My weird (biphasic) sleep schedule

If the earlier the bird, the bigger the worm it catches, then I’m out here catching pythons because I wake up religiously at 2am.

I know, you’re probably thinking I’m nuts, but just wait until you hear my explanation.

Initially, my 2am sessions were just to get work done while the world was asleep.

As a freelancer with multiple clients and a caregiver for my dad, I found that my days were packed with preparing meals, taking calls, attending meetings and generally doing the work on other people’s schedules instead of my own. While I did that, the focused work that required my undivided attention just never got done.

So I would go to bed a bit earlier, wake up at 2am, work for 2-3 hours, then head right back to bed before officially getting up around 8 or 9.

This worked for a little while, but then my dad had a stroke, and suddenly my caregiver responsibilities got way more demanding. He recovered enough to take care of himself again, but I needed to be around in the early mornings to prepare meals and administer medication, check on him at intervals during the day, and then repeat the process in the evening. It was a lot of work to juggle with full-time freelancing. That’s when I came up with the schedule below.

2a – 6a High Focus Work

6a – 10a Home and Chores

10a – 2p Sleep

2p – 6p Low Focus Work

6p – 10p Home and Relax

10p – 2a Sleep

With this schedule, I was able to dedicate lots of time to Dad (Home) while still fitting in 8 hours of work time, 8 hours of sleep time, and even getting a relaxing evening break for 2-3 hours. I’ve always been a fan of an early afternoon nap – this just made it official.

The idea of breaking sleep time into two distinct sessions is called Biphasic Sleep, and it’s definitely not a new concept. Countries like Spain have practiced this for many years with their siestas, though their afternoon naps are usually much shorter.

Nevertheless, it works brilliantly for me – and even when it no longer became necessary, I stuck to it because I saw several benefits:

  • Better performance at work – now that work came immediately after sleeping, I was always more refreshed and ready to go. I also felt more present at meetings.
  • More structure – I no longer feel like time spent on calls, in meetings or on online communities are “wasting time”. They are important to my business and now that I’ve made time for them, they’re not taking away from other critical activities.
  • Require less sleep – I don’t actually sleep for 8 hours. At nights, I try to stick to 4 hours, but I let my body determine how long my daytime session need to be. It’s often 1.5-2 hours, which works out less than when I slept all night.

There are a few drawbacks to this schedule too, but luckily I’ve learned how to handle them.

  • Meetings outside of 2 – 6p – I only schedule meetings in my low focus window, but occasionally this is out of my control. If it’s not important, I’ll just skip it, but if it is, I’ll sleep a little less or skip a few daily chores to accommodate.
  • Full-day activities – If I have an outing or conference, etc., I’ll cancel work for the day and get a full night’s sleep the night before.
  • Distractions during daytime sleep – I’ve learned to tune out lawnmovers, grass cutters and construction noises. I also keep my phone on silent and let the key people in my life know my schedule.

Overall, I really love the order and discipline this schedule provides and I see myself sticking to it for the forseeable future.

What about you? Do you have any weird sleeping habits? Would you consider implementing something similar to mine? Let me know on Twitter!

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