Can you imagine the perfect day? A time where you feel energetic and focused. Your mind is sharp and tasks seem easy. Imagine developing some new habits that work together to promote a healthier and more productive life that will bring you closer to that ideal day. Let’s take a look at sleep, diet and exercise and how they tie together. An interesting concept is created when we put all the pieces together.
The idea is called Quadraphasic Living and it is designed around a sleeping technique that my dad used when he was working. The basic plan divides a 24 hour day into four quadrants. The four quadrants being morning, afternoon, evening, and night. The simple technique my dad used was taking a 15 minute nap between quadrants. Simply put he took a 15 minute nap at lunch and another 15 minute nap in the evening.
I’ve been testing this idea and doing some research on different sleep patterns. It seems that my dad was on to something. Researchers have found that taking a midday nap of 15 to 20 minutes can improve alertness and productivity by 30 to 40 percent over those who did not sleep. The effects are the same for an evening nap. And the results improve over time. Research showed greater improvement after 5 days of consistent napping than at the beginning.
This is actually pretty easy to do for most people. The key is to have a quiet place to sleep and a timer to awake you at the end of 15 minutes. I find that I can go home for lunch or rest in my car. The evening nap is a little easier as I can do it after I get home. I have tested different sleeping times and found that 15 minutes works best for me. Make sure that you wake up promptly as a nap over 30 minutes will leave you feeling very sleepy.
When I wake up from a nap I am usually a little groggy for a few minutes. I find that doing 5 minutes of light aerobics helps get me going and I am soon energized and ready for the next few hours. I work a standard 8 to 5 workday and this nap has really helped my afternoon productivity. I find I can focus better and I can work on tedious data tasks with renewed vigor. The evening nap has allowed me to work more effectively and actually get something done at night.
Napping is only part of a complete Quadraphasic lifestyle. It also entails diet and exercise. In all of the books I have read about effective exercising, the most effective time for aerobic exercise is in the morning. Scientific studies indicate that fat is burned up to 300% faster when you exercise in the morning in a fasted state and respondents are also more alert during the day with a morning routine.
So as we design our “perfect” day let’s start out with 30 minutes of interval based exercise in the first quadrant of our plan. A daily combination aerobic-resistance plan will fit here nicely. As far as diet goes the plan will have one meal and one snack in each of the first three quadrants.
The key to success on any diet plan is to make it doable and offer foods that you enjoy. After all this is a lifestyle not a diet. The key to feeling good throughout the day is to eat low glycemic foods that do not spike your blood sugar. The easiest way to do this is to have some protein with your carbohydrates. There are many diet books that offer a myriad of low glycemic choices including Eating for Life, the South Beach Diet Maintenance Plan, Eating in the Zone, and many others.
A simple rule will keep things under control. No more that 500 calories per meal and snacks of 200 calories or less. If you need to lose weight you can reduce these numbers somewhat.
The final component of this plan is to stay well hydrated by drinking at least 2 quarts of water per day. This is pretty easy to accomplish by drinking a tall glass of water (12ounce) with each meal and snack throughout the day.
The last phase of the program is the sleeping phase. This can vary in length from a low of 6 hours to 8 hours or more. The key here is to find a sleep length that leaves you feeling energized throughout the day. Currently I have found that 7 hours works very well for me.
The bottom line of this plan is to develop a system that will keep you at your peak throughout the day and be simple enough that it will be easy to stay on. My dad used this basic plan for years and it kept him going well into his nineties.
Over the next few months I want to develop these different attributes as habits and refine the system to make it as easy as possible to follow. In testing these naps I have felt much more energized and alert. The nice thing is you can take a day off a week and not ruin your whole plan. It is real easy to get back on the system the next day with no ill effects.
I think this can be developed into a 12 month program creating a new habit each month for a year. I’ll keep you posted on my progress along with some articles on diet and exercise.