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!