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 😉