Category: Polyphasic sleep (page 1 of 2)

Polyphasic sleep update – reflections on why I slipped!!!

I received an email from someone wondering how the poly-sleeping has been going (thanks for your interest, Jeff!), which reminded me that I haven’t offered any updates in this regard for a while. That’s because I have not been sleeping polyphasically at all for a month or so, and for a month prior to that I was sleeping polyphasically only every other night – not exactly ‘progress’ worth mentioning.

I certainly do not consider this to be a failure in the sleeping experiment; on the contrary, I started the process out of curiosity and have been a keen observer, especially an observer of how the process is relevant for my personal development. The sleep pattern worked excellently for me during the warmer months, but as it became colder and colder towards the middle of winter, I found myself physically aching from the cold at around 4 a.m., 3 hours or so after getting up after the core sleep of the ‘everyman3’ schedule. At times I would be wrapped up in every warm item of clothing I had, but still I would get cold and uncomfortable, so increasingly it became harder to get out of bed. 

Who knows what would have happened if the wooden room I call my home were insulated or warm – maybe it would have been easier to keep up the ploy-sleep schedule, maybe it wouldn’t. But it is officially spring in this part of the world now, though the nights only tend to start warming up in mid-late October, and I plan to get back into the poly-sleeping when it does start warming up a bit.

The cold weather, on reflection however, may only be a superficial reason why I slipped from the polyphasic sleep path.

The several months on the everyman3 schedule were incredibly productive for me, and tied in excellently with consistent meditation and an overall careful approach to diet. I wrote in a previous post about slipping gradually back into the habits of taking the occasional social alcoholic drink, which I found to be detrimental to the segmented sleep process. Coffee is a real bitch in this regard too – I have recently been on a religious 2 cups a day – and it really messes with my energy levels. Then, sugar (in the form of honey) crept into my life initially as a feel-good treat a few months back, and recently I was using it to satisfy sugar-cravings in between meals. Finally, I’ve been baking nice bread, which is great and generally healthy, but I’ve been eating too much of it – often with a thick layer of honey smeared on – and my spikes in energy levels have really been exacerbated by the gluten. 

It is interesting that this update has led to me mentioning cravings – it seems that, for me, polyphasic sleeping was doable alongside a very disciplined approach to life in general (remember that I started it shortly after a 10 day meditation retreat); when I started taking a drink here and there, coffee quite regularly and then religiously, and then sugar and a lot of wheat more recently, I found myself falling back into the common cycles of craving-fulfillment leading to stronger cravings. As said at Vipassana meditation retreats, I started craving cravings again! I realised this at the weekend (after I devoured almost half a chocolate cake a friend had brought around, which resulted in a severe sugar-low) and I’ve now had 2 and a half days without any coffee or honey/sugar (some wheat and one drink were unavoidable – dinner with ‘the folks’!!!). Such caffeine abstinence left me with quite a headache yesterday and this morning, which I have experienced before when stopping coffee – ah, withdrawal symptoms.

When I was off of all of the above dietary disasters, my energy levels were extremely consistent, and I could wake up concentrating almost immediately on any given task. This made poly-sleeping easy, after the adjustment period, that is. The 20 minute naps always achieved the REM states necessary for a successful and safe poly-sleep pattern. More awake-time on my hands, especially very quiet time with no distractions, meant I could get my work done effectively, so the rest of the day would be left free from thoughts about that which I have not done. Meditation time was available, and it was very clear and focused; same with exercise. All of these factors synergised, so it is unsurprising that tampering with any one of them destabilised the entire edifice.     

These are all incredibly valuable lessons that I had to learn; after only a few days ‘clean’ from the aforementioned substances, despite a temporary headache yesterday and earlier, I already feel more focused than in previous weeks, so I am optimistic that I have had to learn these lessons for a reason: hopefully, to re-enter another cycle of personal development, but this time more aware of certain factors. It is so easy to slide off of an amazingly beneficial path and not even be aware that this is happening; having slipped, maybe when the path is regained it will be stuck to with even more rigour.   

One final possibility needs to be speculated about here: that polyphasic sleeping is not sustainable over long periods, let’s say for more than several months at a time. I have read about such concerns before. However, in my case, I do not think that I can entertain this possibility – there are simply too many variables, mentioned above, that are the obvious factors that caused me to slip. I reckon trying again is worth it just to see what would happen if I can avoid the bloody coffee, booze, and sugar (etc.!) 

Next time I mention polyphasic sleeping, it will be to report that I have done so for at least a month 😉

Polyphasic sleep log – day 96

So it seems that I have become a part-time polyphasic sleeper; for now at least. This morning, for example, I am up and awake after a 3 hour core sleep, but this has not been the case for 4 of the previous 7 days, where I slept monophasically. I did try and stick to a polyphasic sleep pattern throughout, but I simply killed the alarm and went straight back to sleep on those 4 monophasic sleep days/nights.

