Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 0: Happy New Year

Although I've been working on my new adaptation for about 9 days now, I'm going to call this day zero, because I think I've finalized my (flexible) schedule for the coming term, and my napping went very well today, about as well as I could expect. I feel like I'm firmly on the road to adaptation now. Also, it will be easy to keep track of my days with having January 1st be day one.

Last night, I didn't feel like going to sleep until about 23:30. I went to bed, focusing on my 1:00 awakening... and possibly as a result of this anticipation, I didn't fall asleep until most of my 90 minute duration was over. I had just barely drifted off and don't think I'd hit REM before the alarm went off. I got up alert, but still feeling like I hadn't slept as a result. I decided that I would just go back to bed so that I could perhaps be well rested for my new waking time of 5 am, and also because I would be late napping today due to being busy during the afternoon, and late with napping tonight, due to it being new year's eve. So, I went back to sleep shortly thereafter and got almost 4 hours of restful sleep, waking up at 5 am as I wished. I felt good upon awakening, better than I expected. I spent some time thinking about my sleeping schedule after waking up, and decided that I am satisfied with it. If I continue to feel as well rested for the coming days, I will definitely be sticking with this. I think having the two nap times close together during the night makes it easy to change them into one sleeping period on days like this when I either get to bed late or won't be able to nap during the day. For example, I have a day trip coming up in the near future. For that, I will probably just plan on trying to get 4.5 hours of sleep the night before, and then take my next nap whenever I get home. I don't want to interrupt the trip to take a nap unless I just really need the rest for the drive back. If I start to get drowsy, I can enjoy some ice-cold caffeine and see if that wakes me up.

I decided to (on upcoming days, not today) aim for a 21:30 naptime for the evening. With naps at 3:30, 11:30, and 21:30, that means I have 6.5 hours, 8.5 hours, and 4.5 hours of waking time between naps. Not equidistant, but not bad, and I should be able to easily move them an hour either way if this ends up not feeling right or being inconvenient. I feel that I have plenty of afternoon and evening hours in there, which was my goal. I want to keep this flexible, yet I know that even with that aim and my other measures to try to make this schedule as customized and easy and natural as possible (such as trying to adopt the 80 minute naptime that my system seems to favor), my ability to sleep well in the future will benefit from trying to have some rigor in it as I am trying to learn a new way to sleep. I am being mindful of one of my original pursuits in polyphasic sleeping, that of training myself to sleep more efficiently by getting a certain amount of rest each day, and resting before I become exhausted. I want to break the cycle that I sometimes fell into of not sleeping some days and then wanting to crash on others, and sometimes having groggy days just because of only sleeping when I was very tired. I don't expect to make myself be able to sleep on a strict schedule, but I think trying to train myself to wake at certain times on days when nothing interferes with this will benefit me in the future. I realize that it is best to at least try to sleep before you get overly tired. At least with 90 minute nap times, if I don't fall asleep during them, I can meditate and then get up and go about my business until I'm tired enough to try again or another nap is scheduled. I know if I don't fall asleep within that time, I'm definitely not tired. And if I get tired after that, I know it's not that long until another nap. It was always a dreadful feeling to not be able to sleep at night with trying to be monophasic, and to know that I had to get up at x time but wouldn't be getting a full night's rest, and this time that could be spent on other things was being wasted with trying to fall asleep and I'd just be groggy the next day unless I got a nap.

I'm surprised that I actually felt good with the 5 am wake time. When I tried to improve my monophasic sleep, I dreaded going to bed early and trying to get up before sunrise, even though I thought it was probably a good thing to do. It was very different to be awake and energetic at that time with having actually slept beforehand, instead of staying up all night. Anyway, I hope I am on the way to accomplishing another of my polyphasic goals, which is to be both an owl and a lark at the same time.

Okay, that's enough obsessing over schedules for now. Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Progress report

First, I want to thank those who read and contact me with comments. Discussing this has been constructive and educational.

