Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Waking up

This blog now has a new title.

There's not much to say about my progress on adapting to my chosen schedule. It seems that I'm still wanting to take the core sleep. The last two nights, when I woke up from my 11 PM nap, without really thinking about it, I laid down and proceeded to take another nap, waking up around 3 - 3:30 AM. I've been sleeping the best at my 5 AM nap, which makes sense, as I'm most accustomed to being asleep then. I also wake up feeling more refreshed from it, as it puts me waking up at about dawn. I've had trouble sleeping during my evening nap, although it's not getting darker at that time of day. I've been tired at 11 AM both days, and slept well then, aside from disturbances.

Now for something a bit more interesting. I've found that changing my sleeping time to a stricter schedule that I actually like has been a systemic change for me, and I'm starting to do better with doing other things on schedule around my naps as well. I've tried to come up with a regimen of stuff to do when I wake up, to give me something to look forward to doing when waking up, and to help me get adjusted to being awake at those times and making productive use of the hours.

Before going to sleep, I brush my teeth. I've been doing that more with polyphasic, as I don't put it off 'til "bedtime." If I'm not tired before my 11 PM nap, I exercise a bit and then try to relax and put myself in the mood to sleep. When I wake up, I go wash my face, have a meal, snack, or at least something to drink, and try to go right to work doing something. As an extra incentive to get up from my night and morning naps, I've contemplated doing my internet time then instead of in the evening, or maybe working on a project I'm really looking forward to finishing.

I'm still doing well as far as tiredness and energy levels go. About average. I wake up feeling really good from some naps, from others, I have grogginess. I think I'm seeing an improvement in productivity, but I still have a lot to do. My mood has been even. I still have bouts of anxiety, but I think sleeping at regular intervals, and having a schedule that assures that I at least lay down and try to sleep, has done something to improve my depression so far. I woke up with anxiety at about 3 AM the last two nights (which is why my sleeps didn't last longer than that). I keep thinking that it's because of the work I have to do, but it probably has more to do with my attitude. I know people who handle more and do better with it. I'm hoping to find a way to let the anxiety go, and I hope to eventually experience more of the mood-enhancement that most polyphasic practitioners claim to feel.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I'm either going to have to figure out a better time to do the core sleep, or stick with shorter naps. It's still a problem for me to get up and stay up from the core sleep without feeling really tired. Last night, I woke up from it and was so tired and sore and down that I didn't feel like doing anything, so I just took another nap shortly after waking. I think part of the problem might be staying in bed. It could also be that, even though I think I'm inclined to be polyphasic, I'm still not getting the most out of my naps because I haven't been doing it for long and am still wavering on finding the best schedule for me. The solution is to pick something and stick with it for a few weeks and see how it suits me.

I have three options:
1) put the core sleep at a different time, maybe dawn, so that waking up from it isn't so hard,
2) stick with the schedule that I made up (with the help of my best friend) that sounded good to me, napping 4 times a day for one hour,
3) go with something that's considered tried & true, like Uberman.

I'm reluctant to do #3 because I know I have days when I'm guaranteed to miss a nap, and on other days, I have a frustrating lack of control over my schedule that will probably make me miss a lot of my naps. If I were a free person living alone and setting my own schedule, I'd probably have no problem with it, but I'm not. If someone in my household wants me to do something at a certain time, I have to do it, or risk social unrest.

Number 2 would be my preference, because I feel like the one-hour nap time is an optimal one that allows me plenty of time to get to sleep and (I hope) get through all of my sleep cycles. I don't doubt that Uberman works for others, but I am still skeptical about whether it is adequate resting time. Also, my friend has been encouraging of me to try forgoing the core sleep, saying that I should be able to handle it, and if it's a problem, then just stop.

I've been really hesitant to give up a longer sleep period, for fear that I'll be missing out on some essential sleep cycle, but the goal of my experiment was to give something different a proper try in order to empirically see for myself which system was better. I'm going to remember that.

So, my goal now is to try one week of doing nothing but one-hour naps, 4 times a day. There will be one day a week when I know I won't be able to do that, but for the others, I have a good probability of getting my naps at least close to the strategically scheduled times. After a week, I'll evaluate whether I want to keep going with this option or try another. If I fail to get my naps, feel that either the schedule or the napping is not working for me on the long-term, and I'm too tired, I'll switch to having a short nap at night followed by a foredawn core-sleep of about 3 hours, and see how that suits me.

Since everyone gives a name to their sleeping schedule, I've elected to just call my schedule "Quad," as I can't think of anything better. Tonight is the first night of strictly keeping to it, and I'll start updating on how it goes from here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

11 Days

It's been about 11 days since I officially set out to alter my sleeping. I slept more than usual last night. I started out wanting to take an hour nap at 11 PM and then go back to working, but I was disturbed in my nap by the cat again (she seems to be hiding in my room about the time that I wish to nap and then popping out to annoy me once I lay down). This time, she knocked something over and broke it while trying to get me up. I didn't get to enjoy my nap, woke up angry, and didn't really feel like going back to sleep or doing anything productive. I played a game for a little while, then decided to take a long nap because my arms were sore from work I did on Friday. I slept for about 5 hours, didn't feel any less fatigued, so I took another brief nap shortly after waking. My hope was that it would be good to get some extra sleep, as I do believe it can have some effects on healing and mood. It didn't really help me with either today. I've felt depressed and like I don't want to sleep since then. I'm not any less sore or achy, although I didn't exactly make it better by sitting for most of the day. Once again, I wonder if less sleep is actually better for my mood. I'm going to try going for less sleep again tonight, and see how that leaves me feeling. I don't feel like I overslept last night, but I can't say that the extra sleep did anything for me, either.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It works; now what?

Not very much new to report today. Everything is going along well. I haven't had any difficulties with the transition, other than a few nights when it was hard to wake up and a bit of worry about whether or not it's good for me. Perhaps this is because I'm already rather used to dealing with sleep-deprivation, however. I'm not used to it in the way that it's a daily occurrence for me and my normal state of functioning; most days I am not sleep-deprived, and I know the difference. However, I am able to make myself stay awake and function while sleep-deprived pretty well, and for the most part, it doesn't cause me a great deal of pain. I was also in the habit of napping when I had the time, so that wasn't really something new for me to adjust to, either.

I've had seem very odd sleep patterns in the past, and it wasn't odd for me to stay up all night because I was doing something I couldn't put down. For a while when I was 18 and not really doing anything that required me to be up all day (basically NEET), I slept from foredawn to mid-afternoon. My typical day was to do some work that required daylight during the afternoon then (such as fixing up the house or yard), enjoy some time outside at gloaming, and then spend the rest of the evening chatting or playing games, maybe take an evening nap, and read or study during the late night hours. I didn't eat much during this time; my appetite seems to actually follow a circadian rhythm in that I don't get hungry much at night. I would have dinner and a snack and that was all I felt like eating. And I've noticed that with my current polyphasic schedule, I don't get hungry late at night either, but I will get hungry around dawn. Others that I've told about this have speculated that it's simply because I don't do much that's physically active at night, but I'm not sure this is the cause. I don't do much physical activity as a student either, but mental activity will make me hungry all the same.

