Sleep Efficiency


Thinking that sleep is a waste of time is like thinking that practicing any skill is a waste of time.

From what I’ve read, there are at least two well known functions for sleep:

  1. Detoxification of the brain

  2. Subconsciously “mulling over” information; re-organizing and solidifying memories and ideas

Sleep deprivation makes you stupider, lazier, unpleasant, and depressed.


I’ll let you know if I experience any of those. The real reason I am experimenting with this is the need for more time. I am doing basically two labor intensive jobs right now (working for one company and starting a business on my own) and I just don’t have enough waking hours in the day to accomplish everything I want.

I am monitoring myself via several means and have told friends to monitor me (mood, etc.) as well. If I start to become less efficient as a human, then it defeats the purpose and I will increase my sleep amount until I find the right formula for me.

I know some people can get by on little sleep and some people require a great deal. Likely a lot of this variance is due to genetics. Some, however, might be due to environment. (how one goes about the sleeping process)


(Sincere:) sounds fascinating, I look forward to hearing how it goes for you.

(Goof-around, no offence intended:) there are some other even more advanced sleep schedules you might eventually consider, for example:

I might as well try it then — it seems very unlikely I could get any more stupid, lazy or unpleasant than I am now.


Some people can function normally on lesser sleep than the norm 7-9 hrs. But they are an exception not a rule.


You could also check out smart light bulbs. There are a couple that don’t require any additional hardware aside from a smart phone, one might be in your price range.

I’ve switched over most of my house to Phillips Hue bulbs, but that requires the purchase of a hub and jumps the starting price to ~$160. But after that the bulbs are as low as $25/each.


Isn’t the ‘Uberman’ schedule what Cramer (from Seinfield) was trying to do, before he woke up in a sack at the bottom of a river?


Like preparing/eating food?

I’m not sure if it’s the Soylent or my morning dose of caffeine (200mg tablet) or perhaps my desire late last summer to get up early to exercise before the heat of the day… But about 5-6months ago a switch flipped and I went from being a consistent night owl to a consistent early riser… It’s really bizarre, but almost without fail I get tired between 9-10pm and wake up between 4:30-5:30am and I love it!


Just out of curiosity, how many hours did Bill Clinton sleep, say yesterday? Is that information publicly available? Maybe there’s a Twitter feed telling me. If not, these reports are just stories people tell…


That’s only relevant if preparing food is part of your career.

Think of it more in terms of someone who wants to become a great musician without putting in the countless hours of repetitive practice because it’s a waste of time.

But about 5-6months ago a switch flipped and I went from being a consistent night owl to a consistent early riser… It’s really bizarre, but almost without fail I get tired between 9-10pm and wake up between 4:30-5:30am and I love it!

That’s very interesting. I would really like to find that switch in my brain (if it exists at all!) and flip it.


I think the last time polyphasic sleep was brought up here, it got a somewhat more critical response. is probably the most common rebuttal I’ve seen linked, and it is pretty good. Considering my adventures with polyphasic sleep four or five years ago went similarly poorly, I can get behind a lot of what this guy says. Might also want to read the followup at .


I’m usually on a 6 hour sleep schedule. If I don’t have to get up I can usually go right back to sleep for a few hours, but half the time I end felling like shit. On my days off, I do enjoy a midday nap (usually 2-4 hours). In a perfect world I would probably sleep midnite to 6:00 & nap from noon to 3:00.


From what ive looked into on polyphasic sleep. I get the impression that it is mostly based on the, most likely, false idea that most of your sleeping time is useless. Similiar to the common myth that humans only use 10% of their brains.


I looked into this a while back, but didn’t find any solid support, and it seemed that a rather large majority fail and go back to a more traditional pattern. If I remember correctly I found the link @austonst posted helpful at the time. @Vanclute has also tried it, and said it didn’t work for him.

That said, I did practice polyphasic sleep for several years out of necessity, but stopped almost 15 years ago. At the time I was working two jobs (got my EMT cert in the middle somewhere) and would typically sleep before going in to each. My first job was from 7am-3:30pm and I would sleep from 5:30am-6:30am most days (had to skip it sometimes), My second job would start at either midnight or 1am, and I would typically work 4-5 hours depending on how things went (sometimes it would go late and make me skip my morning sleep), and I would sleep about 1.5-2 hours before going in for the night. I went for almost 4 this, getting 2-3 hours a day, split into two sleep segments. It worked, but wasn’t ideal, and I’m glad I don’t need to keep the same schedule these days.