I'll talk some on how I've been doing. I don't expect to know how well this schedule works versus Dymaxion (my preferred schedule, but one in which I felt like I wasn't getting enough sleep on and gave up trying) until I've been adapting to it for some time. Then I can rate my energy and cognitive function versus that and the way I usually just stay up until I'm sleepy and then sleep for however long I have time for or can stay asleep.

Right now, since I am having trouble feeling like going to sleep around the times that I picked, I am focusing on at least trying to wake up at those times and become adjusted to that. The last two nights, I haven't felt like going to sleep until about 2 am, very close to my desired nap time of 4 am, so I just went ahead and slept until 5:30 and woke myself then. I was tired after waking up at this time, but I'm focusing on trying to at least get down the tactic of getting up at the same time every morning. There is nothing bad about this, whatever sleep schedule one is on, and I feel like developing that habit will lead to other successful training. I think this is a good morning wake time, and I could move it slightly in either direction. I'm debating changing my sleep times to 3:30 and 11:30, so that I could then wake at 5:00 and 13:00. As for my evening sleep, since this is the hardest time for me to feel like falling asleep and to schedule it around other things, it would be nice if I could shoot for about 22:00 for it, but we'll see what happens.

So, one of my tactics is trying to always wake up at about the same time for my morning and noon naps. Some things I'm doing to help me wake are focusing on what time I want to wake when I go to sleep, and giving myself an incentive to get up at that time, such as doing a fun activity then and not at any other time. Stuff I've been doing is reading a book, but I may switch to something more exciting to help myself wake more quickly. I'm still having trouble getting my mind awake at a set time and I've come close to going back to bed the last two nights. Another thing I'm doing is that when I wake up in the dark, the first thing I do is turn on a light. Even before I turn the alarm off. This really helps.

That's it for now, as I actually feel like taking my noon nap today, so I will try to do so.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why fewer naps?

I've been asked why I'm choosing to come up with my own plan, that has the "impossible" feature of having fewer naps, rather than stick to more traditional methods.

First of all, I want to say that I don't really take kindly to people claiming to be against a dogma, and then these same people replacing one dogma with another. If you're open-minded enough to question the need for 8 hours of sleep every night, then why are you not able to question the need for other sleeping methods as well? This is something that I just can't understand. I thought the whole point was to experiment and find different ways of doing things, the basic assumption being that there are alternatives, and we are free to discover them.

There is not one alternative, and "Uberman" is not the best sleep method. It has some crucial flaws, some of which I have previously discussed (need for a strict schedule in which no more than one nap can be deviated from, need to constantly find a peaceful spot to nap, and the need to stay in the state of mind to be able to fall asleep every four hours or risk severe sleep deprivation as crucial, scarce minutes of sleep are missed), and another that I will get to momentarily. It is something that some people have found best for their lifestyles. It is not proven to work for everyone or to give everyone the rest that they require.

Additionally, it is not a new invention that should be touted as a replacement for any other form of sleep. The idea of it has existed for centuries (with claims that various people from Ben Franklin to Nikola Tesla followed this pattern, hence why it is also often called DaVinci sleep), and people have been experimenting with it all the while. What is new is that we have groups of people on the internet claiming to follow it as a long-term lifestyle. It is treated as a lifestyle, because proponents claim many things must go with it: changes in diet and lifestyle, scheduling naps, never being far from a spot to nap. The time spent sleeping is so vital that it becomes the anchor to your schedule, and trying to schedule it around something else doesn't always work out.

Of course, Uberman does have one benefit (besides the time saved; more on that soon) that attracts people to it: if you are able to sleep on each of your naps, you will wake up refreshed. Getting refreshed every four hours throughout the day and night sounds great. However, as I see it now, the schedule comes with sacrifice and downsides that I'm not willing to accept for that one benefit. Perhaps I can successfully refresh myself about every 8 hours instead, which would be enough for me. My goal is to be able to get about 4 hours of sleep a day without the tiredness that comes with receiving all of that sleep at once, during the night.