I felt very physically tired last night, however, and after taking an hour nap and waking up still feeling wiped, decided to have a recharge sleep of a few hours. I woke up early and proceeded to have an active and productive day, doing some shopping and cooking for the week ahead, watching a movie I'd been meaning to get to, and working on an assignment. I didn't feel like napping during the morning, and at my afternoon nap time, I couldn't believe that it was still so early in the day. Not because I was tired, but because I'd gotten a lot done. I slept only a short time and am back at work now, and will probably have a short core-sleep later and continue working tonight, in hopes of getting caught up on some things.

Anyway, even though I am not following something as strict as Uberman and have had a flexible pattern, I feel like I can be successful on a polyphasic schedule. Overall, I've been sleeping less, but feel like I'm getting more out of my time awake. The only question that remains for me is whether it's sustainable. I think I've gotten to like it more than I thought after starting, as I initially had some reservations about whether I'd be happy giving up long sleeps. Maybe I was really oversleeping before, because I seem to be doing just as well with less rest. Now, I'm not sure I'd want to give up on the possibility of having more time and still having plenty of refreshing naps.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

End of the day reflections

I ended up incidentally taking short naps today, and did pretty well with it. I was busy almost straight through until now. I only took a 20 minute nap at lunch, and comfortable in my new napping spot (I figured out that I could lock the door from the inside, and I remembered to bring a scarf with me to use as a pillow), I actually slept for most of that time, because I was well-tired by then from working most of the night and morning. I had some nice white noise of the building in the background, a little sunlight streaming in the window (I always prefer to wake up to light, makes it so much easier to get up), and the only disturbance I had was what sounded like a squirrel briefly jumping around in the ceiling. I actually dreamed, and I feel confident that I experience dreams rather than hypnagogia, because I forgot where I was during their duration, something that I usually don't experience when merely dozing and having twilight-sleep images. I had lunch when I woke up, felt rather refreshed, and went on working. I got tired again around 3:30 and had about 20 minutes of downtime then, relaxing in an armchair, although it was too noisy around me to sleep. I also had one cup of coffee and a Powerbar around this time, because I needed to be awake and alert for several more hours before I could get home and nap.

Overall, I was a little tired, but had no problem doing mental tasks and being energetic. I felt like I wanted to sleep toward the end of my evening class, but I wasn't too tired to concentrate and didn't actually fall asleep. So, I went a day without a core sleep and with minimal naps, and I felt better than I would if I'd not slept at all. Also, just the knowledge that there are polyphasic sleepers who get by on about as much sleep as I got helped me to feel okay with it and to not feel the despair that I used to feel at having to work late and early and not catch much sleep. I didn't have the extreme tiredness or mood swings of sleep deprivation, but I still had some of the light-hearted, easy-going, uninhibited feeling that I sometimes get when I do voluntary sleep-dep. I think this is probably something like the "euphoria" that some polyphasic sleepers say they feel. It's a balance between being refreshed from napping but also having that "Eh, whatever," feeling that you get from being very sleep-deprived. I'd like to know what hormones it is that cause the latter, because it's been such a common feeling for me with being sleep-deprived. Being in that state actually sometimes makes work easier. I procrastinate when I'm afraid of screwing up or feel overwhelmed, and I lack these worries when I'm sleep-deprived, so it's easier to just go along with circumstances and get right to work and get it done when I need to. It's not a feeling that I dislike.

Anyway, after today, I think I could do something like Dymaxion or Uberman, and I think I'm feeling what it'd be like to be on those plans, but I'd rather get more sleep than either of those afford (when I can get it) and have more flexibility on missing naps. I'm going to stick with my "Quad" schedule of 4 x 1 hour naps, I think, and see how I feel. I'm not dead-tired, but feel as if I'd have no trouble napping at anytime now. It's an odd feeling, and I'm going to have to reflect more on whether or not I think this is healthy. It sure beats the depression that often accompanied my "monophasic-fail," though.

Quick nap updates

I've been awake since midnight tonight, it now being about 1:30 AM. I decided to turn my 11 PM nap into a one-hour instead of a three-hour. This was done in part because I needed the extra time tonight, and because I seem to feel better being sleep-deprived rather than groggy from a longer nap. I haven't completely given up on a "core" yet (mostly due to my culturally-instilled superstitious belief that I'm going to die if I don't do the majority of my sleeping at night), but I'm still feeling like I'm more suited to shorter naps. I can actually get up from them and not feel like a zombie brought back to life. I laid down for an hour nap, slept for about 30 minutes of that, with no memory of dozing off or dreaming, and woke up tired but alert and capable of working. Productivity is about average (no more or less than usual), reflexes are adequate.

6:50: My 5 AM nap was predictably harder, although I did get some sleep. I settled down on the palett I'd made on the floor to use until I got more adapted to the schedule, but I kept getting disturbed by noises. This turned out to be the cat, and she eventually came over and started to talk. I told her to settle down and take a nap too, and she laid down by me and proceeded to try to tickle me with her tail for the rest of the hour. I tossed and turned and couldn't get comfortable like I initially was again, and decided I wasn't going to be able to sleep at all like that again today. I was aching too much at that point. Since it was almost daylight, I decided to lay down on my bed and set my normal alarm for 30 minutes. I did that, and actually got a little sleep. I'm glad I did, as I'm sure it will be needed. I feel refreshed, though still tired. I feel a little less productive than earlier, but confident that I can do everything I want to today, once I wake up a little. I think I'll probably sleep good at my 11 AM nap. Not sure what I'll do tonight. I'll have to skip my evening nap, so I might just take a longer core when I finally get home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Would you?

I think the true test of whether or not someone honestly believes something is good is to ask whether they would encourage their children to do it. This is the question I would pose to other people experimenting with sleep: would you let your kids do it?

I don't know what my answer would be. I would encourage other adults I know to at least try it, particularly if they are having problems with insomnia. With children? I'd be inclined to encourage them to get as much sleep as they want, no more and no less. I don't think I'd actively encourage them to adopt a certain sleep schedule; I would just encourage the healthy habit of sleeping when tired, and getting up and doing something when you wake up. Although I've read claims that oversleeping is a problem, I don't know how much of a problem it is, so I don't know if I'd be concerned about that in children. I would be concerned that undersleeping or not sleeping at night would be bad for one's hormones, but I don't know that polyphasic sleep or getting less than 8 hours sleep at night constitutes undersleeping. In short, I suppose I would trust that their bodies would tell them what was right to do, particularly if they had not been socialized to sleep a certain way or had not experienced insomina-producing anxiety. I would probably encourage sleeping on a schedule, but I don't know that this is necessary or healthy, although most people believe it is. I try to make myself stick to a schedule to combat insomnia and to assure that I get at least some rest.

