start there. Since I am not fully polyphasic, I can’t recommend going full. I would say if you try a schedule, go for Dual Core. But I would get comfortable with 20 minute napping first, and ease into it. A failed adaptation attempt is a massive toilet flush of productivity, but napping more is a risk-free gain.
Anyway, here are my rules of napping:
1. Minimum 3 hours between naps.
2. Naps can be between 15-26 minutes long. I’d keep it to 20 to avoid oversleep. If you go too long, you’ll wake up tired and stay that way, which sucks.
3. Nap at Circadian lows
In general, having a nice stable Circadian with a large amplitude is key to good sleep. Therefore you want lots of sunshine exposure and consistent waking / sleeping times. I get the sunshine by smoking outside in the heat, standing directly in the sunlight, looking at the sky. You don’t have to smoke, or you can smoke an e-cigarette with just water vapor, but do stand outside. Sunlight on naked skin and pinpoint irises is how you’re supposed to do it. Otherwise your body thinks it’s time to hibernate, Mr. Neanderthal.
Ok, here’s a recommended book to flesh out your background knowledge. It’s an affiliate link for copy paste convenience, but my account is long defunct (due to an Illinois shipping address):
Chronotherapy: Resetting Your Inner Clock to Boost Mood, Alertness, and Quality Sleep
Basic science and prescriptions. Solid.
That and the Polyphasic Society website should be enough, unless you have really persistent insomnia of some form. Barring that, I’d recommend a paleo book and The 4 Hour Body for further insights into sleep hacking. Paleo for diet, 4 Hour Body for supplements and hacks.
Don’t let me catch you not napping.
Since apparently I’m a moron when it comes to setting phone alarms, some additional rules:
1. Upon awakening, set the alarm forward 3 hours. This will signal your next nap time.
2. When setting your alarm for a nap, test the alarm by setting it one minute ahead. This will fix AM/PM problems and silent ringer problems.
3. Then set the phone for 20 minutes ahead and go to sleep.