Hormesis And Sleep Hacking

What Is Hormesis?

Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses.

You certainly did not have a moment of epiphany from reading that small definition up there but I can guarantee you that the next 5-10 minutes that you spend on understanding what hormesis is and how it applies to your life will pay back positive results 10 times or even 100 times to the amount of little energy and time you spend on reading these two articles below.

To get a thorough understanding of what hormesis is and why I hold it in such high regards, I urge you to read these two posts on hormesis first: This and this.

If you could really comprehend, what hormesis is from those articles and how amazing it is as a concept for life, your mind should be full of questions like ‘does hormesis apply to every single thing in life? Why is hormesis not more famous and mainstream? Is XYZ caused/possible by hormesis? Are there any exceptions to hormesis?’ and so on…

If the articles didn’t captivate you enough to make you ask such questions to yourself, I assume you either already knew what hormesis is or really haven’t understood how deep it’s application is, and in the latter case, trust me, you will have your moment of epiphany someday soon.

Hormesis and Sleep Hacking

If you are wondering about what the connection is between hormesis and sleep hacking, let’s take a look at few of the examples of hormesis discussed in the above articles and you will notice how a similar pattern applies to sleep hacking too.

1. Exercise/ Physical stress

2. Sunlight

I am going to restrain myself to only two simple illustrations, which also happen to be fairly relatable to everyday life, up there because hormesis has been verified to be true for around 5600 dose-response relationships till date and I believe you have a fair idea of what hormesis is by now.

So does the concept of hormesis apply to sleep hacking too and how? Yes! It surely does and here’s how.

3. Sleep Hacking/Polyphasic sleeping

A sudden transition from the usual 9 hour sleep schedule to the Uberman or the Everyman sleep schedule or a total deprivation from sleep completely for a period of over a few days results in a high dose of stress which your body cannot adapt to and has harmful effects such as adverse effects on mental health or even death in some cases.

However, just like other stress agents, sleep deprivation is highly beneficial when applied in lower doses and will actually make your mind and body stronger and more efficient.

The Easy Sleep Hacking guide uses the same principle of hormesis and talks about the benefits of sleep hacking in depth when applied in a small dose using a progressively decreasing transition, while at the same time giving the body enough time to adapt to the changes in sleep schedules.

Your body is Better than you think it is

Most people are extremely worried about placing even the tiniest discomforts and stresses on their mind and body thinking that if they happen to do so, their minds and bodies would just breakdown.

They forget that the body has a progressively adaptative mechanism for literally every sort of stress as long as the stress is not extremely heavy in nature. Way too much emphasis is placed on eliminating the tiniest discomforts while forgetting the fact that the human body has adapted itself to survive different kind of stresses which even the dinosaurs and other fierce beasts couldn’t survive. We as a human race would have never made it this far had we not been able to adapt to the stress our surrounding presents us with.

Maybe Friedrich Nietzsche’s adage “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” is too general as a statement. But at the moment, I can hardly come up with even one single agent (sunlight, physical stress, etc) that is lethal in higher doses but NOT beneficial in lower doses. Can you? 

The Uberman Sleep Cycle? No, thanks.

The reason why you and me are talking about ‘sleep hacking’ in the first place, attributes to the existence of the Uberman sleep cycle. Sleep hacking had slowly started emerging in the 2000’s but it was only when Steve Pavlina successfully attempted it in 2005, did the word spread throughout the Internet.

The fact that we humans can function normally by napping only 20 minutes every 4 hours, which totals up to 2 hours of sleep a day mind you, generated a lot of awe and fascination among sceptics. Considering the fact that Steve Pavlina has over million visitors monthly, the word spread pretty quickly. And before you know it, the Uberman sleep schedule had developed an entire cult of followers and sceptics alike.

Many got inspired to try the Uberman sleep schedule themselves and soon you could see other bloggers attempting the Uberman sleep cycle and posting detailed logs of the same on their websites and the readers posting their own written logs on various networks.

Catching up with the bandwagon

I was new to the concept of sleep hacking back then but just like everyone, I was quite fascinated with the possibility of getting my sleep down to the bare minimum required and soon I started my own attempt at the Uberman sleep cycle.

The Everyman sleep schedule and the Dymaxion sleep schedule were practically ignored back then because no famous Internet celebrity like Pavlina had tried it out yet. The reason why you see so many sleep hackers attempting the Everyman sleep cycle lately is because of its mention on the book ‘The 4 Hour Body’ by Tim Ferriss.

So yes, I started my attempt at the Uberman sleep schedule straight away and before I tell you how well it went, which it didn't,  I have to confess that my first attempt lasted for about 10 days roughly and I was the one who was solely responsible for the failure.

Despite having read about various sleep hackers failing on direct transitions and the slower adaptative transitions having higher success rates, I considered my will power to be above ordinary and that my will power alone would be sufficient to transition into the Uberman sleep cycle. Yeah I know, my bad.

