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.