I do not, however, in any way consider the polyphasic sleeping experiment to be a failure; indeed, the process is still well under way. Currently I am surprised and pleased to be able to jump between monophasic, polyphasic and biphasic sleep. I mention the latter because often during the previous month, after a 3 – 4 hour awake period after the 3 – 3.5 hour core nap, I will set the alarm for a 20 minute nap but simply turn it off and sleep for about 2 hours, awaking to sunrise. When I did this, I would take either only one 20 minute nap later in the day or, more commonly, not take a nap whatsoever, totalling my sleep for the day to 5 or 5.5 hours – with no drowsy effects whatsoever. Inevitably though, on the night thereafter, I would sleep for a full 7 – 8 hours.

There are many reasons why I just cannot consistently stick to the Everyman 3 cycle lately. The mornings are often seriously cold in my little wooden room, as mentioned in the previous polyphasic sleep post, which does not make it easy to be enthusiastic about getting up at 01 or 01:30. Combine the cold with caffeine and alcohol factors, and the situation becomes clearer – yes, I have a cup of coffee a day now, occasionally a glass of wine or a beer, and occasionally more than just one when the social occasion calls for it. I was a bit of a teetotaller when I began sleeping polyphasically over 3 months ago, which made for a consistent physical reaction to getting out of bed at strange times; such consistency goes straight out the window when waking up after more than one unit of alcohol, and even a small amount of caffeine in the system certainly has an effect in this regard too.

The onset of the polyphasic sleeping experiment was also concurrent with fairly consistent meditation. I still meditate, but not as consistently as 3 months ago. I suppose I am responsible for all the undulations of my habits, but I must express my surprise at the way I have been affected by the change from Summer to Winter, especially considering that I have been living more in-tune with the seasons than ever before (a la permaculture homestead style!). I really have felt the strong pull towards hibernation; it is cold, the sun is low in the sky, the daylight hours are short, so there is less time in the day to do necessary ‘plot chores’ – naps and meditation are therefore difficult to justify when pushing to maximise productivity in waning daylight, and the cold is a factor when the dark sets in.

Socially, too, life has its peaks and troughs. When I returned from my 10 day meditation retreat in February, I just said no to many social occasions – this is particularly easy to do when one has not seen friends and family for a period of two weeks, which is how long I had been away for the meditation retreat. To an extent, the ‘out of sight out of mind’ phenomenon helped me prioritise my solitude, but the more I saw friends thereafter, the more social gatherings I found myself saying yes to; in slips a cup of coffee here and a glass of wine there; gradually the days get shorter and the nights get colder. Ta da!

Excuses? By no means. I said it above – I am happy to be able to be able to move between monophasic, biphasic and polyphasic sleep. I am even surprised that I can do this with little or no reversion to the zombie-mode that defined the 3 weeks’ of adjustment away from monophasic sleep. Such flexibility seems invaluable, dare I say more natural than complete commitment to one or another way of sleeping; if there was one thing that I learnt at my amazing meditation retreat in February, it was just how true the notion that ‘everything changes’ is. Why would this be different with polyphasic sleep? Sure, if I lived in a ‘normal’ insulated house that was easier to live in during winter and if I did ‘normal’ things like plug in heaters when it gets cold, then it would be easier to remain consistent sleep-pattern-wise. Then again, if those ‘normal’ factors were in play, I would hardly have started to experiment with an ‘abnormal’ sleeping pattern! Swings and roundabouts, such is life.


Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 63

Three weeks ago I came down with virus-like symptoms that could have been the result of a virus or tick-bite fever. Either way, I endured a week of sporadic cold-sweats, aching and weak body, and pounding headaches – whoohoo. During that time I set my alarm for the usual offensive 00:30 or 01:30 (depending on if I went to bed at 21 or 22:00) but only managed to find the strength to get out of bed on three of those seven trying days. Such unavoidable (in)action did not exactly bode well for the polyphasic sleep pattern I had worked so hard to develop during the six weeks prior to the onset of the condition.

Let it be said that I was listening to my body. The last thing I wanted to do was stay in bed and jeopardise a very useful schedule that only works well when all chunks of sleep are taken in their required doses, i.e. three or three-and-a-half hours plus three 20 minute naps at scheduled times during the day. The unavoidable lapse back into monophasic sleep for those four days of that week was what my body needed for recovery; it felt like I needed to be rendered unconscious for that time because that was how my immune system could best cope with the fever.

Of the three ‘usual’ polysleep days, only one was mildly reminiscent of the zombie-mode that accompanies adjustment to the sleeping routine. That said, I was quite ill, so my sorry state could simply have been due to the condition rather than due to a mini-readaptation. The other two days of polysleep were challenging, but doable; I really forced myself to stick to the schedule because it seemed like more days sleeping monophasically would derail the good habit entirely.

There was, however, a consequence to the mixed up week of part-poly part-mono sleeping that lasted for at least a week. The more I think about it, the more I must associate this consequence with the onset of much colder weather here in Port Elizabeth. The consequence amounts to remaining in bed after nap one, which I usually take at 04.10 or 05:10 depending on what time I go to sleep. Now more than ever the bed feels super-snuggly. As documented in this blog, my permaculture homestead is, well, rather rustic, and my tiny house (3.6 by 3.6 metres) is an uninsulated wooden box! An uninsulated tiny wooden box that I happen to love and proudly call my home, but it is cold!