Would I want to practice polyphasic sleep long-term? I don't know about that either. I think it has its advantages, and it may feel better and better as I get more into it. At the same time, I sometimes wonder if I'll miss the long sleeps that I sometimes have when I have nothing more pressing to do. I think occasional sleeping-in is good, but I don't know that I could do it and still stick with something as strict as most polyphasic schedules. All I can say is that, right now, I'm having a good time experimenting with polyphasic, and the regular napping is better than insomnia or not having enough time to do anything. I'm looking forward to giving it a good trial, and will try to objectively measure its effects after I feel that I've really adapted.

Lucid Dreaming

I've been having intense -- or intensely memorable -- dreams when taking naps. Not so much with core sleep; I wake up like I've been woken from the dead and have little memory of falling asleep or dreaming anything. I have to search my mind to remember when I slept and why I'm getting up. This was also typical of my monophasic sleep when I got less than 8 hours, so it seems to be about the same thing.

I often begin to dream as I'm falling asleep, which is something that was always typical of my naps and sleep entered into while being sleep-deprived or utmostly tired. I thought this was a sign of entering directly into REM sleep, but have learned that this might not be the case, as REM does not necessarily equal dreaming, and I may be experiencing hypnagogia. These do not seem to be the same as a traditional dream entered into with REM or NREM4 sleep, but they have a free-flowing dream-like quality.

During my morning nap today, I experienced one of the first lucid dreams I'd had in a while. I often had lucid dreams or dreamed of waking from a dream and doing things a few years ago, when I did free-running sleep at odd times and took afternoon and evening naps. With the dream this morning, I fell asleep very tired and already feeling half-asleep, and with the intention of having a lucid dream. I entered into a dream shortly thereafter, knew that I was dreaming, and was then able to control what I was seeing and feeling. I also remember feeling that I had control over my body and my ability to wake, as opposed to feeling sleep paralysis, so I made a conscious effort to not move too much or open my eyes or otherwise go down the path of accidentally waking. It worked quite well, and I woke up easily and was not startled when my alarm went off. I was still pretty tired and could have gone back to sleep, but I otherwise felt well.

I realize I'm blogging quite a bit. There are a couple of reasons for that: 1) I feel like I have a lot to record in new ideas and experiences and evaluations of those experiences, and I have a subject that lends itself to frequent, short records of this, 2) I hope that my experiences might be interesting or useful to others, especially my friend who is reading this blog and is also interested in polyphasic sleep (although cautioning me about experimenting with sleep in general), and 3) I find blogging to be very therapeutic when I'm feeling stressed, as I am lately. I also hope that I can accumulate this material into a useful record for myself, to monitor my progress and better keep track of what works, what doesn't, and my conclusions or questions about it all.


I've cut coffee out of my diet, which is something often recommended for people adapting to polyphasic. Using it is antithetical to taking naps; if you drink a cup of coffee, when nap time rolls around, you're either a) too wired to sleep, or b) so exhausted that you pass out and don't want to wake from the nap. Drinking coffee (or anything else with large doses of caffeine) causes peaks and valleys in your energy. I'd rather be more even in my energy level throughout the day, and not have any trouble taking a nap when I need it. Besides, naps are healthier and more refreshing than any stimulant. If I feel like I'm craving something to refresh me, a nap is the best thing. I'm also going to cut back on refined sugar, although I know I can't cut it out of my diet completely. I've been trying for a while to consume it sparingly, and I will continue to do so. If I have to eat something with a lot of carbs, I'll try to time eating it right after a nap. As I have my nap schedule now (5, 11, 5), I usually eat when I awaken from my nap.

I will, however, continue drinking tea of all sorts. I've found that tea does not cause spikes and lows in my energy level like coffee, soda, and energy drinks do. This makes sense, as most teas have about half of the caffeine. Also, tea is good without anything added to it, whereas sodas and energy drinks always have sugar or a disgusting-tasting artificial sweetener, and if I get coffee at a cafe, it usually has something in it, and truthfully, coffee is so acidic that it's not pleasant to drink much of it unless it has a little milk or sugar in it. Milk, while good for you, is not low-carb either, and consuming enough carbs of any type can cause the same energy spikes that refined sugar does. One of my friends claims that high-carb diets are why many cultures are biphasic -- you need an afternoon nap to recover from a lunch of rice or noodles. I don't think consuming such foods is bad, it is just important to be mindful of how it will affect one's energy level. Also, I'm going to, in the future, continue having an occasional cup of coffee as a treat, but I'm just not going to keep a daily habit of drinking it. I'm especially not having it when I'm trying to work -- it makes me way too jittery, and then exhausted afterward.

Anyway, tying this in to my experiment, I've had no problems cutting out the coffee, and I think it probably contributed to my success in napping and waking up refreshed yesterday. Also, yesterday morning, I had some chamomile tea about an hour before my mid-day nap. Perhaps that was helpful in allowing me to be relaxed enough to sleep in public.

On Stress

I want to start out by thanking my only reader for all of the helpful suggestions so far. The encouragement in doing what I want to do is very appreciated.

I got a reminder last night of my most important goal in this experiment: reducing stress.

I watched PBS with someone a little last night, and they had a program on about studying stress and its effects on humans and baboons. Very interesting program. One conclusion seemed to be that stress was cultural, as baboon troops existed that had very reduced stress because they did not have a competitive culture. But the most important conclusion: stress causes or contributes to just about all illnesses, and it is deadly.

A little bit of stress can be helpful, even enjoyable, but chronic, worrying stress is extremely harmful, and that can't be overstated. So, how do I reduce stress in my life? I've found that a lot of it has to do with attitude. I don't know what a good term for this phenomenon is, but if you make a conscious effort to believe something, sometimes it works out that way. I try to have the attitude that what I'm doing isn't a life-or-death situation and I don't have to be stressed about it, and things will often work out better that way. I'm less likely to procrastinate, make mistakes, etc. if I'm not stressed about what I'm doing.

Other than that, I don't really know how to reduce stress. I try not to attempt more than I can, but often end up doing this due to circumstances anyway, or because the stress of not being able to do what I want to is greater than the stress of already being overwhelmed with stuff I have to do. I try to avoid bringing in clutter and baggage and new stuff to handle, to attempt to prevent stress. I try not to put myself in situations that I feel like could lead to stressful outcomes, such as hanging out with drama-llamas. And above all, trying to consciously practice an easy-going attitude seems to help and really make things go easier.

Monophasic sleep was a big source of stress for me, because I wasn't regularly getting rested with it, I wasn't finding the time to do it, and so on. All things I've talked about in my "background" blogs. So, trying polyphasic sleep, although it may result in the short-term stress of sleep-deprivation (something I'd likely experienced anyway), was an attempt to cope with long-term stress. Perhaps that, and the fact of how deadly stress is, is more important to focus on than whether or not anyone has scientifically proven that polyphasic sleep is healthy. For me, in my circumstances, it might well be.

