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Clive Martin: 'Why I Hate the Smug Men Who Never Sleep'

What's the point in being awake all the time if everyone thinks you're a dickhead?
March 19, 2014, 11:25am

People talking about their dreams has to be the least interesting thing this planet has to offer outside of a non-league football phone in. It's little wonder Freud had to do more blow than Shifty Shellshock at an Ozzfest afterparty just to get through the day. Yes, you saw a clown but then it turned out to be your mum and then Harvey Keitel. How am I supposed to care about that?

In fact, people who talk about their sleep in general are pretty insufferable. People who tell you that they've been going to bed earlier this year, people who talk about how easily they can nap and people who talk about no matter how hard they try, they just can't seem to nap.

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But top of the list of self-indulgent slumber bores, are those who claim that they don't need it at all. The sanctimonious, pseudo-spiritual psychopaths who talk about "polyphasic sleep", or "biphasic patterns", or "circadian rhythms". The weird, wired lot who sleep in short bursts and claim that it helps them "get shit done".

Sure, it looks alright when Jean Reno puts on his shades and sits down to a state of Zen-like recuperation in Leon, but in actual fact it seems to mostly be practiced by pious dickheads whose presence wouldn't really be missed if they were in a permanent catatonic state.

The most heinous example of this cult of the knackered I've come across so far – ironically, as I was struggling to get to sleep one night – is a guy called Andrew Torba. Mr Torba works in digital marketing, describes himself as "a lover of wisdom", lifts weights, does yoga and has the Bitcoin hashtag in his Twitter bio. In fact, all those snippets of info come from his Twitter bio alone. It's quite something.

As well as writing blogs with titles like "How to Write Emails Like a CEO", he also practices what is known as "biphasic sleep".

Polyphasic sleep is a sleep cycle where you nap in short bursts throughout the day, rather than the traditional long overnight spell. It's an intriguing idea, one that probably makes sense for a lot of people with shifting routines and jobs that involve communicating with people in different time zones, and I'm sure it works very well for those who are into it.

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The problem is that Torba seems incapable of enjoying this lifestyle without rubbing how successful it allows him to be in your face. This article he wrote for Medium details his routine and reads like some weird hybrid of Deepak Chopra and Patrick Bateman.

After a fairly pointless preamble about how he "likes to think" his "lifestyle is unique", he begins:

Even just explaining the basics of what he does, Torba can't help but sound like an arsehole. The manner and style is typical of the kind of person who believes that not only have they found the secret to life, but that they should also taunt you for not having done so yourself. Calling his sleep cycle "the 'getting shit done' sleep cycle" patronisingly implies that those who don't opt for it aren't getting any of their shit done. Whereas he, Torba, the great shit-doer of our time, has the right idea about life.

He goes on:

What does Torba do, exactly? What is this profession that wakes him from such an impossibly short slumber? What noble, fascinating or glamorous cause could make a man live on only four hours' sleep a day? Selling Facebook ads, of course.

Torba goes on to describe his routine in meticulous detail:

Reading it, you can't quite believe that Torba is real. You can't quite believe that a real, breathing man could sound so excited about doing expense reporting. He's a sitcom character, surely, you think. But he's real, as sure as night follows day. And guess what? HE HASN'T HAD MUCH FUCKING SLEEP.

But of course, it is only midday. This guy's a maverick; anything could happen next. So what do the afternoon hours hold for Andy?

What does this have to do with his sleep cycle? Nothing. He could have just said "work", but Andy wants you to know exactly how important and busy he is. I mean, he has dozens of social communities to engage, research and read across. But don't laugh, because it takes more time than you think, you fucking slob.

I guess this is all fair enough. We don't make the most of our lunch hours these days, and the less time we spend trapped in pointless phone conversations, the better.

But then again, it is 4PM now, and Andrew has only done three hours work. Surely he's going to up his game towards the end of the day?

Of course, every man needs four hours of doing weights, lifting shit, cardio (i.e. "breathing fast"), napping and eating in the early evenings to be a superhumanly productive worker. I'm sure he's going to really hit the bricks after that power nap, right?

Right, fair enough. And then?

While Andrew, in all his infinite logic, probably passes this off as "getting shit done", those three hours spent talking to your workmates on Facebook chat and "general conversation" probably come off as the exact opposite of that. Three hours at the end of the day spent resting on your laurels, talking about future plans and chatting breeze with your work buds is pretty much a perfect example of how to get absolutely nothing done at all.

Come on Andy, it's time for bed now mate.

Three or four hours – of "solitude". ("AKA getting shit done".) As much time is apportioned to this part of the day as his entire workday has already. Despite the fact that nobody he works with will be awake. Call me cynical, but I think that this could just be Torba-speak for "watching True Detective, making toast and wanking".

Finally, the Sandman makes his belated entrance, like a man clutching a box of half-eaten chocolates just after chucking out time on Valentine's Night. Three or four hours of sweet serenity, before Torba once again awakes to fuck us all in the arse with his soul-destroying daily routine. In the course of his day, he may have only slept four proper hours, but he's only actually matched that in terms of "getting shit done" time. Which in a way makes him fairly normal, if a bit sporadic.

It's easy to laugh at Andy's routine and the self-aggrandising media-talk bullshit he peppers his description of it with, but there's something more serious to be considered here. That people like him, who are essentially machines, are being held up as the benchmark.

Gordon Gekko was a silly character, but "lunch is for wimps" caught on even at suburban solicitor's firms. Many companies now expect you to work, unpaid, every night after your time in the office. Those labour rights we used to have are gradually being eroded, and people like Torba are no doubt being held up as the benchmark. When in actual fact, he practices an existence that is mad, lonely and probably slightly dangerous.

Polyphasic sleep, circadian rhythms, I'm sure they can work when practiced correctly. But I can't help but wonder if someone like Andrew Torba, and no doubt some of his acolytes, are really just trying to make up for a lack of something else in their personal or professional lives.

@thugclive