I would retrieve the alarm on the other side of the room (I put it as far away as possible so that I am forced to get out bed), but then I would get straight back into bed. Initially I told myself that I would remain awake and just ‘amp’ myself for the cold, but inevitably I dozed into and out of consciousness. The upside of this was the intensely vivid dreams I kept having, but the downside was that my naps later in the day were less likely to hit the necessary REM state due to it being messed with after nap one. Come to think of it, I did start drinking a cup of coffee a day since the onset of the fever – it helped take my headache away! (No, seriously, it did!). Maybe the reintroduction of caffeine into my diet played a part here too.

The above consequence lasted for about a week. I attribute its onset partly to post-recovery, and partly to a weird re-adaptation that I was not really consciously aware was occurring and I was therefore not consciously equipped to deal with – and maybe the reintroduction of coffee into my diet didn’t help! A week ago, however, I broke that habit, but on two of the previous seven mornings I must have switched my alarm off at 00:30 or 01:30 and climbed back into bed without realising that I was doing so. I did have a social occasion last Thursday that required me to begin the past week by re-organising my core nap to 16:00 in order to stay awake for as long as possible thereafter, which did really mess with my sleep the following day, and which likely has something to do with one of the mornings in question. Certainly yesterday morning, which saw me do my sleepwalking alarm disarming trick, was because I had two glasses of wine the night before; I have had hardly any alcohol in three months, so it is not hard to see what happened here.

At least I have managed to get up and start typing this morning in celebration of an official nine weeks of Everyman 3 polyphasic sleeping. I am going to try to keep at it, but I have learnt not to get too worried or disappointed when I cannot stick to the schedule – I have yet to revert to full-on zombie-mode when my schedule has been disrupted, and I have only myself to berate me for a ‘lack of discipline’, which is quite a pathological psychological response to such disruption, so it’s better just to go with the flow. I have been left with a strong sense that alcohol, however, is quite incompatible with the kind of lifestyle (of which poly-sleeping is an important part) that I am generally finding is best for me. I have my suspicions that coffee, even one cup a day, is also not entirely good in this regard, but I do not want to accept this just yet; let’s see what happens…


Polyphasic Sleep Log Day 39

It’s 02.15 in the morning on the Monday that will soon see me leave the Transkei, where I’ve been staying for 5 days or so. I came to see a friend and his plot, do some observation with him for a permaculture start-up, and generally to have a break from an intense 2 months of productivity on several levels back home in Port Elizabeth.

Just before I arrived in Coffee Bay I had spent 2 nights in Grahamstown where my partner Emma finished a lecturing contract. I posted the previous polyphasic sleep log entry from there, on the first morning (6 days ago); I was very positive about the polyphasic sleep process, as evident in the post. Ironically, Murphy the bastard was out to get me and I really felt tired for the rest of the day; my naps didn’t really help, and I became a bit cross-eyed by the evening. I can’t explain why this happened, but I feel like it’s still early days in the new sleeping regime, so I’m happy that the odd curve-ball comes my way.

So it is unsurprising that on the second morning I somehow slept though my alarm – it definitely went off, because the screen of my phone (which is my alarm) displayed the usual indication that it had. I awoke feeling very good though, as if I needed to catch up on some lost sleep. But then came the 6+ hours’ drive to Coffee Bay from Gtown, during which I managed to take only one nap before arriving to a busy afternoon and evening.

I knew immediately upon arriving that my sleeping schedule was in jeopardy. My routine has been well established at home, but largely around the computer, which I did not bring along for the trip – I needed a break from it (I’m typing this post from my cell phone). So initially I thought I would spend the early-morning awake-time meditating and reading a bit, maybe playing via pen and paper with a proposal I have to rework yet again.

The first night (Wednesday), however, I went to bed an hour later than usual. I did get up on the adjusted schedule and did meditate, but found myself making a lot of tea and taking an extra nap instead of reading. During the day, I could not sleep at preferred times, so by the end of the first full day here, I was awake but aware that my sleeping pattern had been disrupted.

Then I went and pulled the trigger on the schedule by not setting my alarm properly at the end of Thursday. We went to bed early that night, at 09:00 – so I set the alarm for 12.15 instead of 00:15. I awoke at 03:35, after 6+ hours of sleep!! I hadn’t slept so continuously in 5 weeks, and I did feel somewhat disappointed at myself for the mistake. I got up and stayed up, and took only a brief nap later in the day.

But things were to get worse. It was Friday at this point, a big social night here, and we went to a place called Jah Drums where a new friend was to play a gig. It was a strange night, as I didn’t drink any alcohol, but almost everyone else around me seemed hell-bent on getting wasted – each to their own! Emma and I declined the offer after the gig to go to the next watering hole, and we went back to the night’s last-minute change-of-plan accommodation – the kitchen floor of a friend of our host.

