Brad Feld

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Polyphasic Sleep

Jan 16, 2006
Category Management

I got a note from an entrepreneur (Steven Livingstone) who is pondering polyphasic sleep and asked the question: I’ve just blogged something looking for advice from successful people on sleeping patterns as an entrepreneur. I haven’t read much (if anything) on this and wondered whether you have an opinion on it.

Being clueless on what polyphasic sleep meant, I was fortunately that Wikipedia exists.  Stephen’s post pointed me to Steve Pavlina’s site where he’s 80+ days into a polyphasic sleep experiment.  I was immediately intrigued because I’ve always been fascinated by sleep.  Pavlina has a bunch of great writing on this – start on his Day 60 post and go to the older diary posts.  Wacky.

I have no idea if there are sleeping patterns for successful entrepreneurs, but I do know that many successful entrepreneurs like to brag about how little they have to sleep.  As someone who loves to sleep, I usually think this is bullshit and – while I can go for three or four days on relatively little sleep, I eventually crater and need 10+ hours.  Given my fascination with sleep, I’ve ready plenty (online and offline) and my personal conclusion is that everyone has to figure out their own patterns for themselves. 

Now that I’m running marathons regularly, I accept the importance of sleep as part of my overall routine and make sure I get enough.  I love to get up early, so I’m usually up between 5 and 6 in the morning, which gives me plenty of time to catch up on email, writing, and get a run in (if I want) before the “normal day starts.”  On normal days, I’m toast by 10 pm and try hard not to operate any heavy machinery after 8 pm.  I sleep until I wake up (often 10 or 11 am) on one of the weekend days; the other is my long run day and I usually get up at 6 to have an hour or two in order to wake up, eat something, and take a crap before the run.

After pondering it, I know that polyphasic sleep is not for me – I enjoy lying in bed with Amy too much.  It’d be interesting to find out if there are any real patterns among successful entrepreneurs, although I suspect there will be too much “ego-bias” in any actual study (e.g. “I don’t need sleep”) to generate anything that’s statistically correct.