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I was reading about Power Naps for Productivity and to quote a few words: "Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 minutes more sleep in the morning."

I tried using this technique but:

  • I had a difficult time getting up. The alarm would ring and the snoozing would get me an hours sleep.

  • I would actually start yearning for the bed again and my productivity would dip.

Am I doing something wrong or is this a false fad?

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I have experimented a lot with different kinds of sleeping patterns. There is a section in The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss that first introduced me to various levels of polyphasic sleep schedules and Steve Pavlina's Blog on the subject provided me loads of information as well.

My own experience has been that it takes time to get used to. Just with sleep in general I find that if I sleep 10hours monophasically even for just a few days in a row, I feel tired if I don't get my 10hours in. Similarly if I start napping during the day and sleeping less at night, it takes time to adjust; it isn't a switch you can just turn on/off. I would give it two weeks and see how you feel.

When I started experimenting I was very disciplined at getting out of bed when the alarm went off. Two main strategies really helped me out: 1) I had my alarm far enough away from the bed that I had to get out of bed to turn it off, 2) I had something very specific in mind that I was going to do when I woke up, and it was something I was actually looking forward to doing.That said, for the first week or two I had a big drop in productivity - I was in an adjustment phase and was tired. Steve Pavlina talked about this extensively in his blogs though so I was expecting that, and I was also expecting it to end shortly.

Overall I think it is really worth it. I am sleeping around 6 hours a day now with two short naps during the day and one long sleep at night. This isn't much less than average, but the biggest benefit I find is that I'm never really drowsy. I find the naps really refreshing and allow me to work harder during the hours I am awake. I also find that I've trained myself to fall asleep very quickly. When I was monophasically sleeping, at times I'd find it really hard to actually fall asleep, but when you only have a small finite time to sleep you become much more efficient at falling asleep.

It should also be noted that Piotr Wozniak from Supermemo is heavily critical of polyphasic sleeping and claims it has serious impacts on performance and memory. It hasn't been my experience, but take it for what you will.

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Can you give some more details about how long your current system has been stable for? – Joe May 9 '12 at 13:50
I started experimenting in Feb '11 and tried the full uberman sleep schedule of 20minute naps 6 times a day. This was a hard lifestyle as you needed to sleep at anti-social hours. You could nap at 6pm and head out with friends, but you needed to nap again at 10pm which just wasn't possible. I played around with various schedules and ended with something that suited my lifestyle. Mid April '11 I started my current schedule. I nap at lunch (1pm) for 30 minutes, again after dinner (7pm) and full sleep from 3:30am to 8:30am. Depending on how hard I'm working I may extend my evening nap to 1 hour. – Brian May 9 '12 at 14:37
Sounds excellent - can you drop in and out? like if you where at a full day event and missed a nap? – Joe May 9 '12 at 14:42
If you miss naps you're obviously going to be tired, but I haven't found it to be a debilitating tiredness. If I have a whole day event typically I won't do my evening nap the day before and will sleep longer in the night. – Brian May 9 '12 at 14:50

Am I doing something wrong or is this a false fad?

There's also option 3: It works for some people, but not for others. Napping works great for my husband, but it makes me feel like death warmed over. One of the biggest complicators in both lifestyle optimization and medicine is the unceasing variation in what works for whom and how well.

So, you might not be a napper. Or you might be a different kind of napper. Does the length of the nap affect how you feel later in the day?

And, because it never hurts to make sure all your bases are covered, a few more things to consider under the possibility of "doing it wrong":

  • If you've built up any sleep debt, paying that off might change things.
  • And do you have a good napping set-up, both physical (quiet and dark) and physiological (didn't down a double espresso right beforehand)?
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