It turns out that 2 other people had been given the same offer, so 2 hours into my core sleep, we were awoken to the sound of drunk people moving furniture around. One of these people then lit a cigarette in the closed room, fell asleep with it in his hand, and started snoring for the championship title. Needless to say, I was not going to sleep through it, so I went to the car and awkwardly huddled myself in foetal position over the front 2 seats (it’s a small ‘bakkie’) – and promptly slept through my alarm again!

No naps during Saturday, seeing as my night’s biphasic sleep had given me what I needed. At this point I started to wonder if I had completely undone in unholy armageddon all of the work put into becoming an Everyman 3 polyphasic sleeper. I really was quite alarmed (ha!) by the thought. But yesterday (Sunday) morning I managed to stick to the schedule, with the exception of an extra nap between core and nap 1.

I was up at 01:00 earlier and meditated for a full hour, with only occasional nodding! Now I’ve written this post, and I feel great. Some tea is on order. I’m looking forward to the sunrise over the coastline here – see the picture at the end of the previous post – that’s what I’m facing now, though it’s dark, but I can hear the waves crashing on the rocks below. Maybe I’ll take an extra nap, because I’ll be starting the 8 hours drive home by 8 o’clock, and I’d prefer not to pass out at the wheel en route home. Luckily Emma shares the driving and is a second pair of eyes.

So it’s quite a relief that I feel like I’ve slipped straight back into the routine despite being derailed for a few days. I imagine that more botched nights would make recovery difficult, and then impossible. Strangely though, looking back on it now, it all seems like it was meant to be – I feel awake and alert, enthusiastic and ready to get back to the tall order of work that now awaits me. Whereas in the past I usually felt sad when leaving a holiday destination, and depressed by the thought of returning to ‘normality’. Not so right now: again, as mentioned in previous posts, this good state of mind could be attributed to the mix of polyphasic sleeping, meditation, diet, discipline, etc. But polyphasic sleeping is the obvious main change that has allowed me to fit in all the work I need to do, as well as some of the things I’d like to do. Invaluable, at this stage of my life at least.

Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 33

I’ve been sleeping polyphasically for a month (Everyman 3 style – note that I prefer the ‘original’ 3 hour core), averaging between 4 and 4-and-a-half hours of sleep per day. Today is day 33 – I waited until I had a generous month under my belt before the update (not really; I’ve just been very busy!).  I’d say I’m doing well; fantastically even – better than when I was sleeping monophasically.  I am still indignant when the alarm goes at 1 a.m. (ish), but I get up and going straight away and in minutes feel wide awake.

Such responsiveness was not the case during the vast majority of adaptation, which lasted me a full 3 weeks.  During this time I felt varying degrees of lucidity, ranging from the despairing depths of zombie mode, to a more consistent semi-sleep-deprived state, to an occasional heightened awareness.  Now I’ve averaged out and feel great so long as I get the desired 5 chunks of REM sleep per day.  I will continue sleeping in this manner until I have a valid reason to do otherwise.

