On Sleep

The wave of interest in recent times of so-called polyphasic sleep has become very pervasive. I’ll have to admit that even I took keen interest in it around the time I started this blog. I’ve read countless articles on sleep, and now, I’ve come to the following conclusion: the problem is not figuring out the bare minimum of hours of sleep you need each day; rather, the real problem is figuring out how you can be more active/productive while awake. If you cannot confidently say “I spend most of my awake-time doing productive things”, then there is no point of “hacking” your day so that you sleep less hours; what’s the point of buying more books if you cannot finish reading the ones you have already?

I think most people initially accept the proposition that if you sleep less, you’ll get more done. The common one-liner you’ll read in most articles goes something along the lines of “even if you shave off just 1 hour off of your usual sleeping cycle, this meager saving will net you X extra years of life!

This kind of thinking is plain wrong. Unless you are narcoleptic, sleeping too much is NOT the problem. The real problem is figuring out what you are going to do while you are awake. You can sleep 6 hours, 4, hours, 2 hours even, in a single day. Nobody cares. The only thing you should care about is how you spend your time.

Now, I do understand that for some people, spending more hours out of bed will guarantee more productivity. But this is only true if the pending task is very simple and does not require much decision-making. Unfortunately (or fortunately, rather), very few people in the modern world today share the same working career as child laborers did at the dawn of the Industrial Age. Unless a supervisor directs all of your attention to predefined goals from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to bed, so that you are reduced to a drone working for the Hive, sleeping less does NOT mean increased productivity.

Besides, there are far more important problems to tackle than “hacking” your brain to get less sleep:

  • How can I spend more quality time with my family?
  • How can I stay healthy?
  • How can I improve my relationship with my partner?
  • How can I improve my mind?
  • How can I conquer my fears?
  • How can I stop procrastinating?
  • …etc.

None of these important questions involve sleep as a material part of the solution. Sleep, my friend, is irrelevant. All of the questions above instead have the goal of increasing the quality of life. So don’t fool yourself into thinking that sleeping less is an integral part of self-improvement. Sleep, like everything else in life that can be objectively quantified, must be taken in moderation.