I listened to a great podcast by Robbie Bourke ‘All Things Strength and Wellness‘ (highly recommend any S&C enthusiasts to follow it) about sleep. In it, the interviewee Nick Littlehales talked about polyphasic sleep wake cycles. The episode was over an hour long so this post is simply to give you some insight into the most interesting and hopefully helpful bits that I appreciated:
- Most people are ‘PMers’ rather than ‘AMers’ – this means more humans tend to function better in the evening than in the morning. Unfortunately from a young age we tend to get up early to go to school, then college, then work – life has been built around being productive from early in the day.
- Nick starts everyone with an ‘anchor point’ – rather than focusing on getting to bed at a certain time or trying to get a specific number of hours sleep, aim to get up at the same time every morning. Doing this with natural light is awesome or at least expose yourself to it when you wake up.
- Give yourself 90 minutes to warm up for the day. In this time, avoid looking at your phone (at least for as long as you can). It will drive you into a stress fueled sympathetic state very quickly (fight or flight) from all the notifications, bright images and thoughts of what you have to do for the day.
- Break up your day into 90 minutes phases. At the end of each phase, take a CRP (controlled recovery period) which is like a mental mini break from whatever you’re doing. Sit back and breathe, go for a short walk, fill your water bottle, take a toilet break or even go for a 5 minute nap!
- In the same vein, multiples of 90 minutes is great for sleep; 7.5 or 9 hours sleep is better than 8 hours sleep. You also can get your total amount of sleep over 24 hours – naps are your friend (30 minutes or less at a time)! So don’t stress about having to get a straight 7.5 hour sleep as much as trying to get enough over the course of a full day.
- If you don’t sleep enough, your body will make you crash – sometimes in your car! Think about how often people fall asleep or very nearly nod off behind the wheel of their car. Your brain finds sleep so important that it overrides its desire to keep you safe while travelling at 100km/h. Don’t underestimate its importance.
- There are two times of day where most people will feel a bit sluggish: midday and around 5-7pm. This is very normal. They are great times for CRPs, rather than a caffeine or sugar rush to help get you through the slump.
- Picture your circadian rhythm like this: when you wake up, you start at the bottom of a mountain. Every hour that passes you get closer to the top, which is the sleep point. So halfway up in the day (at around 12pm), you need to take a rest (a CRP), and then another when you’re about 75% up, which equates to the evening time. When you reach the top, it’s bedtime. If you keep going after that peak, you’re going to be slipping down quickly to the next wake point, which is when you need to start trekking back up again!
- Schedules are tough for everyone but if you can implement 90 minute cycles with CRPs and an anchor point for your wake time, you may just see some really positive differences. (Personally, I adore naps for resetting my energy and am thrilled to have even more of an excuse to take them.)
If you’d like to read more, you can check out Nick’s Book – Sleep – The Myth of 8 Hours, the Power of Naps, and the New Plan to Recharge Your Body and Mind.
You can also see this blog post for some extra reading on the benefits of naps! https://www.healthambition.com/power-napping/