One type of Polyphasic Sleep, the first that I ever tried. For another, SEE ALSO: Everyman Sleep Schedule.

NOTE, June 2006: I first experimented with the Uberman schedule back in 1998-99. Since I wrote this node I have never stopped getting comments and email about it, and the number of blogs and articles where people have tried it--and more than often failed, and sometimes accused me of being full of doo--have kept increasing. So I've finally decided to try it again, keep better records and hopefully answer some of the prevalent questions. The details are at the Official Uberman Sleep Blog, located at (UPDATE: The site has been moved to And thank you to everyone who's shown such interest in this.

Sadly, I didn't get around to trying this schedule until my Sophomore year of college. I tell you, I'd give damn near anything to go back to it, but very, very few jobs will accomodate this schedule. For the record, because people always ask, yes, this is supposedly the way that Leonardo Da Vinci and Thomas Jefferson and a fluctuating list of other legends often slept. I'll walk you through it.

The Hours. You'll be sleeping for twenty minutes at a time, every four hours, round the clock. When I did it, I took a nap at 8, 4, 12, then 4, 8, and 12 again. This totals a mere two hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period. As a forewarning, yes, it sucks ass to get used to, but after about two weeks you'll never wanna give it up.

Special General Tips.

You can probably guess this tip, but here it is anyway--DO NOT, under ANY conceivable circumstances, OVERSLEEP. Oversleeping on this schedule in the beginning (you won't oversleep after the beginning, even if you try) is devastating; you'll be exhausted for at least a day. So. Make DAMN SURE to wake up after 20 minutes, and don't skip any naps. Skipping a nap, no matter how long you've been doing this schedule for, will make you tired until you get the next two naps in normally.

Week One Tips.

During the first week, you WILL be tired, but actually I found that kind of fun. Day one and two, you just feel like you haven't slept, and those naps aren't doing you any good because you just toss around for twenty minutes, or, usually on day two, you drop off and then want to kill yourself when the alarm goes off 20 minutes later. Stick with it. Days 3-5, if you like to meditate, now's the time. For one thing, with twenty-two waking hours per day, you're gonna run out of things to do by this time. For another thing, you'll be high as fuck by the end of the first week, as your body adjusts and your mind starts to get this really weird clear-dreaming feeling. If you've ever played with sleep deprivation, you know what high I'm talking about. And no, you won't die on this schedule like you would if you just stopped sleeping or something; in fact, I was really getting the hang of it by day ten. By day twelve, I felt like a million bucks, and continued to feel that way for six more months.

How it Works and Why It Might Work For You.

Okay, over the course of a normal 8-hour sleep, your body gets an accumulated 1.5 hours or so of REM sleep (deep, dreaming sleep). REM sleep is absolutely vital to your mind and body's condition and you will die without it; the other stages of sleep do little more than provide time for the body to rest and grow and heal. On that note, I would not suggest this schedule under any circumstances to someone under 18 or anyone sick with anything--you all need as much sleep as you can get. That said: On this schedule, what you're doing for the first few days that makes you so wasted is depriving your body and brain of REM sleep completely. You don't stay asleep long enough to get there. The brain really, REALLY doesn't like this, but it doesn't take too long before it figures out that you're sleeping regularly, just not for long. So after about 3-5 days (which is as much sleep dep as a normal person can handle), the brain begins its workaround. It starts jumping right into REM sleep as soon as you close your eyes for one of those naps--and you'll know the first time this happens, too; you'll wake up feeling really, really rested. Now, after a few more days your brain gets the hang of the schedule....and now, where most people are getting one-and-a-half hours of REM sleep in 8 hours of sleep, you're getting two full hours of REM. And by week two, you'll notice it, too: here are some of the benefits I noticed, while I was doing it:

  • If you have sleep disorders like nightmares, night terrors, mid-sleep choking fits, thrashing, muscle soreness or sleepwalking, this will probably flat-out cure you. I had many of the above, and they all disappeared on me virtually overnight. 20 minutes just isn't enough time to build up for those things.
  • If you're tight for time, like I was, it's a godsend. Everbody wondered how I had so much time to screw around in college--they didn't know that I did all my studying at Denny's between my 4a.m. and 8a.m. naps.
  • Yes, you'll still dream, and actually my personal occurence of vivid or lucid dreams went way up when I was on this schedule. But most of the time, especially in the beginning, you won't remember; just sleeping and waking up.
  • As far as being tired all the time, NO. No NO no no. I was much less tired after two or three weeks of this than I have ever been, before or since. For one thing, you're going to bed every four hours, so every time you turn around it's time to go to sleep. And after about three weeks to a month, you won't need an alarm clock anymore either--I used to fall asleep at Noon right in the middle of the quad at school, and my eyes would pop right open exactly 20 minutes later.