I’ve never been someone who takes naps, I just can’t go to sleep in the middle of my day like most people can, and invariably end up just laying there being annoyed that I’m not asleep, so I don’t even bother to try. During this time though my night job would occasionally have a delay after I got to work, when this happened I could put my head down and go to sleep fairly easily (sleep deprived anyone?), and I would wake up as soon as I heard myself get called on the radio, but would sleep through all the calls that were not directed to me.


I’ve heard of people wanting to start doing polyphasic sleep schedules throughout the years. I’ve never heard of anyone who actually maintains such a schedule. I find that to be telling.

There is a small portion of the population (5%) that doesn’t need as much sleep as the rest. For normals, less than 6.5-7 hours is a literal death wish.




If you are thinking that sleeping at night for 5-9 hours is inefficient than you’re incorrect. Considering what a good night’s rest does for the healthy person, even spending a third of your 24 hours a day is actually quite a bargain. It is also very true that people’s needs for restorative sleep vary much more from person to person than popular belief has it. For what it’s worth, we in this community have seen how much variability there is in one person’s caloric and nutritional needs compared to the next guy’s—and when it comes to sleep, there is much more variability!

But if it is that important to you to reduce the number of hours you spend asleep, or to make it more efficient, perhaps begin by breaking down the different parts of what “sleep” actually is, and compare each of those to its equivalent to efficient energy/nutritional behaviours:

  • traditionally food has had to be obtained, prepared, and then eaten and digested. But now we’ve found a way to:
  1. skip harvesting (home delivery of many days’ worth of nutrients)
  2. squeeze the preparation into a tiny fraction of the time formerly required (opening the package, plus mixing in the case of 1.5)
  3. make consumption faster and more on-the-go: we now drink instead of cutting and chewing solids (and yet some on this forum have still asked how they can consume soylent faster, leading to various suggestions, one I recall was to ‘squirt’ it down your pharynx/esophagus with a bag & straw device!)
  4. Digestion has probably always been the longest step of nutritional intake, and Soylent has not changed this at all, however we forget this fact since we can use our brain simultaneously while our internal organs take care of this task behind the scenes.

These four things each have an analogous parallel to various parts of proper sleep hygiene:

  • humans are meant to ‘wind down’ in the evening, when the sun would begin setting (which until a century or two ago meant a gradual decrease in ambient light throughout your whole home or environment). It is somewhat analogous to food preparation, but it is a very important process. It is also wholly neglected in the modern world. So if you want to make your whole sleep process more “efficient” then I would start with this: adjusting your pre-sleep behaviours/resetting your circadian rhythm.
    The quickest way would probably be to turn off light-emitting screens such as TVs, computers and smartphones, and relax your eyes for a good 10-20 minutes (longer wouldn’t hurt) in a room with appropriately mild lighting; this is to sleep what drinking your Soylent is to nutritional intake. For many people, this has traditionally corresponded to reading in a big comfy chair before heading to bed. It is also better for your sleep hygiene if you pick relaxing literature rather than, say, a really stimulating novel or engaging magazine.
  • (I might just add, you need your area set up so that all ambient lighting is entering your retina indirectly, which is to say, the light comes from behind your head or above you in such a way that it has to hit the object in front of you before entering your eye. eInk screens are generally comparable to paper and generally don’t light up or if they do they use a front-lit panel rather than backlit glass screen. LCD screens not only shine light from behind the glass through and directly into your retina but they also have a ‘refresh rate,’ which can be very taxing on your eyes and keep you from being able to relax)
  • when it comes to actually getting to sleep, your brain needs to begin a slow decline in overall activity which has been illustrated as a slow descent down a staircase, but for your brain. It begins when the alpha waves you (hopefully) began enacting in your cortex while relaxing in your big chair begin to synchronize across your whole brain. After you’ve lain down, these waves should begin to slow down, transitioning to theta waves. (This might be analogous to the psychological state of satiation that comes after consuming a good source of nutrition.)
  • stage 2 — during which your neurological system is trying to sort of ‘tune down’ your cortical activity and decrease arousal to stimuli in your environment (analogous to upper/stomach digestion). If you look at the EEG of someone transitioning through this stage you will see what are called Sleep spindles, which are short bursts of neuronal activity, almost as if your unconscious is trying to suppress your more alert thinking abilities. You could still be woken up quite easily during this phase, but once the neurotransmitters in your brain become much fewer you will enter…
  • stage 3 / Slow-wave sleep (SWS) — we might parallel this with the deep intestinal digestion so important to caloric intake. Stage 3, also known as deep sleep or delta wave sleep, is where the magic happens, so to speak. The parts of your brain that are needed to coordinate bodily movement are, for all intents and purposes, shut down, and it would take quite a bit of on-going stimuli to begin your brain’s “boot sequence” and turn back on. Some sleep disorders cause people to suddenly become conscious during this stage but find themselves paralyzed, unable to move any muscle for several minutes (it’s rare, but happens). Until recently, the only professionals offering an explanation of what happened during this stage were psychologists who suggested (probably with some truth) that your mind reconsolidates memories during this time. But a couple years ago, sleep scientists–and yes they’re a thing–discovered one important physiological function of delta wave sleep: cleaning the brain’s neurons of neurotoxins accumulated throughout your wakeful day. Contrary to popular belief, you do dream on and off throughout stage 3 (and possibly stage 2).