Moving on to the other suggested schedule, "Everyman." This is aptly named, because this is the way that most mild insomniacs end up sleeping, so it is rather more common than thought, and not something that a supposed insomniac like myself has to do anything special to adapt to. For many years, I have often slept just a few hours during the night, and then taken a couple of naps during the day when I had a chance to. Thankfully, I did not receive my rest this way every single day, because it sometimes left me really groggy. This schedule is easy to fall into, but I don't really believe that it's ideal for me, either. Sometimes I felt fine with it, and I even endeavored at one point to try to "adapt" to doing it every single day because of this. Then the obvious occurred to me, that I had often slept this way out of accident in the past. My mother sleeps this way. So, it's not really a new discovery, either. The assumption of many that all of the "bears" (non-ubermensch) sleep 8 hours a day is ludicrous. I'd say that very many people get 6 hours or less, and very many have difficulties sleeping that result in them falling into Everyman patterns. Again, not a revolutionary discovery. One can be comfortable with this if one becomes solidly used to and accepting of it, but the important key is to get all your naps and get them on time. Those who intentionally follow Everyman usually take 20 minute naps during the day; they are vital, and so if you are unable to fit them in or fall asleep with them, this is a problem. These are rather more refreshing and flexible when you are getting a core sleep in addition to them, and I usually had no trouble falling asleep for the first nap on that plan, but that was because I was so sleepy by the time I reached it. The short core sleep does not set well with me, as it feels like it's either too long or too short.

With my plan, I will be getting about the same amount of sleep as with Everyman, but I hope to make it more efficient by having equal naps throughout the day. This was my goal with the sleeping four times a day for 60 minutes that I attempted earlier, but then, I was not aware that an 80 minute nap was about my optimum time. With resting for 90 minutes, allowing myself 10 minutes to fall asleep, I will be receiving 240 minutes of sleep a day (ideally), or 4 hours. With sleeping three times a day, I hope to spend less time overall falling asleep, and get more actual sleep.

This brings me to my main point: having six or four naps a day is horribly inefficient, because with each nap you add, you are adding more time to fall asleep.

If you are anything like me, and you normally aren't walking around in a zombie state in which you are ready to fall asleep as soon as you lay down, and you can't fall asleep on command, then it takes you some time to fall asleep. If I'm really tired, I take 5 minutes to fall asleep. Normally, I take more than that, and even when I'm ready to sleep right when I lay down, I may take 10-15 minutes to be out. One point I was never clear on with the talk of the Uberman plan was the actual time one spends sleeping. It is said that you sleep for 2 hours a day. Does this include time falling asleep? Let's say I set my nap alarm for 20 minutes each time I lay down for an Uberman nap. I will sleep for, at most, 15 minutes of that time. If I am not in the state of mind to sleep (something difficult to achieve every four hours), I might take 10 minutes. At best, I will be receiving 60 to 90 minutes of sleep a day if I do that. That doesn't sound like enough to me. If it is, and you feel you can live on that, bless you. Now, if I factor in a 5 - 10 minute falling asleep period, then I will set my nap alarm for about 30 minutes each time I lay down. I will get 2 hours of sleep, if I sleep each time. However, I will have spent one hour trying to fall asleep. I'm not spending 2 hours in my figurative bed, I'm spending 3, and only sleeping for 2 of them. This is enormously inefficient.

Let's say I reduce my naps to 90 minutes, 3 times daily. If I take 10 minutes to fall asleep at each, I will have spent 30 minutes falling asleep and acquired 4 hours of rest in return. If I had to spend 3 hours in bed with Uberman to get 2 hours of sleep, I would only be spending 1.5 hours more in bed (4.5 hours) and getting twice as much sleep. Not to mention the convenience of having to only schedule 3 naps instead of 6. With Uberman, time spent asleep is only twice the time spent falling asleep. With my plan, it's 8 times as much.

