Years ago I worked with a consultant who asked the manager if she could send an invoice for the hours she slept and dreamt about working in her sleep. And while this became an ongoing joke around the office at the time, the reality is that this was always something that most of us have contemplated as individuals. How can we be more productive while sleeping ?
What is Sleep Hacking
Perhaps one of the most popular forms of attempting to get a full night’s rest without putting in a healthy six or eight hour’s worth of sleep was a popular phrase coined “Sleep Hacking”. This became a viral sensation a few years ago and was touted by many college grads, aspiring entrepreneurs and young creatives as the certified way to cram for an exam or get ready for a big presentation when you had very little time to prepare. But like any experimental party drug, this was soon promoted as a way of life and perhaps by some tech nerds as a “healthy” alternative.
Sleep hacking by its very definition is both as interesting as well as potentially edgy as it sounds. There are two documented forms of sleep hacking, biphasic sleep hacking being one form where the individual divides their sleep pattern into two during a 24 hour period, and polyphasic being the other form where a person sleeps for short increments throughout the day. And while they both may differ in their approach, they essentially serve the same purpose; to attempt to trick the body into thinking that it has obtained a full sleep cycle. This is done with the hope of allowing the participant the ability to spend the extra hours preparing for the next day’s event.
Sleep Hacker Mentality
Anyone who strives for a productive lifestyle understands the importance of sleep and proper rest. But perhaps what leads to much of our curiosity surrounding sleep hacking is the feeling of guilt when we sleep “too much” or are found to be unproductive because of lost time due to an unscheduled nap. This most likely is due to our unhealthy view of sleep as being an unproductive action. If we are honest, we are many times guilty of not fully understanding or appreciating the body’s need for rest.
We have all engaged in situations where we were forced to work an all nighter because some emergency took place at work, or surprised with an exam that we did not expect, these are all situations where we had no choice. When we attempt to undertake this practice as a long term lifestyle, or regular pattern, it is a mentality that can be considered quite unhealthy.
This notion of an improper understanding about sleep and productivity begins with the assumption that there are individuals throughout history who were great overachievers because they slept less than other individuals. With this "urban folklore", is it no wonder some of the champions of sleep hacking reference individuals like Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon and Nikola Tesla. None of whom were ever found historically or factually to subscribe to this method of lifestyle.
Sleep Needs to Be Respected
While there are individuals that naturally sleep less and this is also be very true of older individuals as neurological studies have shown, we all require different amounts of sleep at various stages in our life. When your body needs rest, it tells you through messaging the brain. To attempt to introduce lifestyle practices that ignore such a warning system could have potentially dangerous effects and place you in the same category as start-up founders and hedge fund managers who take drugs like modafinil to work longer hours and sleep less.
What most drug users have in common, is a mentality that focuses on short term gain, while ignoring the long term effects. When we engage in the dangerous practice of attempting to improperly alter our sleep pattern instead of understanding our need for rest, we increase our productivity in the short term, while sacrificing what could be our potential long term health.
1. What is Sleep Hacking - biphasic (Siesta) and polyphasic (Short Naps)
2. Sleep Hacker Mentality - if I sleep less, I can accomplish much more
3. Respect Sleep - short term gain with long term suffering is unproductive