Sleeping update: I'm thinking of going back to regularly spaced short-naps, because I'm not feeling the "Everyman." The core sleep is very hard to wake up from, and when I awake, I'm often so sleepy that I don't care about anything and just want to go back to sleep. Last night, I woke up from my core, and took another long nap an hour later. That made me wake up feeling pretty bad about myself, as I had intended to use the time to study. One piece of advice I'm going to follow tonight is to not sleep in my bed. I will sleep in the dark, but just not in my bed. I'd rather get more out of my rest by being more comfortable while resting, but I'll accept that, until I get used to a polyphasic schedule, I'll get tired and wish to sleep too long if I use my bed.

Now to try to make up that time I missed and see if I can get everything done today & tonight. And try not to be stressed about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Adventures in Napping

I had a much better time napping today.

I was rather tired after my long core sleep this morning (from about 2 AM to when I dragged myself out of bed around 7), and looked forward to attempting my midday nap. I remembered to bring a blanket with me, and intended to try sleeping in my car. It was cloudy, though still hot, but I wanted to give sleeping in the car another go anyway. I had previously attempted sleeping in the backseat of the car sans pillow or blanket. I rolled up some coats and a winter scarf that I always leave in the car to make a sort of pillow, but it was just too bright for me to really drift off, so I used a black shawl that was also there to try to cover up with. This did not work well at all, as it increased the temperature, and I couldn't find a way to put it over my face without feeling stuffy. I couldn't just blindfold myself with it like I sometimes do with one of my lighter scarves. Also, I felt kind of like someone might look in the window at me. I can't say exactly why this bothers me, but it does.

So, today, I decided to try to find a more secluded parking spot, and my intention was to set up a blanket fort in the back seat to partially block the light and any people that I imagined might be trying to spy on that poor student napping in the car. When I arrived at my usual parking lot, all of the more secluded spots were gone, and I was forced to choose between driving to another parking lot and having a long walk back to my building, or parallel parking by the sidewalk. I decided I'd either disregard my paranoia or find other parking arrangements when it came time ot nap, and I opted to practice my rarely-needed parallel parking skills, and left my good work there to be admired while I went in to class. When I came back, a good spot had opened up in an area where fewer people parked, and so I hastily moved there, cracked the windows to try to catch a breeze, draped my blanket across the backseat, and climbed under to try to nap.

Now, I don't know if my blanket fort is less conspicuous than simply napping in the seat -- it might cause more curiosity for it's unconvential nature, and people wondering what's under there, rather than being able to immediately see that, oh, it's just someone sleeping. However, it did do the trick of giving me a feeling of privacy and blocking some of the light, while not suffocating me or making it unbearably hot. My blanket didn't block all of the light, probably because it was thin and light blue, but I hope that it at least reflected some of the heat. Another color might be more light-absorbing, but it'd also be heat absorbing. After I was able to quiet down my brain a bit, I had a brief, light sleep, in which I actually dreamed (and woke myself up in the process by dreaming that I was in bed and oversleeping). After that, I began to feel more hot and found that I probably wasn't going to go back to sleep easily. I decided to head inside and try another napping spot I had spied previously, but which seemed too good to work.

There's a classroom which has a couch in it, much to the displeasure of some professors, as students will go to sleep during class on it. Now, this room is usually occupied all day long, but I've noticed that there don't seem to be as many classes scheduled for it this term. I had been kind of keeping my eye on it to see when it was free, and it seems to be during the time that I'd take my midday nap, and possibly later in the day as well. I have actually laid down on this couch before, when I was really desperate for some rest. It's a good spot to rest, as it's just private enough. The only problem I had with it (aside from the potential embarassment of having someone come in and wake me up mid-nap) is that the couch is really, really old and worn. It doesn't look dirty, but in a building full of American students, you know it is. Why? They put their feet up on everything. When I came into class this morning, there was a guy who had his feet up on the armrest of the chair next to him. This bothers me not only because it's dirty, but because it's disrespectful -- not to the object itself, but to the people who use the object. If you don't show any concern for the cleanliness of objects that others use, you are indirectly showing no concern for the people who depend on using those objects. I don't know, maybe these kids have never thought about it, or maybe they treat their own stuff like this at home. I've seen people doing stuff like jumping on their couch or sleeping in their bed with their shoes on in sitcoms and reality shows, but I thought this was just people acting abnormal in front of a camera, not wanting to take the time to take their shoes off, whatever. Who knows, maybe they really do act like that all the time. I think that's crazy, though.

Anyway, my only real reservation about the couch was that I knew it'd probably be dirty. However, I tried to get comfortable sitting up on it, and succeeded in doing so, to finish out the duration of my nap. It was rather nice, and I intend to nap there again, I think. But I might bring my scarf with me to rest my head on, just to ease my concerns about hidden dirt and mold in the couch's fabric. The room itself was very peaceful, convenient, and perfect for a nap. It probably won't be available every time I want a nap, but maybe I can use it most days.

I also discovered that I like waking up to my cellphone's alarm much better than my alarm at home. I really like my alarm clock for it's non-alarm features, and the multitude of alarms I can set on it. However, the alarm sound is really grating, it's loud (with no volume control), and I've come to dread it to the point where I've occasionally had trouble settling down for a short nap with it. I hadn't used my cellphone's alarm much before, but I discovered that I can set some rather pleasant chirps on it that are just disturbing enough to wake me, and I can set the volume at anything from very soft to overly loud. I should probably start using this as my alarm at home. It would solve the problem of worrying about whether my alarm wakes anyone else up, as well. I don't think my alarm clock is loud enough to wake up someone asleep in another bedroom, but you can hear it from outside my room, so maybe someone could hear it in the still of night. Anyway, I'll give the cellphone a try for a while, and see if I can continue to avoid that dread-reflex that other alarms give me.

Oh, I also felt very refreshed after my short naps today, and wasn't fatigued during the afternoon. I was in a good mood and had no trouble with staying alert and working for most of the rest of the day. Not at all how I felt after my core sleep. Although I feel like the idea of a core sleep is good for health reasons, as it provides an abundant time in which to experience the benefits of multiple phases of sleep, it is really, really hard for me to wake up from a long nap/short core sleep. I'm debating whether I should continue trying to work with it and give it a fair trial, or if I should try all short naps again. I do think less than 1 hour is my optimal nap time. But if I lived off of naps alone, I'd probably be dogged by worries about whether I'm getting enough sleep. I guess this is a dilemma I won't solve until I figure out which is worse, over- or under-sleeping.


I still have trouble making myself just go to sleep at night.