In previous posts I’ve explored a few pros and cons to this branch of polyphasic sleeping, but I must make it clear that all information in previous posts is tainted by the adaptation process.  Now that I’ve adapted, it’s mostly pros.  I get 3 to 3.5 hours of ‘extra’ awake-time per day, and I use them to their fullest. These hours are the ‘tiny’ ones: 1am to 5am.  I usually do academic work during this time, interrupting it with a meditation session that lasts 30 to 60 minutes, but there is scope for other activities – like exercise – during the time slot.
Regarding meditation: it obviously is a contributing factor to the ‘success’ of this process.  It’s impossible to say how things would have turned out without meditation, so I won’t bother speculating.  But combining the sleeping with meditation, as well as with a complete break from caffeine and alcohol, alongside my usual healthy vegetarian diet, it is clear that I’ve had a little help from a few friends that has made the shift to polyphasic sleeping that much easier.  I would not have been keen to try this as a coffee- and booze- drinking, meat-eating stress-head, for example. I did try and have a filter coffee on two occasions along the way, but my nap thereafter was completely ineffective.  The 2 occasions on which I had one alcoholic drink resulted in major post-core fatigue.  So I’ve completely eliminated the coffee and the alcohol now, and no, I don’t miss them… any more!  
When it comes to flexibility of the nap schedule, I have had to be flexible.  On a Wednesday, for example, I shift the entire schedule an hour earlier, with no noticeable negative consequences, other than feeling a bit zoned out by the time I go to sleep as usual at 10pm. Generally I try and stick to the schedule, but f I miss a nap or hit my 3 hour core sleep late, I know what to expect, and I know how to deal with the consequences.  
Specifically, if I miss a nap, I must catch it up even if I feel like I don’t need to or the following morning will be tough; so if I miss the 09:10 nap, I’ll take it at 12:00 or whenever, and still try and stick to my 15:40 nap time.  I try not to miss the latter nap, or at least move a nap to anywhere after 18:00, because then I battle to fall asleep at the usual 22:00 core nap time. Later core naps are only an issue because I start zoning out if I go to sleep more than an hour after the previous night’s bed-time, so I keep late cores to a minimum.  
It is quite something for me to think that difficulty falling asleep is something unusual.  I never used to fall asleep in less than 20 minutes, and sometimes I would be in bed for a considerable period of time and still feel restless.  Now I fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down for a nap, and I sleep soundly.  This is probably because during the first few weeks it’s adapt or die – one has to at least appreciate the power of extreme situations to force results!
Most of the time I awake from naps feeling like I’ve been asleep for hours, and I am aware of having dreamt after most naps.  I had one lucid dream moment along the way, but I’ve been too busy to pay the full attention to factors associated with lucid dreaming, which is supposed to be enhanced by this kind of sleeping pattern. I do, however, feel like I dream more now because my sleep now occurs in several small chunks and dreams are therefore easier to review compared to the backlog that occurs in monophasic sleep.  Reviewing dreams, I find, has a positive impact on general cognitive processes – a different topic.  
I take my three 20 minute naps with a noise mufflers on – they look like big wireless headphones. As a result, I am never interrupted during the naps, despite occasional outbursts of noise, reported to me by my partner.  Upon my awakening she’ll ask, did you sleep through all of that?  And I’ll say, all of what?  It’s usually the dogs barking or a car hooting, which used to wake me from monophasic sleep, but I wasn’t wearing the headphones back then.  I do still find it awkward to place my head with the mufflers on – I can’t have my head completely on the side of the pillow, so I nap at an angle between foetal-position and flat-back-position, opting out of flat-back as much as possible due to slight discomfort in the back when I sleep flat on my back repeatedly.
I NEVER eat a big meal within 3 hours of my core nap.  Having done so in the early days of adaptation, I woke up feeling bloated and very tired.  Now I eat my big meal of the day mostly at lunch-time or by 18:00.  In the mornings I can eat up to an additional 2 breakfasts – porridge or muesli – as I’m hungrier from being awake more and therefore burning more calories.  I used to feel extremely hungry at 18:00 when sleeping monophasically, though I’d only eat between 19:00 and 20:00 – not ideal for peaceful sleep.  Now my hunger later in the day is mild and smaller helpings of food are preferable.
A small but important factor to consider: on 3 or 4 occasions, specifically on a Saturday or Sunday morning when my partner lingers in bed a bit longer than usual, I have found myself getting back into bed and dozing off here and there.  At first I thought this was cheating; then I thought it would disturb my nap patterns and affect my lucidity. But the former thought is absurd – whose rules was I breaking?  My own, obviously.  Not willing to have such fragmentary thought processes any more, I just went with the flow.  There was no negative impact on how awake I felt thereafter, and I could have later naps without any difficulty falling asleep.
This past Sunday, for example, I was awake at 1am and took nap 1 as usual at 05:10, but then drifted in and out of sleep for an hour-and-a-half after the alarm went off at 05:30. I took nap 2 quite late, at 12:00, and nap 3 at the usual 15:40.  It felt all good and natural – it seems that increasingly I am capable of considerable flexibility with nap times.
Finally for now, let me reiterate the point I’ve raised in a previous post: I have never felt this calm, composed, in control and focused in pretty much all areas of my life. And it’s not because I’m not busy; on the contrary, I am extremely busy and have several major commitments and responsibilities that keep me busy all day, every day (with the exception of some mandatory ‘off’ time during a Saturday or Sunday). The difference is that now I have several extra hours in which to complete required tasks and engage in activities like meditation for equanimity.  Sure, polyphasic sleep alone is not responsible for this remarkable positive phenomenon, but it is a key ingredient in the mix. 

Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 21

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…

Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 15

I’ve been sleeping polyphasically for just over two weeks now. To clarify, I’m on the ‘Everyman’ polyphasic sleep schedule, which is constituted by a core sleep of 3 to 3.5 hours and 3 twenty minutes naps daily. Ideally I go to bed at 10 p.m. and arise between 01: and 01:30; I then nap at 5:10, 9:10, and 15:40. I say ‘ideally’ because I have often not been able to stick to schedule, so cores have been as varied as 9pm, 10pm, 11pm and midnight; nap times then are adjusted accordingly, though I try and keep the 15:40 nap as on-schedule as possible because otherwise I might prevent the onset of REM sleep during the following core.

The whole of week 2 has been rather tough, especially the past 2 days. Both mornings were actually quite torturous – upon awaking to the alarm between 01:00 and 01:30, I felt a sense of despair, which, you know, is quite an extreme feeling at any time of the day, never-mind at 01:00! On the first of these 2 days (Wednesday morning) I did get up and tried to do computer work, but I was very slow and unproductive – I’d say 4 out of 10 where 10 would be full productivity. I couldn’t meditate because I was too sleepy, so instead I drank a lot of tea while moping around with my eyes closed, and I took an extra nap at 03:10. I felt like I could have just been sleeping ‘properly’, because there wasn’t much point to being awake for the sake of being awake – but I do realise that this is the adjustment phase and that zombie-mode won’t last forever, hopefully, so I’m keeping at it.

