In 2016, I became the lucky parent of a newborn who slept horribly. Of course, this meant that my wife and I slept horribly, too. We rested in small snatches and were constantly irritable. We were a mess.
As a result, I became consumed with the idea of minimizing my need for sleep as much as possible. I had always required less sleep than my wife, but I thought that if I could just find some clever solution, some trick or tool, I might be cured of this time suck forever. I wanted to hack my need for sleep.
Eventually, I researched polyphasic sleep, a trend among the kind of people who quantify every aspect of their nutrient intake. Taken to its extreme, the practice promised the magic I was looking for: Simply sleep for 20 minutes or so every few hours, and eventually you’ll only need two or three hours of sleep a day. Sleep would be conquered! In its place, productive bliss.
I never ended up attempting polyphasic sleep. Its daunting requirements seemed destined to interfere with any semblance of normal family life. But the siren song of the quick, easy fix through a simple behavioral change or chemical consumed continues to appeal to me, as it does to many others: In Silicon Valley, this subset of biohacking is as strong as ever. Often coupled with its pharmacological sibling of nootropics (chemicals for cognitive enhancement), this trend of attempting to reengineer and overclock one’s physiology promises to make your body faster, stronger, and better in nearly magical ways.