July 18, 2007

Add Six Hours to Your Day

Breaking news from 64 years ago, compliments of DIGG Science. The key to adding six hours to your day is simple -- stop wasting so much time sleeping:

Sleep is just a bad habit. So said Socrates and Samuel Johnson, and so for years has thought grey-haired Richard Buckminster Fuller, futurific inventor of the Dymaxion* house (TIME, Aug. 22, 1932), the Dymaxion car and the Dymaxion globe. Fuller made a deliberate attempt to break the sleep habit, with excellent results. Last week he announced his Dymaxion system of sleeping. Two hours of sleep a day, he said firmly, is plenty.

Fuller reasoned that man has a primary store of energy, quickly replenished, and a secondary reserve (second wind) that takes longer to restore. Therefore, he thought, a man should be able to cut his rest periods shorter by relaxing as soon as he has used up his primary energy. Fuller trained himself to take a nap at the first sign of fatigue (Le., when his attention to his work began to wander). These intervals came about every six hours; after a half-hour's nap he was completely refreshed.

So the trick here is that you get two hours of sleep per day, but not all at once. Can a series of half-hour catnaps really provide the same benefits as going an 8-hour stretch? It almost sounds too good to be true, but there appears to be some evidence backing it up. Interesting to note, however, that even Buckminster Fuller had to give up the catnap lifestyle due to job pressures.

I wonder whether research in the intervening years has contradicted or confirmed his ideas about sleep?