What's happened for the last few days is that I will delay going for my core sleep, and end up combining it with the pre-dawn nap. As a result, I'm not getting evenly-spaced rest, and I'm still not learning good napping habits. I'm just having my typical "fail at monophasic" type sleep. What's even odder is that, even with going to bed so late and so tired, I could not fall asleep for more than a half hour. Maybe this is attributable to the bad mood I was in earlier over the amount of work that I have to finish this month. I was gung-ho to get something done, as well, but I came to the point where I was too tired to continue and just needed to rest.

I suppose it's a result of old habits. I want to stay up late and work. Part of the reason for trying polyphasic was so that I could both enjoy staying up late and getting up early, and refresh myself and get some needed breaks during the day, rather than fighting constant tiredness.

If I can make myself stick to any sort of schedule, things will be much better for me. The consistency of rest is something that I need to make long periods of work easier and more productive. So what is my aversion to schedules?

Basically, although I'm feeling tired during the day, I'm not feeling tired at night, not until well after midnight. That's about when I'd feel tired when I was doing monophasic. So, I'm still not over that yet. I don't know whether the solution to resetting my schedule is to stay up and make myself tired and then start taking naps (a way that some choose for adjusting) or start out forcing myself to sleep and wake at the scheduled times until I begin to fall asleep at those times. I had hoped to do the latter, and I'm going to keep trying until I can conclusively say whether or not my schedule will work for me.

It looks like it's going to be a nice, rainy day today, so I'm going to try taking a mid-day nap in my car to take advantage of the cool weather. I've yet to find a spot that's both secluded and comfortable for sleeping indoors.

Nights & Days

One thing that those adhereing to polyphasic sleep often mention is that days seem to blend together when there is no void of sleep to separate one night from the next day. This does seem to be a real -- and interesting -- effect. So, this brought up a question for me: if I became polyphasic, would I still stick to my system of defining nights and days?

My system isn't really revolutionary, it merely addresses what I see as a flaw in our current technical definition of when a day begins. I think this flaw results from the fact that most people aren't awake in the hours after midnight, so they don't give much thought to what they're called.

To me, it simply doesn't feel right that days begin in the middle of the night. It seems to me that mornings, and days, begin at the time that a new day dawns. This might seem like I'm just playing with semantics, but semantics are important. People live and die by semantics. I know basically why it is said that days begin at midnight. This is the time that is typically used to symbolize when the Sun is at the nadir, with noon being the zenith. So, the idea is that a new day begins at the darkest point of the night, just as a new year begins in winter. I can understand that, but this way of thinking has issues.

In addition to this midnight transition just not feeling right, it brings up problems of description. Basically, my gripe is this: if a day begins at midnight, then are those hours after midnight morning or night, and of what day? It just doesn't seem right to call them morning, because morning is associated with dawn and daylight. But if I call them night, this is problematic as well. For example, let's say I told a friend that I had a dream Saturday night. Technically, if Saturday begins at 12 AM, then if I had a dream at 3 AM on Saturday, this would be Saturday night. Yet, in natural language, we would typically describe that as Friday night, and if I said I had a dream Saturday night, someone would be more likely to think it occured at 11 PM Saturday or even 3 AM Sunday. With our current system of defining things, unless the hours between 12 AM and dawn on Saturday would be called Saturday morning, then Saturday night is split in two parts, the hours before dawn and after sunset on that day.

My proposed solution to this problem was that, just as noon and midnight represent the approximate zenith and nadir of the sun, we set the times of 6 PM and 6 AM to represent the average time of sunset and sunrise, and say that one night begins at 6 PM and the following day begins at 6 AM. I have support for this way of thinking: days begin at 6 AM in Groundhog's Day and Majora's Mask. Do you need more evidence than that?

Anyway, I've been pondering if I feel any different about the feeling of when days begin now that I'm regularly awake during those questionable post-midnight hours that seem to be in time limbo. I'm definitely feeling how days seem to be less distinct from each other, and not having any problem with that. I feel like there's less of a disruption and void in the flow of time, although I wouldn't say that days seem to blend together. However, it wasn't just waking up at or after dawn that made me feel like the day begins then. I still stand by my conviction that it's not natural to begin a day in the middle of the night.

Monday, September 21, 2009


My last few posts have been all about my thinking and nothing yet about the actual experiment. That's common in my writing. I tend to focus on ideas before events, and quickly get tired of writing just about events. This project has consistently held my interest, though, and I want to see it through.

Anyway, after I found out about polyphasic sleep, I spent my free time for the next several days reading about it. I really, really wanted to try it, but I felt that it was necessary to study it first and figure out what -- if anything -- was wise to do. I definitely wanted a change over the depression and sleep deprivation I was experiencing, which I felt like stemmed from my lack of a consistent sleep schedule and the stressful work that was both taking time away from sleep and making what sleep time I had uneasy.

Last Monday, around the time it was transitioning to Tuesday, September 15th, I decided I was going to have to stay up late to finish a project I was working on. I wanted to sleep, but knew that I couldn't really take the time -- and this is when I decide that circumstances had presented an opportunity in which I could either suffer through my usual sleep-deprivation or give Uberman (6 x 20 minute naps) a try. And so I went for it, deciding if ever there was a time to start the experiment, this was it. I had been contemplating it over the weekend and had a burning desire to try it, and now I knew that if it worked, I needed it.

From my previous experiences with having to wake myself up during the night, I knew I had trouble actually waking during the night. I have a tendency to sleep through almost anything during the hours between midnight and six, if I'm tired enough. And I was. From my previous experiences, I knew the only sure way to cause myself to actually wake up during the night, as opposed to simply turning off the alarm in my sleep, was to keep the room well-lit, and sleep with my eyes covered. The idea was that I would be able to sleep lightly with the brightness mostly blocked from my vision, but once I woke up and removed the blindfold, the ambient light would help me awaken. In this way, I was able to not miss my alarm, although I still had trouble wanting to stay awake. This is my biggest struggle with sleep-deprivation: once I get to sleep, I do not want to be awakened for anything, especially something unpleasant, like finishing a really dreary and taxing project. When I wake up in that sleepy state, I have trouble convincing myself to get up. The light helps with that a bit, as nothing is so depressing to my sleep-deprived mind as waking up in the dark.

I discovered the helpfulness of light in waking incidentally, as I occasionally fall asleep while reading in a relaxed position. I will naturally wake up no more than three hours later if I fall asleep with the light on, usually. So I began to figure out that this was a necessity if I absolutely had to get myself up during the night. However, on successive nights where I considered employing this tactic to help me with Uberman, I felt uneasy about doing it, as I remembered that my father used to remind me why it was important to sleep at night.

The reasons why it's necessary to sleep at night and why I find it hardest to awaken at this time are the same: melatonin. And this was my biggest concern with attempting the Uberman schedule, or anything else other than monophasic. Melatonin is what makes one tired, and the onset of darkness is what produces it in the greatest abundance, apparently, which is why it is sometimes most difficult for me to awake at night. If anything is evidence for why people must sleep at night, this is it. The production of melatonin is necessary to the hormonal system. Lack of melatonin may be what worsens my depressed states. It's also believed to be helpful in general physical well-being, and to perhaps prevent certain forms of cancer that may be hormonally related.

