I have heard it said that it takes approximately either 3 or 4 weeks to form a habit; presumably a good habit, considering that I’ve formed bad habits in the past far more quickly than that! Well, it’s day 21 of my polyphasic sleep experiment, and I think the schedule is starting to root itself as a habit.
This is excellent news because I had really tough moments along the way – as mentioned in the day 15 post, this was at times my own doing due to a lack of consistency, i.e. I did not stick to set sleeping times for various reasons. Six days ago, a Friday, for example, I knew that I would be up until the early hours of the morning for social reasons, so I took the core 3.5 hours from 2pm to 5pm. I really do not recommend doing this during adaptation, as I paid the price on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, which were all tedious exercises in sleep deprivation.
Regardless of my ill-advised messing-about with core and nap times, adaptation is plain difficult. The more I’ve researched, the more I find information on people going through the horror of zombie-mode, especially with the ‘Everyman’ schedule. This schedule harbours some familiarity to monophasic sleep in that one still has a large chunk of sleep – 3 to 3-and-a-half-hours. So the mind hangs on to that familiar feeling of beginning to get into the swing of a long sleep, which in monophasic sleep is constituted by several (on average 5) cycles of REM and non-REM sleep. Whereas in the Everyman polyphasic approach, the sleep is interrupted after only 2 cycles. The other 3 crucial restorative REM phases are executed during the 20 minute naps – that, at least, is the aim.
I’m still adapting. I usually take an extra nap halfway between official nap 1 and 2, so that’s around 3:10 a.m. My eyes have been struggling severely; they are better as of yesterday, but up to then I looked like I was continuously crying. I am susceptible to pollen and dust, so I can’t say that the sleeping experiment is solely to blame, but I have a fair idea that it is the main factor because they are open for much longer than they used to be and will therefore need to adapt. Furthermore, I’m spending way more time at the computer, so the eyes have really taken a beating. With the sore eyes, especially between 01:30ish and 05:10 a.m., sometimes all I could do was sit with them closed. And yes, I nodded off on more than one occasion. Yet I never felt a sense of failure when I did, nor when I take an extra nap – it is, after all, still the adaptation period.
Despite the grogginess up until 2 days ago, I still felt super-motivated, not just to do this experiment, but in various areas of life. Sure, I’m more productive simply because I have about 3 extra hours per day in which to be productive – and most often I put myself to task (when I am capable) because not doing so means being totally focused on the fatigue of adjustment. Truthfully, during some mornings I was simply too cross-eyed to do anything (including meditate), so I just sat on a reclining chair – and that’s when I tended to fall asleep.
Despite the extra 3 hours available during the days now, I feel more focused during those times of the day when I would usually have been awake. Doing garden work, maintenance, exercise, chores, communicating and interacting with people, academic research and typing etc., even just ‘being’ (i.e. not doing anything in particular, which is not often the case with me) – everything feels more immediate, ‘events’ or ‘happenings’ for which I am more present. I am getting at least an hour of meditation in every day as well, so maybe that has a lot to do with it, but I’m positive the sleeping experiment is playing some part here.
I do believe that any experiment is a success – even if one does not get the results one desires, one still learns from any experimental process. But in the conventional sense of a successful experiment, where ‘positive’ results are the implied name-of-the-game, this experiment is proving to be a success. My level of perception was 10/10 for most of yesterday, despite it being a day during which I worked academically (in one way or another) for over 14 hours. I thought I would battle today as a result, and I did between 1:30 and 5:10, but by 6 a.m. I was wide awake and functioning at a 10/10 again, where I’ve been all day.
With one week left to go before I decide on whether or not to continue with this style of polyphasic sleeping, I must say that I hope I will continue. Indeed, I think I will continue with it. Being up and about when everyone else is hibernating is a great feeling – even if I’ve been experiencing zombie-mode for most of that now-awake time. No disruptions whatsoever; a heightened awareness of ‘natural sound’ considering that there is no ‘artificial’ noise’; the knowledge that work-load is diminishing somewhat, making the ‘normal’ working day that much less stressful; a sense of achievement that the will to keep sleeping has been conquered; another move towards self-discipline that filters through into one’s understanding of self – these are among the things that have made it so worthwhile to endure the difficult fatigue that I suspect I have almost overcome.
But I still often cringe with indignation when the alarm goes off between 1 and 1:30 a.m. Now I just need to train myself to smile for the alarm; embrace the alarm; BE the alarm…