Yesterday morning was even worse. I awoke to the alarm but could not physically get out of bed. This was a very strange feeling for me, as I am usually strong-willed enough to do just about anything I set my mind to. Instead, I lay in bed with a feeling of exhaustion, trying to keep my eyes open. Obviously I dozed off again, but awoke ‘naturally’ at 02:35 and this time could get up. But I was so cross-eyed that I couldn’t read the words on the computer screen, and meditation was completely out of the question, so I did a 45 minutes’ yoga session with my eyes closed.

Strangely, the yoga went well and it did wake me up a bit, but my 5 minutes’ relaxation at the end of the session felt like a fight against the urge to fall asleep. Not willing to fight – because if I did so then this experiment would really seem insane – I took a 04:00 nap, awoke for an hour in which I tidied the room, and then took the 05:10 nap. Yet I awoke to the alarm still feeling exhausted, a feeling that stayed with me all day. Frequently during the day I just sat still with my eyes closed for short intervals; longer intervals were dangerous because I might have fallen asleep. By 21:30 I was a vegetable.

On a positive note, I feel much better today – it’s almost my 05:10 nap and I haven’t felt like I needed the extra 03:10 nap, so I haven’t been too tired. My eyes, as they have been for a week, are still super-puffy and watery, but at least I can focus. I can’t say for sure that my constantly sore, watering eyes are a result of the polyphasic sleeping adjustment, but it seems the most likely option – my eyes are open for a lot longer per day than usual, and I stare at a computer screen for longer too. I’ve done 2 hours’ academic work, read a few random pdf documents I’ve been meaning to get to, and started this blog-post. Slow going for the most part but compared to yesterday and the day before it’s been smooth sailing.

I’ve decided to give the experiment two more weeks, a month in total since I started, which means I’m already half-way through. I slept monophasically for over 30 years, so the least I can do is put up with 30 days of the adjustment period; from what I’ve read, it can take up to a month to get used to the drastic change of sleeping pattern – though it’s not nearly as drastic a change as the ‘Uberman’ sleeping cycle, where one only has 6 evenly-spaced naps per day.

I am doing this experiment for several reasons. One is simply to see if its really personally possible to sleep for only 4 to 4.5 hours per night. More importantly, in doing so, one creates a considerable amount of extra time. I know for a fact that life ‘on the plot’ does not allow me enough time for my academic work commitments, which will only keep growing, and all the other activities I enjoy (e.g. exercise, meditation, reading) so I’d really like to get to a point where I can get the bulk of the academic stuff done in the blissfully peaceful period between 01:00 and 05:10 a.m. Maybe I could exercise and meditate during the 1am to 5am slot – I’ll have to experiment with this. But right now I like the idea of the academic work for the graveyard shift; if I can’t reach a point of perceptual clarity that allows me to do it, then I don’t really see any reason to keep doing the experiment. Rather, I would consider it over-with and conclude that polyphasic sleeping is possible – others do and have done it, and I’ve done it for 2 weeks – but that it is not for me.

I really hope that I do adjust though (and I think I will, eventually) – despite the present zombie-mode, there is something strangely appealing about doing something that many of my friends seem to think is just not possible. Many have said that the body needs 7 to 8 hours’ sleep, and that’s that, no debate allowed. They may be right, but the fact that I’ve slept polyphasically for two weeks now is already evidence against their assumptions. It is always strange hearing people say that something is impossible when I have read about a dozen or so bloggers who have already done the so-called impossible.

Oh well, I’ll let my friends and other doubters keep doubting and generally go about their sceptical lives – I hope it works out for them – but there is no doubt in my mind that one creates their own extents or limits to what is or is not possible. So, strangely, this experiment does contain traces of the metaphysical and ontological! Could it even be an unconscious display that I refuse to conform, generally, to that which the masses believe is ‘reality’? And in refusing to conform, is this another kind of activism?

I hope it is – that it is another move I’m making that, combined with my other anti-conformist life-style choices, allows me to increase the resonance of an attitude that more and more people exhibit: we shape ‘reality’; we choose how the world works; we can tune our consciousness to vibrate at higher levels. Of course, you can choose otherwise; we can choose to be a passive cog in a purely mechanistic universe; but this belief is not ‘reality’ – it is merely a choice.

Clearly I’ve woken up a bit!

Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 11

It’s 02:55 on a Sunday morning and quite frankly I’m amazed I’m typing these words; amazed that I managed not to smash the alarm half an hour ago, and not get back into bed; amazed that I can keep my eyes open. Yes, I’m groggy at this very moment, probably the groggiest I’ve been during the polyphasic sleeping experiment – all because of my own doing, mind you. Nevertheless, I did somehow get up and get typing after a 3hr30minute core sleep, which I would have battled to do after my old monophasic 7-8 hours’ sleep . How can this be?

Mostly my ‘Everyman’ sleeping schedule has been: 22:00 to 01:15, followed by 20 minute naps at 05:10, 09:10, and 15:40. There have been mornings when I awake from my core feeling great, but mostly I’m still battling to overcome early morning fatigue; this is an expected aspect of the adaptation period. But I’m not making things easy for myself because I have not been able to stick to the set core and nap times.