So, this has been my greatest difficulty and concern in modifying my sleep schedule. But if I can't get enough monophasic sleep at night anyway, due to either time constraints or being unable tos leep, sleep during the day or with a light on is better than no sleep.

I found that, as is normal for most people, I wasn't able to get much sleep with Uberman. It became apparent that it was going to take several days to adjust. Meanwhile, I wasn't sure that I wanted to miss the sleep. I only got very light sleep with my naps on Tuesday, and that night, I was sick with food poisoning. I decided, when I found it difficult to get up from my 8 o'clock nap, to let myself have some free-running sleep in order to help me feel better, or at least be knocked out and not in pain. I slept from about 9 PM until early the next morning. I went on trying 30-minute naps every 4 hours (I decided on 30 minutes because I was hardly falling asleep with 20), and succeeded in at least falling asleep with my naps during the day on Wednesday, but again was left with the dilemma of whether to sleep with a light on or have a very difficult late night.

After doing some reading, I found that most people experience a sleep cycle of about 90 minutes. Earlier, my best friend had suggested to me that, because of my school schedule, I try sleeping every 6 hours for an hour, rather than doing the 6x20 plan. I liked the idea that I would have more time to fall asleep, have more flexbility on naps, and perhaps get more total sleep while still sleeping only 4 hours a day. I decided to try starting out with four naps of 60-90 minutes, depending on how tired I was/what time constraints I have. I barely have time for a 90 minute nap during my lunch break, and 60 minutes might be a more realistic goal for that one. From my previous experience with napping, I believed it was true that there was an optimal nap period in which one could get enough rest to feel refreshed, but not sleep so long that they entered a longer monophasic-like cycle. I believed this optimal nap time seemed to be less than 2 hours, so 60-90 minutes seemed about right.

With embarking upon trying Uberman, I realized that it wasn't really a good time in my life to be sleep-deprived, the highs one gets from being sleep-deprived aside. So, I liked the idea of trying to slowly transition into being polyphasic by starting out with longer naps. Perhaps my thinking on this is completely wrong-headed, but I figured that, if I was suited for being polyphasic at all, it would be easier to find that out by starting with longer, more comfortable naps, and then perhaps trying to cut down on the time spent napping in the future. Others advocate that, if you are going to do 120 minutes of sleep today, the only way to do it is to jump right in. Perhaps that's so, but I'd like to try this more appealing schedule first. I don't like the idea of a strict schedule, and it would be very difficult for me this semester, since I spend a good deal of my day in class, only getting a significant break at lunch.

Anyway, after trying this for a while, and finding that I'm still having a hard time becoming fully-alert at night, especially when sleeping in the dark, and with my added concern of not getting enough sleep during the dark hours, I'm considering trying a core sleep and three naps instead. The schedule I originally outlined for myself was to sleep 60-90 minutes at 11, 5, 11, 5 (except on some days when I have to skip the 5 PM). I'm now thinking that, to assure I have enough sleep at night, and to avoid the difficulty of getting myself up when it's hardest, I should try something more along the lines of having a core sleep from 11PM - 2 AM, and then having one hour naps at 5 AM, 11 AM, and 5 PM. I don't know yet if 2 AM is the optimal time to wake up, but I like the idea of having my 5 AM nap also be in the dark, and still awakening at 6 AM, leaving me a couple of hours to get organized before classes start.

Anyway, this is the current state of my experiment. I wish to give it a fair try before assessing it further, but it sounds workable. I'd be getting about 6 hours of sleep a day, and having naps begin at regular 6 hour intervals on most days. It sounds feasible, as I've gotten by for days at a time on less sleep. But my tolerance for sleep-deprivation may make it difficult for me to judge how well I feel on it until I've been doing it for a while. I'm not cutting back on my sleep much, but I probably can't, unless I have more time for guaranteed naps. As it is, I'm still not sure I'm getting much sleep during naps, but it will probably take a while to become accustomed to having a nap schedule at all. If the premise of polyphasic sleep works, I should soon start getting to the point where I get more out of my naps. At least I can now rest easier with the assurance that I will get some sleep. If nothing else, what I want to get out of this is the ability to nap well and refresh myself so that I no longer have sleepless days after I'm unable to get a full night's rest.

With all of that explained and a trial schedule finally settled, I'll try to start doing day-by-day updates of how I'm getting along with it, and what advantages, if any, I'm gleaning.

Why Change What Works?

So, monophasic sleeping works. Why try something different, then?

For the reason that most experiments are done: to either find a better way, or confirm that there isn't a better way.

What reasons do I have to suspect that there may be a better -- or at least alternate -- way of getting in my daily sleep? The idea that one can receive more benefit from sleep that's taken when needed in the amounts needed seems logically sound. If sleep works like eating, or ingesting your daily vitamins/nutrition, then it is better to do it in the smallest necessary dose, and only when necessary. Indeed, many processes related to daily maintenance of health seem to work this way. There is some evidence that sleep is no different, which I can anecdotally back up: if you miss a night of sleep, you don't have to sleep 16 hours the next night to feel rested. I typically don't sleep more than 12 hours after missing one night of sleep. In fact, I can be sleep-deprived for several days, and then sleep my typical 9 hours one night and wake up feeling completely rejuvenated. Sleep isn't something stored (as those who feel tired the afternoon after a night of monophasic sleeping know), and it isn't something which one has to take more of to satisfy a deficit. Just having some sleep when tired is enough to make one alert, and to apparently take advantage of its health benefits.

Additionally, I want to seek something that may suit me better than attempting to be monophasic. There are a myriad of reasons why I am dissatisfied with being monophasic, and often have difficulty adhering to a monophasic schedule. These are:

1) It is a major disruption to the flow of what I am doing. This is something which I talked about in my first post. I do not seem to be mentally geared for quitting what I am doing and going to bed at a certain time with the intention to stay there for the 9+ hours which it takes me to feel well-rested on a monophasic schedule. I usually only go to bed when I am exhausted and can no longer function, which is often late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Perhaps the solution to this would be to attempt to change my attitude toward work/sleep and follow advice on trying to wind down my activities and get into a relaxed mood before a scheduled bedtime, to facilitate the transition to sleep. This is something which I've attempted in the past with limited success. If being monophasic is necessary, this is what I should do. But I often do not like it. I've attempted to approach monophasic sleep with the idea in mind that the recharging of energy is as important as the expenditure of energy, that having some downtime in the evening is good for my mental health as well as necessary to help me sleep on a schedule. However, I found this difficult to adhere to, especially with the extended periods of mental activity that are necessary for going to school, and it is difficult for me even when I'm just amusing myself during my days off. The stress I feel from my demanding schedule makes it difficult for me to relax at all, so that I end up in a state where trying to force myself to relax makes me more stressed. I become frustrated with my inability to relax and sleep at night, I feel like I am failing at maintaining my health, and become more frustrated and depressed in turn. In short, what I've been doing in this area has not worked so far. This is why I seek alternatives. If polyphasic fails to work for me long-term, then I will be forced to try the relaxation followed by scheduled monophasic sleep route again.