What I really want to talk about instead is about my second attempt at the Uberman sleep cycle after a period of 6 months or so. I was smarter this time and eliminated the dependency on my will power completely. Instead of starting the Uberman sleep schedule directly, I instead developed a slow step-by-step method to transition which helped me progressively decrease my sleep time, while giving myself sufficient time to adapt to each transition.

And the method did help. After 4 months of sticking with my progression and slowly transitioning into the Uberman sleep cycle, I had finally successfully adapted to the two hour sleep life, the Uberman style. But sadly, the reality of my big mistake soon rained over my joy of transitioning into the Uberman sleep life.

The Uberman Sleep cycle? No, thanks and heres why

Living on the Uberman sleeping schedule is a big feat for most sleep hackers, I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t a big achievement for me either, it surely was a milestone in my life. But with the big feat came even bigger problems which finally made me give up the Uberman sleep cycle completely. And here are the reasons why…

1. Getting 6 naps a day is next to impossible: If you have even a ‘slightly’ active life, getting 6 naps a day is not possible. When I hang out with friends or go to work, rarely am I done within 3 to 4 hours. Luckily during my Uberman sleep life, I used to be at home for long periods of time. But you can stay confined in your home for only so long, you got to get back to your real life sooner or later right?

Most people I know have to stay out of their homes from morning to late in the evening. I guess it’s not very different for you either. Tell me how are you going to get a nap every 4 hours? How will you find a peaceful place to nap every 4 hours? How are you going to build an active personal, social and work life around a sleep cycle that requires you to sleep every 3 hours and 40 minutes?

2. More difficult to transition to: Going from one core sleep a day to six naps a day is more difficult than going from one core sleep to three or four naps a day. Call it common sense, call it basic mathematics, simple logic or call it whatever else you wish to. But sadly this is one more important fact that most sleep hackers attempting the Uberman choose to overlook.

The mentally projected life on the Uberman sleep cycle seems pretty fantastic but it is only when you actually attempt it in reality do you actually realize how uncomfortable a six nap a day schedule is for your body, mind and brain.

3. You are more likely to miss a nap: If you are on the Uberman sleep cycle, at least few naps will clash with your daily routine. Monophasic and biphasic sleepers have a giant core sleep hence they can make up for most changes in their sleep schedule. Whereas those on other polyphasic sleep cycles can adjust their schedule in such a way so as to avoid any clashes with daily routine. But the Uberman sleeper has no option other than to either skip naps, which is not possible or give up the Uberman sleep cycle completely.

4. You will disrupt your family life: Not only will your family members be creeped out with your 6 nap a day schedule, your constant demand to have a nap every 4 hours or so will start irritating them. Which means increasing discouragement each day and long lectures for you to give up “these crazy experiments” once and for all.

A Better Alternative To The Uberman Sleep cycle

My main intention behind hacking my sleep was to add more time and value to my life. It surely wasn’t to keep worrying when and where I will be getting my next nap.

After I finally gave up my successful Uberman sleep schedule, I had to look for an alternate sleep cycle that gave the same result as the Uberman sleep cycle but one which would let me enjoy my daily life with all the extra free time in my hands.

Soon I ended up on a sleep cycle which I had surely read of before but hadn’t seen any positive reviews or success stories about: The Dymaxion sleep cycle. Most people rejected it without even trying it because it had somehow got the title of the most toughest sleep schedule for someone to get accustomed to and most newbies without having much knowledge about it decided that it was something that was not worth giving a second thought about.

I however decided to read about it further more. And it did seem pretty promising. Dymaxion sleep is basically getting four 30 minute naps every 5.5 hours. Here is what your sleep schedule looks like on the Dyxamion sleep cycle

Which meant:

-Easier to build a social life around 4 naps. It is easier to fit 4 naps in your schedule than 6 naps.

- Since there are 2 naps less compared to the Uberman sleep cycle. The Dymaxion sleep schedule is easier and faster to transition to.

- On the Uberman sleep cycle, the duration between two consecutive naps was only 3 hours and 40 minutes. Whereas on the Dymaxion sleep cycle, the duration between two consecutive naps is 5 hours and 30 minutes.

Attempting the Dymaxion sleep schedule.

I had learnt my lesson from my first Uberman sleep transition failure when I had tried it out right at the beginning of my sleep hacking journey. So I knew a progressively decreasing transition is the key to success. So I created a slow adaptative progression and stuck to it. I had just given up the Uberman sleep schedule a month ago before trying the Dymaxion sleep schedule. But I chose not to take any risks and starting decreasing my sleep slowly from scratch i.e. 7 hours a day of monophasic sleep

And it worked out pretty well, not only did I successfully transition into the Dymaxion sleep cycle, I have been living the 2 Hour Sleep life ever since then. Over the years, I have further optimized the method and have made it even more simpler to implement successfully in one’s life irrespective of that person's past experiences with sleep hacking.

So I guess I will sum this post up suggesting those who wish to try out the Uberman sleep cycle to really question if whether all the effort they put into transitioning into the Uberman sleep will be worth it? Can you really build a decent life around a six-naps-a-day schedule?

If your answer is "No" to those questions but you still wish to reap the benefits of a 2 hour sleep life, then here is something wonderful I made for you.