This is much more efficient and logical. I'm taking naps for the period of time that I believe to be optimum for me, getting three of those naps spaced throughout the day to help keep my energy up, not having to keep a very rigid schedule of naps, spending less time trying to fall asleep, and having to sleep 4-5 hours less than the prescribed 8-9 hours. This just seems logical for my lifestyle, on multiple levels. If I can find a way to get enough rest and energy from polyphasic sleeping, I believe that this is the way for me to do it. I can't advocate my plan for anyone else at this point, since I am just beginning it, but I am really enthusiastic about it at this time. I think I also decided what I would call it, too, should it be successful.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Another day, and some thoughts on procrastination

I didn't feel tired enough to fall asleep for my evening nap until about 1 am. I slept until 2 am, and woke up tired, due to not having been able to get my rest earlier. I went ahead and took my nap at 4 am as planned, and woke up feeling better, but still in the mood for more rest. I took my nap 90 minute nap much earlier, at about 8 am. Right now, I feel good, awake, and don't think I'll be in the mood for a nap at noon. I'm trying to make myself think of sleep, but can't really. I have too many other activities on my mind, such as getting ready for the new year.

Over the last few years, with being overscheduled (and having too many personal obligations), and often dealing with stress and the urge to procrastinate (which often led to my resulting sleeplessness, both being too busy to sleep and too wired to sleep) that results from being too stressed to face things, I've developed a strong aversion to procrastinating now. I always want to get things done now, and done correctly. I've also learned that tasks are rarely as difficult as we think they'll be. Things that I used to want to procrastinate on often turn out to be something simple and easy to accomplish when I get to them, if I simply approach them with the mindset that I will get them done, and done immediately. Prolonging them only makes it more annoying to finally finish them, and realize it was something much easier than I had thought, in my stressed-out frame of mind. Things also become more difficult to do, the longer you wait on them. If you are certain that something must be done, and you know (or can find out) how it should be done, then there is never any reason to hesitate. Hesitation is only warranted when more time is necessary to plan something out; taking the time to figure something out fully is usually better than making a rash decision, when you can afford that luxury. Of course, some things just need quick decisions, as hesitation doesn't always make things clearer. However, if you know what you must do and yet you wait, you are just prolonging something that could be easily dealt with and that will quickly become history.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Caffeine, white noise, etc.

One more benefit of the new sleep plan that I forgot to mention: 8 hour awake periods allow me to continue enjoying my caffeine. I know I sound like such a stereotypical geek saying this, but I'm not going to give that up anymore. I enjoy the occasional caffeine high too much, as well as all of the wonderful delivery methods of it. I got many delicious flavors of tea and a new teamaker for Christmas. I love tea, and I think it's good for me. I also really enjoy the occasional espresso or cup of coffee (although I limit myself to about one a day to avoid making myself sick from it), and caffeinated candy as well. Sometimes I crave a good Nuka-Cola. The only thing I don't like are those horrible tasting energy drinks with their aspartame and ginseng and ginko. All that stuff tastes terrible, and is worse for you than any bottle of soda could ever be. Too concentrated a dose of caffeine is not good, either, and some drinks have enough caffeine in them to give a person of small stature a heart attack. The only energy drink I ever liked the flavor of was Vault, and it gives me such an adrenaline rush that I feel like time has slowed down. I used to consume quite a bit of caffeine, but I never really became desensitized to it the way that some people do.

After trying it for several weeks, at varying times of the day, I've concluded that white noise tracks, such as the Placebo sleep track that many people use for napping, are virtually useless for me. It's not that they don't cause me to fall asleep. More times than not, if I'm tired, I will sleep with the track -- but it's not a normal sleep. It is more like falling unconscious for several minutes. Falling asleep to the track goes like this for me: the white noise will give me some degree of sensory deprivation and allow my mind to drift, and I will become unaware of my surroundings, and eventually the track, and just be lost in my thoughts -- then I hear the noise signalling the end of the track, and I wake up, not realizing I was asleep and not feeling like I'd fallen asleep. I will wake up tired and feeling like the nap was totally unsatisfying. I have never dreamed with these tracks. It just feels like I've blacked out for a few minutes while lost in meditation. If I'm not tired, it's a rather interesting experience, but if I am tired, it leaves me tired and cranky, because I didn't actually get restful sleep in which my subconscious took over and I dreamed. It's like a twilight sleep, not fully aware, but still consciously thinking. I never oversleep with the track, but my sleep is totally unsatisfying.