We do not only dream during the brief REM sleep that comes immediately stage 3, though the types of dream during deep sleep compared to REM or other sleep stages is probably somewhat different. Two years ago this discovery was made which demonstrated that during deep sleep, we replay events from the day before which strengthens those memories (and any skills acquired by means of such) while our brain cells are literally creating new connections between each other to facilitate the retrieval of them during your next awake day.

P.S. I had more to write but I just realized I’ve spent a couple hours manically composing this post, obvious of the passage of time, and it is now past 1am. If anyone has any other questions I will try to answer them.


I speculate that dumber people who don’t think a lot nor have to make many decisions throughout the day require less sleep, while people who require prolonged concentration and thought require more sleep. There’s no real way to avoid sleep. Maybe they will invent a mechanical assist to cleanse the brain faster in the future.


For anyone interested, I have ceased the experiment after a week. I felt terrible and it just didn’t seem healthy overall.

I think I might just try a nap during the middle of the day (biphasic) like some cultures do.


That being said. I’manalyzing my sleep for the last few months and it seems I have a strange sleep pattern compared to my girlfriend and others I compared to. I seem to get some deep sleep during the first 2-3 hours, but will then not get another deep sleep phase for 3-4 hours. Sometimes after the prolonged period I get another minimal deep sleep phase, but mostly not. I can provoke more deep sleep by waking up and getting back to sleep. (probably a 50/50 chance on being able to get back to sleep or not).

I will check out, if it helps me (as I have issues sleeping anyway) to either get up after the first 3 hours and then going back to sleep after doing some reading or light task. Or better, if I might get up early and squeeze in a longer midday sleep.

Unfortunate that it didn’t work out for you @inquirerer.
Did you by any chance analyze your sleep patterns? Even if the data is not perfectly accurate, it might help to get a sense of the sleep pattern, which just works better to the current one. Instead of trying to make it more efficient make it more refreshing and built on that.


From a recent study:

Dr Nicolas Dumay, the study’s author, said:

“Sleep almost doubles our chances of remembering previously unrecalled material.

The post-sleep boost in memory accessibility may indicate that some memories are sharpened overnight.

This supports the notion that, while asleep, we actively rehearse information flagged as important.

More research is needed into the functional significance of this rehearsal and whether, for instance, it allows memories to be accessible in a wider range of contexts, hence making them more useful.”

The boost to memory could be down to activity in the hippocampus, Dr Dumay thinks.

It’s in this region of the brain that recently laid down memories may be ‘unzipped’ and ‘replayed’.

It could be this process that helps us remember things we couldn’t before.

The research was published in the journal Cortex (Dumay, 2015).