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Biphasic Sleep Experiment Day 1

posted Jan 2, 2013, 10:40 PM by Evan Morrison   [ updated Jan 2, 2013, 10:43 PM ]

Using a ‘myZeo’ headband to track sleep progress, a pedometer for measuring steps and the Pomodoro work unit, I am going to try to describe an experiment to change my sleep pattern from monophasic to biphasic. Biphasic sleep is two stage sleep, where instead of sleeping for one main 7.5 hour chunk, the sleeper shortens their night sleep and incorporates napping or siestas during the day to recharge energy. There have been many attempts to document this process and numerous articles written on the benefits and detriments of biphasic sleep. I am writing my own personal experiences as I have not seen anyone use sleep tracking tools like the myZeo, or evaluate productivity gains with fixed measurement devices. 

My hope is a biphasic sleep cycle from 12,1am – 4:30,5:30am 4.5hrs and a 90minute power nap from 2pm – 3:30pm for a total of 6hrs of sleep each night. This is comparable to my existing sleep schedule of 7.5 hrs. of sleep per night. Under my current routine, I typically sleep between midnight and 8am on week days and 6am and 2pm on weekends. An example of a typically good night of sleep for me is in Fig 1. recorded on November 7, 2012.


Figure 1: Monophasic Sleep on a Good Night

My interest in biphasic sleep is due to both a decade of working nights on weekends and a large amount of stress in my life. Since November, I have suffered serious stress and anxiety which has reduced my ability to sleep for a full night. I classify myself as an extremely light sleeper and have always had difficulties with my sleep, hence the use of sleep tracking tools. When I first started to use sleep tracking tools, I was extremely surprised to find that I briefly wake up at 6am most mornings before returning to sleep. My biggest concern for biphasic sleep is a possible decrease in my deep sleep, which I average 1hr per night on good nights of sleep versus only 2hrs of REM sleep. Interestingly, on looking at previous sleep graphs, the longest REM cycle or deep sleep cycle that I have is less than 60 minutes and is usually padded with 60 minutes of light sleep. On average, I have 4 REM cycles per monophasic sleep night. I wake up using a smart alarm which has a window of 40 minutes to help me avoid waking up mid REM cycle. With the nightshift that I’ve done in my life, I do not believe that afternoon naps will constitute a large problem. As a veteran of the day sleeping, I have all the essential sun blocking blinds that are useful to sleep during the day. At this point in time, I will measure my productivity in number of Pomodoro units conducted during a given day. I do not have previous data on this; however, will try to give the impression of sensed productivity changes over a weekly period.

3/1/2012 – Phase 1: Slept from 1:40am until 5:27am Fig 2. (Ignore the times on the graph, software was faulty)

2 x REM Cycles shown below + 1 x Deep Sleep Cycle, 33minute time to sleep. In the morning, I felt only slight grogginess, which is understandable as my smart alarm woke me up right at the end of a REM cycle. I have found that waking up outside of REM cycles reduces morning grogginess and is the primary reason for my use of a smart alarm. I feel better than expected as I’ve been recently indulging in the habit of 1hr long sleep extensions. It is encouraging being in control of my sleep again and not a slave to the snooze button.


Figure 2: First night of 4.5hrs sleep

As well as beginning a bi-phasic sleep cycle, I will be increasing the exercise I do daily. This morning I walked 2317 steps in 30 minutes before using the elliptical trainer for 25mins to get 2383 steps.

For productivity, I completed 2 Pomodoro’s of daily chores and reading in the morning and had a reading speed of around 550 wpm.

By midday, I was feeling exhausted and tired. I completed several frivolous activities such as clearing my Inbox, working on a demo video of a piece of software and completing 1.5 more Pomodoro’s of work (very disappointed).

Phase 2: I walked home and arrived ready to rest at 12:49pm. On arriving home my step count to work and back was 7771 steps.


Figure 3: First day, Phase 2 - 1.5 hr. power nap

As is apparent in fig. 3, I only achieved 1 extra REM cycle and had a 25minute time to sleep. I think that due to my exhaustion, I sabotaged the power nap by setting my alarm to go off early. In this instance, I also returned to sleep longer without the sleep tracker and woke up at 4pm. At 4pm, I was groggy and consumed a second cup of coffee for the day. For the second half of the day, I have scheduled a few simpler tasks for myself in the hope that this grogginess will not stop me from completing simple tasks.  

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