What does work for me is simply relaxing and falling asleep on my own, and trusting an alarm to wake me up (which my cellphone alarm always does, although a traditional buzzing alarm may not). If I lay down on my bed and clear my mind, relax my body, relax my facial muscles, and ignore my senses, I will fall asleep. It may take a while, but it will happen. And I will receive refreshing sleep, and I will dream for almost every nap. I can sleep as little as 20 minutes this way, and still wake up feeling like I've slept and dreamed and at least recharged some. This is the only way to sleep that I've found restful and acceptable, and so I need to build my schedule around allowing that to happen. I need time to let myself fall asleep under my own power and to sleep naturally. While I sometimes fall asleep while trying to nap somewhere away from home, it's not the same. If I'm not comfortable in a bed, I won't really get the most from my sleep. It'll do if I've nothing else, but it's not ideal. So, I need to plan my schedule around being able to sleep at home, even if it means I have to go longer between sleeps and get more sleep in one go.

The schedule that I will loosely follow, allowing some flexibility to deviate as necessary, will be something like this: napping with the alarm set for up to 90 minutes at the hours of 4 am, 12 pm, and between 7:30-midnight. I selected these times because I'm busy during a solid chunk of time between 2 - 7 pm, so ideally, I should sleep right before then. I know I'm going to want to do different things in the evenings, so I can't rely on always sleeping when I would normally get home at 7. So I need some flexibility there, but will still plan to work in an evening nap. I always experience a dip in energy and a rise in sleepiness early in the morning and in the afternoon, so trying to channel that sleepiness into naptimes during the early morning and about noon would be good. Theoretically, this sounds like it should work. Based on my experiences with trying to find a schedule that my body and my mind find acceptable, this should work. I have much more of an idea of what I need and what I can reasonably shoot for than I did back at the start of the fall term, so I feel more confident in my ability to find something that works for me now.

I've been trying to follow this schedule since the 23rd of December (in hopes of becoming fairly adapted before the start of the spring term, if I am going to be adapted), and while I've been averaging about 5 hours of sleep a day (about what I would get if I slept 90 minutes at each naptime), it hasn't gone to this schedule yet, due to being too busy to nap much during the day. On the night of the 22nd, I went to sleep at about 4 am and woke up at about 7 am on the 23rd, tired but alert. I then slept again for about an hour at noon. I was unable to fall asleep again until about 2 am that night, and slept off and on until about 11 am, my longest sleep (although not in a solid chunk). On the 24th, I was up until about midnight, and then slept until about 2 am. It wasn't a restful sleep. I gave the 26-minute white noise sleep track one of its final trials, trying it three times in a row, and not really getting any satisfying sleep during that time. However, on the 4th trial, I was wide-awake and fed up, so I simply got up and went about doing some things for a while. I was excited about Christmas, so I was able to do a bit of preparation work and then relax and read a book until about 6 am, when I decided it would be good to sleep again. I slept from about 6:30 - 8 am, and then was up until about midnight, hardly feeling tired or sleep deprived during the day. Exhausted then, I slept in a solid chunk from about midnight to 5:30 am, when I got up to do some shopping, tired but alert. I was out and busy for most of the day, not having a chance to nap again, although my energy never really dipped much. In fact, I felt very energetic and light-hearted. I noted that I wasn't very hungry that day; whether that was due to the sleep, or due to having eaten plenty the day before, I'm not sure. That night, I was sore and exhausted, and decided a longer sleep may be in order (and perhaps unavoidable), so I slept from about midnight to 7:30 am. After that long sleep, I didn't feel like a nap again until about 4 pm, when I set my nap alarm for 30 minutes and had a very refreshing, dream-filled sleep.