2) Sleeping for short periods of time is not only less disruptive to my flow of work, it also takes full advantage of required rest periods. Many articles on the importance of sleep highlight how sleep is necessary to the functioning of the short and long term memory, and how sleeping improves mental and physical performance in general. This gives me an idea: taking breaks from work is necessary anyway, as one's performance degrades over time. The suggested breaks are usually something like 15 minutes per every 90 to 120 minutes of work. So, why not take those breaks as sleep breaks? This seems like it would be a novel way to fully utilize both required sleep and required break periods.

3) Most patterns of polyphasic sleep promise extra time due to requiring less sleep when it is taken throughout the day rather than in one long period. The benefit of this is obvious. Despite all the warnings of some polyphasic sleep articles that having the extra time can be boring or prolonging your working hours can even be maddening, I haven't found this to be the case. If I actually do run out of things to do with that extra time, it would at least allow me the luxury to take my time with the work that I am already doing. I don't see any disadvantages to this. However, it may just be the case that one can only comfortably work so many hours in a day, and prolonging those hours is unhealthy, sleep or no sleep. It could be the case that humans need 8+ hours of sleep simply because it provides a needed mental respite from reality and demanding activity. I don't know, and haven't really seen someone else address this matter. I suppose the only way to find out is to try it and see what my own state of mind is.

4) Taking naps can divide up a monotonous day in which one might otherwise be daunted by the prospect of 16+ solid hours of activity. Sometimes, a job is easier to do if it is taken in chunks. Now, although I sometimes hate giving up what I'm doing and going to sleep before it is finished, I don't hate sleep itself. I often enjoy my sleep and look forward to it. So, getting to enjoy it throughout the day may be more motivational than the idea of waking up in the morning with the knowledge that sleep is going to be at least 16 hours away, assuming I meet all of my deadlines for the day and don't have to be up through the night.

These are the major reasons, and enough for now. Later, I'll finally delve into my attempts, advantages I've actually experienced, sleep-deprivation, and difficulties and concerns.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Background Continued

As I attempted to research sleep patterns that night, I came across the first mention of Uberman and Everyman that I'd seen. These were mentioned on a website (that shall not be named to protect the guilty) where someone attempts to refute the possibility of polyphasic sleep without really giving any scientific evidence explaining why it's not possible, and also by using some ad hominem attacks against other bloggers who wrote about their failed experiments to transition to a new sleep pattern.

The lack of scientific evidence given in defense of the 8-hour nightly sleep model is common. Those who make these laxidasical arguments often don't directly argue against polyphasic sleep models and don't even seem to realize what they're doing. Instead, what they commonly argue is that sleep deprivation is bad. Well, of course, but no one is proposing that one follow Uberman in order to become sleep deprived; the idea is that one can get by with less sleep if that sleep is taken in little snacks instead of as one big meal. Although the metaphor may not hold here, this is the best way I have come up with for describing the difference between monophasic and polyphasic sleep. I think of sleep as being like eating. It is possible to comfortably live on one large meal a day, provided that this meal is large enough; however, it is not necessary, and one can get by with eating less if one eats more frequently and only when one is hungry. If you try to eat just one meal and make it last the entire day for you, you may end up eating more than you need.

Back to common arguments I've found against polyphasic sleep: they seem to make the assumption that one is choosing between two alternatives, either getting 8+ hours of sleep at night, or being sleep deprived. These arguments don't seem to consider whether it's possible to survive on naps, and indeed, this could be because there is so little research on this subject. Most sleep studies I've read about set about proving that one cannot live without sleep or that sleep deprivation is bad or that one will suffer the effects of sleep deprivation if one sleeps monophasically for less than 6 hours a night. The subject of alternative sleep patterns is hardly broached at all, and most seem to assume that there is no viable alternative.

In fact, one report aired on Sixty Minutes that I've seen referenced a lot, and which I just recently re-watched, starts out making the logical fallacy that 8-hour monophasic sleep is necessary because we do it. I'm not kidding; a sleep researcher went on national television and said that something is necessary because we did it. Now, a statement like that might be acceptable if one were talking about the philosophy of Fatalism, but this sort of argument is not something that one wants to be making in the field of empirical science. Of course, he's not alone. My biggest gripe with contemporary evolutionary theory is that it often seems to rely upon such arguments, in short saying that because we can use X for Y purpose, then X necessarily evolved to serve this purpose. One can talk about something serving a function in evolutionary theory, but unless one is arguing for some kind of deist evolution, where one believes that we evolved according to some sort of plan, there shouldn't be any talk of purpose or necessarily evolving one way or another in evolutionary theory. Belief in atheistic evolution is predicated upon the idea that we evolved from chaos and without design or purpose, so anything that we evolved could just as well be incidental and indifferent or even dysfunctional as it could be functional. To assume that something evolved in the best possible way or to serve a certain purpose is a very wrong-headed way to approach evolution, but this is what many people seem to do. They work backwards by looking at what function something serves in our lives, and then speculating about what factors could have caused it to evolve to serve this function. The assumption is that this function is necessary or good and that we must have evolved to be just this way, when a more plausible truth would be that X evolved incidentally and we adapted it to function Y, or created function Y in order to use X. Humans walk because they have feet; they don't have feet because they walk. This is a distinction which I think is important and which I often see others failing to make. This is purely speculation on my part, but I believe many people are adapting the idea of evolution to the framework which creationism used, and failing to notice that they are doing so. Basically, they are replacing the role of God in creationism with the word evolution. Creationism makes statements like, "We were created with feet so that we could walk;" some evolutionists say things like, "We evolved with feet so that we could walk," not realizing that they are just taking the old framework and inserting a new word.

Anyway, I am critiquing the application of evolutionary theory here, and not the theory itself. I don't really believe one theory is better than another, as any theory about the origin of life seems to be impossible to prove or disprove under our current understanding of the universe. It is just as well to me to say that we were created by a being we can't possess knowledge of as to say we appeared by way of a process we don't possess knowledge of. In the olden days, people kind of explained things they didn't understand by attributing it to the gods anyway. I'm only pointing out that there is a logical fallacy in saying that we appeared incidentally and without design while at the same time saying that we evolved a certain way for a certain purpose. Besides, any speculation on how we evolved and why is merely speculation.