Yesterday (Saturday) I went to a wedding and returned home at 22:45, and went to sleep at 23:00. I had 3 alcoholic drinks (punch, champagne, wine) at the reception (in the 3 weeks prior I had 1 drink in total) , and too much pudding (I hardly had in sugar in the 3 weeks prior); oh yes – I also had 1 cup of coffee earlier during the day to see what happens. On Friday night I only got into bed at 00:00, after a seriously long and busy day in the baking sun digging trenches and threading cables through piping for an internet cable to ‘the shack’ – worth it, but shattering. In contrast, on Wednesday I was asleep at 21:00 and awake at 00:30 and shifted my naps around my part-time university lecturing job requirements (I slept on the tea room floor there at 08:10, and on an office couch at 14:40).

So since Wednesday the times at which I took my core sleeps were 21:00, 22:00; 00:00, and 23:00 – this is wild variation of schedule and is not recommended in the literature I have read on polyphasic sleeping. And yesterday was massively indulgent for me. After yesterday’s 10:00 coffee, I next napped for 15 minutes at 15:15 and woke up 10 minutes before the alarm – I usually set the alarm for 25 minutes per nap, allowing 5 minutes’ fall-asleep time. I awoke feeling good, but by 21:00 I was crashing hard. It’s not surprising I am paying this morning.

What is surprising is the fact that I had the motivation to get out of bed this morning. Indeed, getting up mostly at 01:15 for the past 11 days seems like something I would never have been able to do in the past. Quite strangely, I am really inspired by this process. Not just to get up, but during the day too; and not just when it comes to taking the naps, but more generally when it comes to the ‘chores’ of daily life. I’m sure the minimum of 1 hour’s meditation per day for over the past month plays a big part in the process, but I’ve been even more motivated since starting to sleep polyphasically.

There is a lot to be said for having 3 to 4 hours’ extra time in a day. Despite my early morning grogginess, I manage to get at least 2 hours’ academic work done on the computer before the first nap of the day at 5:10. I managed to write a few blog entries alongside the academic work on a few of the mornings. During other mornings, as well as doing the academic work, I successfully did some exercise. And there has been a successful meditation ‘sit’ along the way – though I do not recommend trying to meditate as most often I give up due to drowsiness, and instead I prefer to ‘sit’ before the 09:10 nap with incomparably better concentration.

All of the above early-morning activities are ones that I would have liked to fit into my old monophasic sleep schedule, but this would have been impossible due to the time- and energy- consuming aspects of ‘life on the plot’. Being logistically-minded (a characteristic I’m happily seeing fade away), it is a real blessing to have all of the listed activities ‘out of the way’, because I don’t start stressing at e.g. 16:30 when all I have managed to do in the day are half the plot-chores and half the required quantity of academic work. Everyday used to feel too short, and there would always be things left undone, whereas now I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot before sunrise.

That’s another big deal – seeing the sun rise every morning. I have always loved sunrises and sunsets, but in Port Elizabeth the morning weather tends to be much calmer than in the evenings. So it’s a really serene time of the day to be up and about – I have taken to watering parts of the garden from sunrise, which leads into other chores being done outside, all before 07:30 a.m.!

This productivity positive far outweighs the groggy negative. I’m hoping that the latter will begin to become less and less of an issue as the adaptation period continues. Indeed, 11 days is a short period of time, so I’m interested to see how I respond to the 1:15 alarm towards the 30 days mark. Judging by the positive results in the short time period I’ve been sleeping polyphasically so far, I expect continued positive results.

A side-note in closing: during the Vipassana meditation course I went on that ended exactly a month ago, I drank no alcohol or coffee for 10 days, which was quite a change to my previous habits. By not taking these drugs, and due to the heavy meditation schedule, I experienced a profound state of mental clarity and sharpness. It’s no surprise that I started sleeping less and less while on the course. Upon returning home, I decided to stick to a predominantly alcohol and coffee free diet (I know green tea contains caffeine, but it has no noticeable impact on me, while I easily get addicted to coffee and often get the shakes from it). The idea was to have a cup of coffee and one drink on the odd occasion and see what happens. Yesterday’s indulgences in this regard were quite telling, in that the effect was a distinct blurriness this morning to add to the usual grogginess. So this, in a sense, is a public statement of my decision to ditch the alcohol and coffee for good – bye bye bitches!

Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 6

Days 3,4,and 5 were far more challenging than days 1 and 2. I must have emptied all the sleep reserves leftover from my monophasic days during the first 2 days, because thereafter I have definitely experienced powerful elements of zombie-mode.

On day 4, for example, I got up at 02:15 after a 3hr15minute core but could not focus on my planned task (academic work) at all – the words on the computer screen were blurry and I could hardly string a few words together. I did some light exercise (the 5 Tibetan Rites) to try and wake me up a bit, to no avail. I ended up having an extra nap at 04:15, which did the trick.