My plan tonigh will be to bed down again at about 10 pm, and 4 am, and then noon tomorrow. I'll see what kind of reaction this brings.

New plan

I've mentioned in this blog before that I had considered the idea of trying to only nap when I was tired, instead of trying to stick to a schedule, something that often doesn't work for me, either because the schedule is difficult, wrong, or gets interrupted by daily life. It would be better to do a semi-free-running form of napping, where I simply take a nap when I am able or I feel like it, rather than trying to tell my body when to nap. The only thing to be wary of would be making sure that I get naps often enough and for the duration that my body needs. For it to be effective, I would have to limit the duration of my naps and have a certain frequency to them, so that I am not just "crashing" when I sleep. I've done well with free-running sleep in the past, this is what I've more or less ended up doing for some time now, when I was able.

The only thing that would be new for me is trying to limit my free sleeping to an optimal duration. I'm not sure what this would be. I am sometimes good with a 15-30 minute nap. Other times, I will naturally sleep for about 80-120 minutes. I've tried doing 20-30 minute naps X number of times a day, and I will often have naps where I don't fall asleep, barely fall asleep, or wake up still tired. I've adapted to napping, but any set schedule has so far seemed to fail. I don't fall asleep that quickly unless I am already dead-tired, and I don't know that this is the ideal state of being for me. Trying to force myself to adapt to a certain schedule didn't work out so well, either. Doing common adaptation tricks like sleeping on the floor just made it more painful, because what little sleep I did get was uncomfortable. I wasn't adapting; I was just not sleeping, and learning to be fine with it. I learned that I could not sleep and still function sufficiently, but this is not maximizing my sleep time, nor is it taking advantage of having a nap schedule with my sleep spread out throughout the day. It was just getting over the pain of sleep deprivation. Was that healthy? I don't know.

It seems like laying down and setting my alarm for 90 minutes works well for me. I take a few minutes to fall asleep, and usually wake up refreshed after that time. I'm considering the idea of sleeping for about 90 minutes, 3 times a day. I've been trying this the last few days, and something about it seems to be working. I have been awake more than 8 hours at a stretch during that time, but I was not experiencing pain of sleep deprivation during this, and I was experiencing some of the positive effects that I sometimes associate with being tired but continuing to go. I felt energetic and less anxious. What causes this state? Is my brain drugging itself because its tired? Am I getting too much adrenaline? I still have some worries about this, but physically and mentally, I feel fine. If nothing else, the longer I try this, the more I adapt to being flexible on my sleep, and sleeping less in general. I don't need 8 hours of sleep a day, and as far as I can see, I am just as healthy without it, and feeling as good as ever.

Anyway, this is the (loosely structured) schedule that I am endeavoring to follow now, and one that I think I can stick to fairly well. Unless it suddenly becomes possible for me to fall asleep instantly and get all my rest in 20 minutes, a 90 minute nap seems to be right for me. I believe it is something that I can easily adapt to, and feel well doing. It is still more optimal than a long chunk of sleep once a day, but it is more sleep than the usual 2 hours that polyphasics get. On an average day, I'd be getting about 4 - 4.5 hours of sleep. It is also less frequent than every 4 hours, so although I would be taking sleep breaks less frequently, I would also lose that annoying feel that I'm always either preparing to sleep or trying to wake myself up that I got with the DaVinci plan. 8 hours both seems like an optimal time for me to go without feeling sleepy, and something that I can easily adapt to my schedule, as I am often out doing things for more than 4 hours at a time, but usually less than 8. I believe that 90 minute chunks of sleep will allow me some flexibility on the 8 hour spacing, as well. It's not such a short time that I will be so reliant on frequency, like "Uberman" sleepers learn to be.

Anyway, I'm hopeful about this endeavor. And happy with the few days that I've been trying it so far. I was able to both be up early and feel rested enough for Christmas and the day after. I'm excited about polyphasing again, and I will try to keep a good log of my experience on this trial, to best ascertain whether this works for me.