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.