It’s a-quarter-to-two in the morning. I went to bed at ten p.m. and my wretched phone alarm woke me at one-thirty. At five-ten I’ll nap for twenty minutes, again at nine-ten, and then at three-forty p.m. In total, that’s four-and-a-half hours’ sleep planned for the day, and at this exact moment, as I struggle to type these words accurately and would love just to get back into bed, it seems like a terrible plan! Let me go find some inspiration.

Okay, inspiration has come in the form of a hot drink (a tablespoon of molasses in a cup of water, my coffee substitute), a much brighter light to hang over the keyboard and me (I had a spare home-made hanging-lamp lying around), and a brief excursion into the garden (I’d forgotten to put the vegetable patches’ water dripper-systems on in the past few days, so I’ve just plugged one in). I’m still making mistakes as I type, but at least I’m much more ‘with it’. Let’s see how this goes.

The segmented sleep-plan described above is known as the ‘everyman’ polyphasic sleep schedule. The ‘everyman’ approach is one of many polyphasic sleeping patterns; the ‘uberman’ one, where a person naps for twenty minutes six times a day, is another polyphasic pattern (there are several more, but I’ll mention only these two). Both approaches to sleeping break a person’s daily sleeping period into several chunks – hence the ‘poly’ in polyphasic – as opposed to the one large chunk of sleep – a monophasic approach – most people are conditioned into practising.

I first encountered the idea of polyphasic sleep a while back when it was described to me by a friend. I can’t remember how it came up – it was probably just an interesting conversation piece – but I never paid much attention to it when I first heard about it. Why would I? Sure, it’s interesting, but it seemed like something I would never try myself, because I’m one of those people who think they enjoy sleeping – I suspect, however, that there are other contextual factors for such ‘enjoyment’. Reducing sleep was therefore certainly not on my to-do list, and besides, my seven to eight hours per night sometimes didn’t feel like they were enough, so why would I want less sleep? If anything, I craved more sleep.

At the Vipassana meditation retreat I recently went on, however, I reached a point where I was sometimes sleeping for about four hours per night, and feeling pretty good for the rest of the day. When I returned home from the retreat, I began to revert to an increasingly longer chunk of sleep again, until I again hit the seven hour mark recently. Strangely, getting back there did not increase my energy levels; if anything, I started feeling like I needed more sleep about a week ago. Considering that I felt a massive increase in my level of consciousness via meditating and sleeping less, and that my consciousness has felt like it’s resonating at lower levels the longer I sleep, I thought I should try and be pro-active and seek a ‘remedy’ to what I perceive as a problem.

I did a lot of research into the subject of polyphasic sleeping in the previous week. There is loads of information on the net about it. My favourite source was Steve Pavlina’s blog, in/on which he tracks his time on the ‘uberman’ schedule. The ‘uberman’ is a very rigid approach, as it requires that naps be taken every four hours, almost to the point where this needs to be done every four hours ‘on the dot’. Steve did find that some flexibility is possible after the adaptation period, but wider reading on the topic points to such ‘irregularity’ not being recommended. Especially in the adaptation period, where missing a nap, or even having a nap an hour too late, would prolong the ‘zombie-mode’ often described in the first few days (or weeks) when adapting to the uberman schedule.

The ‘everyman’ schedule, however, seems far more flexible, in that the consequences are not so dire if one has to have a ‘core sleep’ or a nap slightly later or earlier due to work or social commitments, which are relevant factors in my case. The only other reason I have opted for the ‘everyman’ as opposed to the ‘uberman’ is because I feel that it is necessary to consider my partner, who would be far more inconvenienced by me if I were to implement the latter schedule. There are numerous reasons why the uberman would be more inconvenient for her in the context of our relationship, but I’ll leave them as a topic for a future post.

So the main reason I’m trying to reduce the amount I sleep is to try and increase the level of consciousness that I have been feeling lately. Another reason is that I would like to try and create more time for meditation, which, for many people, starts to get neglected as work commitments increase. Such commitments are increasing for me: at the moment, I prepare university readings and presentations for a first-year university philosophy module, and give two of these lectures per week. This, combined with ‘life on the permaculture plot’ (which is very labour intensive), as well as two hours’ meditating everyday, and a bit of yoga and Pilates at least every second day, has been enough to fill my schedule, and that’s while sleeping six to seven hours per day.

I now have to turn attention to some Ph.D (philosophy) work, start reviewing the Masters’ dissertations of five development studies students (in the field of urban agriculture), and hopefully keep these posts going as part of my new found (explicit) interest in personal development. Other than the expected ability to maintain a higher level of consciousness, having one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half extra hours of awake-time per day will help me do all that I want and need to do.

Despite the awfully slow start to this awake-period, right now I feel wide awake and fully functional, a state I did not expect to experience when I started typing earlier. I actually feel far more focused than I usually do. If I can be as functional during my extra awake hours, dare I say that I will be able to do more academic work between the hours of (roughly) one-thirty and four-ten than I usually would during most of a ‘normal’ day, considering the plethora of distractions I encounter during daylight hours. This will then leave me an hour to meditate between four-ten and 5.10, after which I’ll take nap-one.

I may sound optimistic and enthusiastic now, but ‘they’ say that the going gets really tough later in the adaptation period, so let’s see how it goes. The fact that I have remembered that the dripper-system is on is a very good sign; I usually have to trip over the hose-pipe to incite such awareness!