Back to sleep research: The report which I watched starts out with a very encouraging twist of logic in which some scientist (I assume he's a scientist, but evolution help us if he is), says that 8-hour periods of nightly sleep must serve some important purpose, because being unconscious for that period of time at night puts us in a very vulnerable position. Well, this is true that it does makes us very vulnerable, but saying that we do it does not prove that is necessary, nor does it explain why we do it. And the question of the necessity of this sleep pattern is not addressed. He goes on to simply say that, 1) sleep is necessary, 2) sleep deprivation is bad, 3) we function better on adequate sleep, as opposed to undersleeping, and 4) sleeping for 8-hours nightly works. The report does not delve into whether this sleep pattern is instinctual or necessary. It doesn't even appear to consider the question of whether frequent, short periods of sleep are better than long, monophasic periods of sleep. But such reports of this seem to be held up as proper proof that polyphasic sleep is wrong, when the matter isn't even directly addressed.

As far as I know, the 8-hour monophasic sleep is simply a cultural convention. Although I've not yet found anything academic on this matter, I've heard people say that the conventional way we sleep is nothing more than convention, and there have existed cultures that did things differently. The gist of the theory is that it became ingrained in our culture to sleep 8 hours during the darkest period of the night in order to make the most of daylight work hours and to be able to work long shifts without a nap break. In short, it's like eating a huge breakfast so that you don't have to eat the rest of the day. Because we are trained from infants to adapt to monophasic sleep, and our whole culture functions on this style of sleeping, it's something that is ingrained in us -- but not necessary.

Even if we evolved to sleep a certain way and it's instinctual, this does not mean that it must be so. I can imagine reasons why we might incidentally evolve to sleep this way. In the days before electric light and 24-hour stores, there was really little advantage to staying up and working during the night. It was a time to socialize and rest, because you couldn't really do anything else. And, when your alternatives are trying to work by candle-light or rest, it makes sense to aggregate all of your resting time into one monophasic period that fills the darkest hours of night. Again, this would allow you to wake at dawn and take the best advantage of daylight hours, working through them without any sleep. But this does not mean we must be this way today, unless there's just some mechanism in humans which causes them to suffer and die if they deviate from the schedule sleeping 8 hours in the dark of night, sort of like how a Vulcan will die if he doesn't return home on a regular basis. And claims that we have to sleep a certain way or else seem just as odd as that. I've been looking for research that proves this, and I'm not finding it. All I'm finding is that sleep deprivation is bad for you -- but proponents of alternative sleep patterns claim that they aren't sleep deprived, and that there are ways to function well, perhaps better, without one long chunk of sleep.

For the reasons outlined above, I'm willing to believe that their claim is plausible, unless I see evidence otherwise. I will continue to search for it, but right now, I'm willing to conduct my own experiments in sleep, because I'm convinced that there's at least a strong possibility that I can change my schedule without suffering serious consequences. Because sleep seems to be an individual and subjective thing, this may be the only way to find out what works for me and what doesn't. So, here is the frame of mind I'm in as I've been conducting my experiment. Next time, I'll write more about the beginnings of my experiment, and my current schedule.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

First Post, Wherein Xialuote Gives Some Background to the Blog

I've been experimenting with sleep patterns for a few days now.

Last Thursday (or would you say the Thursday before last? I'm always confused by these terms), after yet another night of attempting to stay up to complete an assignment, followed by a day of sleep deprived haze, I was attempting to find some amusements before bed, because I was basically too tired to sleep. This is a state I've found myself in many times before. After a day of fighting to stay alert, fueled by the adrenaline rush of meeting a deadline at the last minute, I was feeling wired that night. When I'm sleep deprived, it's like being high and hyper. I get to a point where I know I'm dead-tired, but I feel great anyway. I don't want to sleep.

I was hunting on YouTube for something to watch to try to calm down before sleep. I'd lately been looking for episodes of Pete & Pete (one of the best shows ever), and I came across the "Nightcrawlers" episode, which is about younger Pete's attempt to stay up for 11 days straight. Fun episode. Anyway, while watching it, I glanced through the comments, and came across a thread wherein a few folks were discussing sleep habits. One mentioned something about the famous rumors that Einstein had an odd sleeping pattern wherein he worked for a few hours and slept for a few, rather than being monophasic. Now, this wasn't my first time hearing something like this. Occasionally, such rumors crop up, but they never seem to be substantiated. I vaguely remember the episode of Seinfeld wherein Kramer attempts to follow a plan of taking short naps every few hours, because some historical figure was said to do it. And he failed. Such claims that someone actually did this always seem to be unsubstantiated, and short attempts to duplicate them fail when someone gets tired and gives up after a day or two, declaring that there's no benefit to this sleep pattern, because they were tired after trying it for a while. Obviously, it goes against everything that's natural, right?

At this mention of the idea this night, however, my curiosity was engaged. I began pondering the possibility of alternate sleep patterns with more than passing interest. I thought about the implications for my own life, should such a pattern be possible. I suppose it took considering this idea in the frame of mind I was in to really catch my attention. Throughout my teenage years, I had done a very loose and inconsistent free-running sleep. I slept when I felt like it and for as long as I liked. Sleep was a nice pastime when I was tired and had nothing else to do, and I often looked forward to it. I slept all night if I felt like it, I slept from morning to night if I felt like it, I napped when I was tired. I slept on my bed, on my couch, on my closet floor, on the floor in front of the TV. I just basically did whatever felt right at the time, and got up when I either had something to do or no longer felt tired. The idea that I could get more out of sleep or have a more practical application of it wasn't a concern.

However, when I began a busy schedule at college, sleep deprivation was no longer a novelty. It was a real concern for my health. I began having fits of depression as a result of both being sleep deprived and not having time to do the non-school-work activities that I wanted to do. Nothing sucks like trying to be monophasic and either not having the time or failing to fall asleep due to stress. And I never got used to having to quit what I was doing for the night and go sleep for 9-10 hours (about the time I have to sleep in order to feel well-rested with monophasic sleep, especially when I'm sleep-deprived and not on a regular schedule). I often couldn't make myself do it, and ended up staying up too late trying to cram in a few hours of Stuff I Wanted To Do and then getting a short and crappy sleep that left me feeling tired and depressed. It was really irritating to think about how I'd have to stop in the middle of what I was doing and go sleep for 9 hours and then wake up in a totally different state of mind.

I had gone through whole months where I was very sleep-deprived and extremely unhappy about it. It hadn't occurred to me during that time that there was some alternative to sleeping at night that could work, and as a result, I had many days where I stayed up most of the night and day while trying to complete some project. It left me feeling horrible about everything, especially my failure to have a regular, healthy sleep schedule. I felt like I was killing myself because I was either too stressed or too busy to get in a solid 8 hours of sleep. I tried different things to try to do it, but even if I cut out extra-curricular activities, I still could barely finish what I wanted to in a day and then have time to relax and hibernate for 8-9 hours. I felt like a miserable failure and didn't understand why others could do it but I couldn't.

There are a myriad of reasons why, at that moment and ever since, something -- anything -- other than trying to be monophasic and failing looked appealing. And I finally decided to investigate and try to get some conclusive information on whether or not anyone had successfully slept polyphasically (a term I'd soon learn) for any period of time and whether it could work for me. My journey began here.

To be continued in tomorrow's post.