Biphasic Sleep and the Dreamery

Issue #10 - 3m58s

Modern American society, particularly those in highly-structured industries where 9-5 is the norm, practices a monophasic sleep schedule. That is, people engage in a continuous stream of sleep once a day, often for 8 hours.

Biologically, this is a relatively recent phenomenon and our bodies have not yet adapted (give it another couple thousand years) for this altered sleep schedule.

While Caspar found nationwide success selling its D2C mattress — making good monophasic sleep easier (an action providing a nontrivial increase in labor efficiency across the board), their actions over the past year have been especially interesting to me. They now own an unique power — having the ability to shift the culture around sleep.

Caspar's continued success is intrinsically tied to humans sleeping. To that end, they can either 1) improve the act of sleeping or 2) increase the amount people sleep. In regards to the latter, most people have fairly calcified single session sleep limit and have trouble sleeping beyond that. So in order to increase the amount people sleep, Caspar must push the idea of biphasic sleep — which is exceptionally exciting.

To that end, Caspar released The Dreamery in 2018. By reducing the amount of friction around taking a midday nap and making nap-taking "cool", they are taking the first steps into reintroducing biphasic sleep schedules in the fabric of American society.

Okay so why do I like biphasic sleep?

The short version here is that we are biologically wired to take midafternoon naps. Homo Sapiens as a species, independent on cultural or geographical lines, suffer from post-prandial alertness. That is, humans are genetically hardwired to have a dip in alertness that occurs in the midafternoon hours. During those hours, we face a lull in our wakefulness where our previously high-level wakefulness suddenly descents into low-level alertness.

Despite this, we have become divorced from our biologically hardwired arrangement of biphasic sleep. This isn't just a modern problem. As a species, we've been transitioning to a monophasic sleep schedule, to our detriment, since we were still an agrarian existence. The current modern cultural norms only serve to exacerbate this problem for the majority of the working population.

To see an example of those living with a biphasic sleep schedule, we only have to look across the pond to our siesta-loving neighbors in Mediterranean Europe. Countries there engage in a practice known as "siesta" where society sits still for a few hours after lunch everyday. Businesses take a break for a period of time — shops across the country often close from 1-4pm. Society allows itself to follow human biology and take a lull. People relax, and oftentimes take a nap.

Biphasic sleep is commonly associated with improved cognitive function and an improved mood. From a labor productivity viewpoint, an individual can sacrifice 1-2 of their least productive hours a day in return for an increase in productivity in the following hours. The exchange of a single midafternoon hour (~50% productivity of the average working hour) for even a 10% increase in cognitive power and mood for the remaining hours (5 hours) balances the equation. Anecdotally, I believe the actual percentage increase is closer to around 25% and significantly higher for creative / problem-solving work.

Caspar is uniquely qualified in the market to change the cultural norms around monophasic/biphasic sleep due to its cultural market share as a "thought-leader" around sleep to the mass consumer. Intellectuals can debate endlessly the benefits of biphasic sleep in the academic sphere but they lack the proper distribution channels for an idea as fundamental to the human condition as this one to take hold. Top-down distribution may work from academics → companies but I believe the forerunners of this movement will find it to be a net detriment as the rest of the world continues to moves without them. This sort of movement must start bottom-up and later augmented by a top-down approach.

Despite slowing mattress sales (not unique to Caspar but across the mattress market as a whole), Caspar's special existence gives it the distribution channels to push this idea out to the masses. A change as much product led as it is culturally and scientifically.

Is this probable? Not at all. But it is possible. My personal belief is that a global cultural shift towards biphasic sleep schedules will lead to a massive positive impact on the mental well-being and labor efficiency of the world. This is difficult to prove in individual actors as network effects are deeply ingrained in the practice (you lose if the world moves without you) but as a collective change, it would produce beautiful harmony.

I hope that one day this vision becomes more than just a fever dream.

The Weekly Nibble

Feeling the information overload? Yea me too. This is the best read I found this past week. Take a peep and LMK.

"The biggest mistake professionally successful people make is attempting to sustain peak accomplishment indefinitely, trying to make use of the kind of fluid intelligence that begins fading relatively early in life. This is impossible. The key is to enjoy accomplishments for what they are in the moment, and to walk away perhaps before I am completely ready—but on my own terms."

One of my future dreams is to engage in a pastoral style of living, reminiscent of Ghibli hills or the cottages of the European river valleys. Going out on top, finding satisfaction - divorcing from everlasting greed and engaging with comfortability - is key for a wonderful life. I just want to stomp grapes in my 50s.

Bye for now.