Okay, even I have to pretend to be adult once in a while, so here it is: I do not know anything--and I doubt many others do either--about the wisdom or effects of living on this schedule for a super-extended period of time, like years. Like I said, I did it for six blissful months without a problem, and about seven friends ended up doing it with me by the middle. (*heh* We used to crash all at once in the Library. People called us the 'Sleeping Herd'.) The books say that Da Vinci and Jefferson did it all their lives, (although Jefferson did it for several weeks at a time, after which he took one day off and slept a full 24 hours). There's speculation, but no hard fact that I've found, regarding Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford doing so. You may not have as easy a time with this or fall in love with it like I did--keep in mind I'm a night-worshipper and have screwed around extensively with sleep-dep and other sick experiments. There. If that didn't dissuade you, you're ready.

January 28, 2006

PureDoxyk has written a follow-up to her original node, above. With her approval, I am posting it here for continued reference:

Polyphasic / Uberman Sleep Schedule - Five Years Later

I did The Schedule for about six months. The exact schedule we used was devised by me and nora_knickers, as a good blend of what the famous people we could read about had done, and something that might actually work. We thought about revising it, but never really did -- it worked just fine the way it was. That schedule, of course, was the infamous 20-minute naps every four hours, around the clock. This totals 2 hours of sleep in every 24-hour period. (I won't go into the medical reasons that this works, here; I wrote about it in the other article.) I have since read of *many* variations on this, but none of them seemed to have any advantage over the "official" Uberman, so I mostly ignore them. Oh, with one exception -- some of the famous polyphasic sleepers would take a "day off" every six weeks to six months, and sleep for twelve or more hours. I didn't get a chance to try that, and when I quit the schedule, I didn't feel the need to sleep a lot; I just went back to sleeping at night. It did sound like a plausibly good idea, though; and I can see a medical rationale for allowing your body to catch up on the "early stage" sleep phases that you end up missing out on with this schedule, which involves trimming your sleep down to only stage IV (REM)-phase sleep, which is the regenerative phase that the mind/body needs (and which so many people with sleep disorders, like I had, miss out on.) There is no known reason why you *need* the earlier stages of sleep, but I'm willing to assume that if you get them in nature, there's probably a reason for them. It certainly didn't hurt me to go without them for a few months, though.

Because most people ask, why I quit was simply the advent of a full-time job that wouldn't let me take naps every four hours. Actually, I quit when I left school, shortly before I started the job, both because I knew the job would screw me and because major life-changes in general will tend to knock you off something like the USS, unless you're INSANELY anal and can keep up your naps dead on schedule in the face of everything. Once you miss one nap, you're going to be tired for a whole day. If you miss two, you're in trouble. It is not a low-maintenance thing to do; it requires lots of attention and effort (but less as time goes on; it does get a lot easier after you're acclimated to it--which usually takes several months, at least). One thing I must add, and which nobody tends to believe, is that I'm MUCH more tired during the day when I sleep all night (as well as I'm able; I've never been a great sleeper) than when I was on the USS.

As for side-effects, no, I didn't have any, in terms of negative medical things. Like I said, I didn't even feel overly sleepy when I stopped doing it. My appetite increased measurably, but shit, I was up and moving for 22 hours a day! I also had to be careful of caffeine, because it was never more than 4 hours from when I had to be ready to sleep, and when you're only sleeping for 20 minutes, you can't be tossing around for 10 of them because you just drank coffee.

Here, for your browsing pleasure, are the Pros and Cons of the Uberman Sleep Schedule:


  • 22 hours a day to get things done in! We felt like superman. Time-and-a-half college...homework done. Extracurricular activities? No problem. Part-time jobs? Easy. And we STILL went to nearly every party. My dorm room was spotless, I got lots done on my writing, and studying was a cinch when you could do it at Denny's between 4 and 8 a.m. ;)
  • Lots of energy. I really was never tired; or rather, by the time I got tired, it was time for a nap. Overall, I was less tired on this schedule than I can ever remember being on any other, and the Uberman is not the only whacko thing I've tried, heh. (It is the only one I'd do again.)
  • Occasional heightened perception at the beginning, and every once in a while throughout (might have just been the sleep-dep, and then the excitement).
  • Easy to diet (in fact, hard not to lose too much weight...I lost 10 pounds right off the bat, and had to make myself remember to eat at least 4 meals in every 24 hour period after that, to keep my weight steady. I was relatively physically active during this period, but not actually involved in sports or anything.)
  • Able to be up at night without missing out on daytime (probably the single biggest reason I did it...I'm a night-owl perpetually stuck on a day schedule!)
  • And a big one: Evaporation of sleep disorders. At the time I started this schedule, I was sleep-walking, talking, had rampant recurring insomnia, nightmares, night terrors (try punching a cinderblock wall in your sleep...mmmm) and lord knows what else. All of them went away within the first week. And, oddly enough, they never really came back...I've had small bouts of one or another since then, but nothing like the hell that sleeping had been for me for a couple years before I tried this.
  • Sort of like the last one, but more of a common man's problem: You won't get sore from sleeping. If you have neck, back or ligament problems, you know what it's like to wake up in agony...but you won't, when you've only been asleep for 20 minutes! Having neck problems myself, I really appreciated that.
  • Really easy to do, once you get used to it. After about 2 months, N. and I didn't need alarm clocks; we'd look up about five minutes before naptime, realizing we were tired; we could crash out anywhere and wake up automatically at the right time. No tossing and turning, no thinking too much, and oddly enough, almost no dreaming. Just *wham* - lights out - and *ping* - lights on. I woke up totally refreshed after every nap, once I got used to the schedule.


  • Boredom. I don't bore easily, having nearly endless reading, Internet, art, and organization fetishes; but if you do, you'll hate this. One of the crew trying it with me had that problem, and it looked like it really sucked. There ISN'T enough television to fill 22 hours a day. There's a reason this was a schedule preferred by mad genius types who did enough work to fill two lifetimes! (Side-note: When starting the schedule, for the first week or two, have a HUGE list of things to do ready. You'll be so tired you can barely think, so things like cleaning / organizing, walking, going to social events and outdoors, and art projects are all good. I had a list of over 100 items to get done, and I got them all done in six days! ...But I'd probably have been screwed without that list, because without things to do, it's nearly impossible to fight that kind of tiredness.)
  • Really hard to get used to. Takes a week or two to get even slightly comfortable with, and during that week or two you feel like a bus is perpetually running you over. Having to drive or work during that time would be HELLISH -- but I did it while going to school and didn't die; it just sucked. ;)
  • Hard to maintain. Requires absolute attention to nap-times; missing naps and/or oversleeping, even once, will seriously screw with you. Out of the fifteen or so people who ended up trying this, about 12 of them dropped out within the first month of starting, because they gave in to oversleeping or missed a nap or two and couldn't catch back up.
  • Difficult to adjust around things like job-changes, illness, travel, etc. Not as difficult as you'd think, maybe, since you have to remember that you (well, I, at least) could sleep *anywhere*, and sleeping only takes 20 minutes, so it isn't that hard to get someone to watch your shit in the airport while you snozz in a chair. But a significant disruption might throw you off, and once it does, you'll be tired for a few *days* while you get back on track. Another thing to mention is that the *times* are very important; you can't just decide to take one nap ten minutes late and the next ten minutes late too, to keep up the four-hour ratio. We found this out the hard way: Once you settle on times to sleep, you'd better stick right on them. If you take one nap late, take the next one *on time*, and get back on track asap.
  • And a weird one: It gets hard to keep track of what day it is. We ended up having to invent names for night-times, and have fourteen-day weeks. Because when you're up and moving at 3 a.m. every day, and then still up and moving at 3 p.m., when does Monday end and Tuesday start? Trying to divide it up over one naptime, or at midnight, just didn't work for me. We don't realize, I think, how much sleeping in a long chunk pushes the "Reset: New Day" button for us. You lose that with this, and it can get confusing. Naming the nights working great for me, though. If you don't like being on the same page as the rest of the herd...well, this isn't for you; but I'd think that would be obvious!
  • And finally, I get asked a lot, Would I do it again? And the answer is absolutely. In fact, I think about it a lot--and have for the last five years--and I was even dumb enough to try it again, after I had my baby (yeah, that was smart...because an infant is *always* going to let you sleep for 20 minutes!). I realize now that it'll be a while before my life will accomodate this schedule again, but as soon as it will, I'm all over it! I promise I'll keep a full-on log of my re-adjustment and progress and whatnot when I do. I expect it to be somewhat harder to adjust to at 35 or 40 than it was at 20, but I'm not the type to really give a fuck. ;)

References: PureDoxyk's LiveJournal entry (quoted above):
PureDoxyk's homepage (provided here as a contact point for further information): Uberman's sleep schedule (references this article, provides first-hand experience and several links):
Ask Slashdot: Are Alternative Sleeping Patterns Effective?:
A 90-day polyphasic sleep schedule journal:

I was a philosophy major at the time (still am, actually), and the friend I did this with had just finished forcing me to read a bunch of Nietzsche. So we called it the Uberman's Sleep Schedule as a hat-tip.