I’ve tried 3 hr, 3hr15, and 3hr30 minute core sleeps, none of which are obviously more beneficial than the other, yet. I always wake up indignant and wonder if I should just pull the plug on the experiment, but by the end of the day (even just after the 09:10ish nap) I’m always so relieved that I did not backslide.

The weekend social commitments did make it impossible to nap according to the planned times (see log of day 1 for the schedule), so I imagine my recent difficulty is partly due to such irregularity. I did, however, get all 3 daily naps in, and they were well spaced, with the final one not being too late, so there was no negative impact to my core sleep.

Regardless of the irregularity of nap times for the 2 days of the weekend, from what I read, adaptation is just plain difficult. Knowing this, I am motivated to keep going, but I’m not being too hard on myself. This morning (day 6), I woke up and deliberately took the extra 03:10a.m. nap, which helped immediately.

Come to think of it, I did battle to hit REM during naps at the weekend. I did dream during at least 2 naps, both noteworthy ones, which I’ll comment on below. Yesterday, however, I dreamt during all but one nap, and I have had vivid dreams during the core and the 2 naps (1 extra, remember) of last night and this morning. I feel very good now – I’d say 9 out of 10, where 10 is how I would have felt at this time of the morning during my old monophasic sleep.

Meditation before the 05:10 nap (assuming I’ve stuck to the originally planned sleeping schedule) has been impossible. It worked on morning 2, where I had that weird waking ‘dream ambush’ described in a previous post, but on mornings 3 and 4 I had constant dream-like activity drawing my attention away from equanimous awareness of present sensations. Strangely, nodding-off during these attempts is rare; rather, its like my mind is accustomed to dreaming during the dark hours of the morning, and I’m now slowly dealing with re-arranging this pattern. All part of adaptation, it seems. Meditation gets easier and easier later in the day; I had a 4 out of 10 sit earlier, where 10 would be as focused as I can recall being during a sit. This session started at 6 a.m. and I sat for an hour (I first tried at 01:30a.m. but this was a 1 out of 10!!); I am certain that tonight’s one will be by default a 7+, as my focus has just been getting clearer and clearer over the past hour.

Finally, the 2 notable dreams of the weekend were definitely rudimentary lucid ones. To have these in back-to-back naps is amazing, seeing as I can only recall having ever had 3 or so lucid dreams. This phenomenon is loosely associated with polyphasic sleeping, and my intention is to keep fostering awareness in the waking and dreaming worlds via this experiment.

Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 2

Day 2 of my poly-sleep experiment was, overall, characterised far more by aspects of what is known as the adjustment period to polyphasic sleep. I went to bed at 21:50 and it took me some time to fall asleep, and during the core I had to get up for a pee, which left me with a feeling that I had disturbed the effectiveness of the relatively short sleeping period. I managed to awake at 01:00. In an attempt to experiment with a 3 hour core, but the alarm went off mid-dream, so I’ll try a 3hr15min core tomorrow with an added 5 minutes to fall asleep.

I cursed the alarm clock, but managed to get up and go fairly easily. I headed straight for then molasses and by the time I was drinking it I was grateful that I stuck to my resolve to get out of bed immediately. The early-morning awake time was good – I meditated first this time around and had a good sit, and I only once felt drowsy during the 4hrs10mins I was awake – at 03:40. I played bass guitar after meditating, and thereafter wrote a permaculture-focused blog entry.

But then I didn’t sleep at all during my 5.10 nap. I’m not sure why; there were a few light disturbances that in other conditions I would have slept through. Then I missed my second nap. I was at a mechanic and just completely forgot to take the 9:10 nap i had planned to take somewhere random while waiting for the mechanic to finish work on the car. I didn’t even realise that I had missed the nap until 10:30, when I was sitting in a bank and the employee I was talking to asked me for my telephone number, which I forgot for the first time in memory. I realised I was starting to feel tired, and by the time I did take a nap at 11:15 ish, I could feel a strong sleep-dep buzz through my head.

Yet I lay awake for most of the second attempted nap; I did fall asleep towards the end but didn’t dream, and by 14:30ish I had to take my third nap early as I felt like a zombie. I fell asleep immediately for this final nap of the day and did dream, waking up feeling much better. I was still perceptually aware of the accumulated lack of sleep, and it manifested in a mild fogginess, but I was active and productive right through until 21:50, when I got into bed again.

So day 2 was much harder in the long run than day 1, but I’m not discouraged. With a minimum of 2 hours’ extra awake-time for each of the past 2 days (assuming that I would have slept 6 hours per night under the old regime), but more likely 3 extra hours’ extra awake-time per day (because often I would sleep for 7 hours or more despite aiming for 6) I’ve managed to add an extra 4 to 6 hours of usable time in total to the previous 2 days because I now sleep for just over 4 hours per day. 2 to 3 hours’ extra awake-time each day is still a very attractive concept. Sure, day 2 has not been qualitatively better than any of my ‘monophasic days’, but it is early in the adaptation phase and I expect this period not to last too long.

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