Experimenting with polyphasic sleep patterns…huh?

I had been reading up on polyphasic sleep patterns recently. The idea is that you sleep on a cycle of multiple naps throughout the day instead of one, big 8-hour block. It was something I had come up with on my own several years ago and had tried with miserable results…the will needed to stick to it was something I was severely lacking. It feels good to sleep and I got sleepy and quit!

This post has been published predated so as not to appear on the home page. The dates in the post are correct.

It was a phonecall that woke me up a little after midnight on Feb 7, 2011. I was awake afterward, so I turned on my computer and drew up a couple of new sleep schedules based on what I had been reading and the times I could most easily squeeze in a nap.

At the time I had been sleeping somewhat irregularly, averaging about 7.5 hours/night with an hour nap about 1pm. I set my alarm to my new schedule which has me sleeping for an hour every four, with one awake block of three between midnight and two. Taking into account what I had read about the need to crash after skipping a scheduled nap, I needed something that could be more flexible and easily fit around my workday. Total sleep hours scheduled: five. 3am, 8am, 1pm, 6pm, 11pm.

The numbers represent hours of the day with my usual monophasic sleep time shaded grey. The yellow are hours I try to be awake, the blue is when I should be sleeping and the green is where I can sleep if I need a temporary change in my schedule.

I figured five hours of sleep was pretty good for a polyphasic schedule. The uberman schedule is 20 minutes, six times a day totaling only two hours. That seems a little extreme, and there is no way I could start uberman cold turkey. That will take some easing into…I decided that if I can make this schedule work for a decent period of time, discover my limits on missing naps and have something to keep me occupied during the night, perhaps I will see just how extreme I can take it. 120 one-minute naps? Can it be done? hehehe… hmmm…

My job is a daytime job, but it is very flexible in when I put in my hours or keep them for myself. The above schedule was designed around my work, with most meetings in the mornings after 9am or the afternoons after 2pm. If I cannot get out of a meeting, I have an hour cushion on either nap to take advantage of. Of course, I would jump back to my regularly-scheduled naps as soon as possible. If uberman’s six naps can drop sleepytime to two hours, surely I can adjust to five  one-hour naps.

The goal should give me three hours more doingstuff time during the day, let me remember my dreams more clearly and save my back from the daily morning aches I get from laying down too long. I sure hope this is worth the pain. Being sleepy suuuucks!

Day 1

I went to sleep after about twenty minutes of tossing and turning, then made a decision to sleep through my wake up alarm. This is the iron will I have that likes to bend…but I managed to wake myself up at 5. I dreamed I looked at a clock that said 5:02am and decided to get up. The time was actually four minutes before. I got up groggy, and had little trouble falling asleep at 8am and woke up on my own 45 minutes later. Same with 1pm. My 6pm nap was spent laying in bed for an hour waiting for sleep that never came. Similar with 11pm, though I was tired going to bed and tireder getting up. Overall I felt fine most of the day and a bit fatigued after 7pm.

Day 2

I was sleepy going into my 3am nap, but didn’t feel like I was getting good sleep. I felt concious that I was sleeping and, though I was dreaming, I didn’t feel like I got what my brain and body wanted from it. But no wonder…I have had four hours’ sleep in the last 24! The alarm woke me up at four am more groggy than ever, and I am surprised I actually willed myself out of bed. An hour on and I still feel foggy…eyes want to close, brain wants to go back to sleep. But this will help me zonk out in the evening hours, so…must…fight…through it! Finally the 8am nap came and I had little trouble zonking out. Surprisingly, I woke up on my own about 30 seconds before my alarm went off. I am still drowsy…feel like I was out partying last night and am having to drag myself into work. Come 10 am or so I was feeling pretty awake again. In fact, 1pm nap was like yesterday’s 6pm. Laid there. Didn’t get proper sleep and got up 45mins later a little foggy headed. I guess it doesn’t help that my room is on the west side and gets full afternoon sun. It is hard to sleep when you get up sweating. The rest of the day I felt pretty awake. So awake that my 6pm nap was just a deep rest, not the sleep I am hoping for. Something unusual happend, however. Half an hour into it there was a loud bang in the kitchen (thanks housemates), and I reacted with my head jerking forward and feeling and hearing a BAM! on the back of my head. Like being struck with a stick. I got up startled, found out my housemate dropped a pan in the sink, and I laid back down for another twenty minutes. Was it my subconcious smacking me for shaking up my sleep system?

Day 3

Good sleep. Rich sleep. Short sleep…but it was the sleep I have been trying to achieve since 3am yesterday. It was the first time my alarm had woken me up since that hour as well. This schedule might take some getting used to…night naps need alarms and day naps barely get me to close my eyes. Hopefully things will even out soon. 3am sleep was the deepest yet. Heavy dreaming. It was my alarm that woke me and, so far, the 4am hour has been the most difficult to stay awake. Sitting in front of the computer screen helps to wake me. But about 5:30am I started crashing…couldn’t see straight and was having to shake my head to keep from dozing off. I gave up and went to sleep at 6:30am, which I felt justifyable because I had a meeting scheduled for 8am (which is pretty rare, normally). I never slept so well…and only for half an hour! I dozed off a second time for another half hour then got up. I felt fine until my 1pm nap. I turned my phone off (and the alarm…oops) and crashed out. My housemate woke me up 20 minutes after my scheduled 2pm wake up time. My body wanted to sleep longer…I felt like a zombie for the next hour. Its funny, this sleep experiment has me thinking about sleep ALL THE TIME! Constantly. It has also put me on an interesting rhythm. I find that I need to pee right before my naps, every time. My day is broken into 5 chunks which is much more manageable for the body I think…for the last three days I have showered at about 5pm.  Before, having a 16 hour block had me doing that kind of stuff at any hour of the day. 11pm nap was hard to get up from but not as hard as last night. Today was better in that I fell asleep for every nap, though the times were a little disjointed. We will see how it goes in four hours!

Day 4

Thank goodness last night wasn’t as hard as the night before. Still tough, and I still thought about backing out. But I have been sleeping more consistantly than the very start, and though I still wade through bouts of fogginess after waking, it isn’t as bad as two days ago. Yesterday I told my boss what I am doing and showed him the graph. He seemed intruiged, but probably thinks I am crazy. I explained it might take a couple of weeks to get acclimated to the sleep schedule. “So…we should expect you to be a little…crazy…during the next two weeks?” I got to thinking, this could be my excuse!

I have decided to preface my naps by reading. It tends to take my mind off worries of the day and acts as a natural sedative. Got 2 pages into the next chapter in my book before my 1pm nap when I decided to dogear the page and shut my eyes. Woke up 40 minutes later on my own. I guess I am starting to get too confident, however. I silenced my phone at 6pm and slept 2 full hours, waking up at 8pm on the dot. Oops! It may have been because for some reason I was thinking I was scheduled to eat before my nap, like at lunch. Waaaay off! I had a big bowl of oatmeal and toast because it was quick n easy. Well, I can say with a high degree of certainty that I needed that extra hour. Hopefully it will make the night go by easier.

Day 5

Hehehe, I know what you are thinking. First let me say that this is not easy. Your brain is constantly fighting itself, the subconcious wanting to rest and the concious wanting to stick to the schedule. This morning, after half an hour fighting to stay awake, the subconcious convinced my concious that this schedule was a dumb idea and that it would be better to shoot for the Everyman schedule, thereby justifying a longer chunk of sleep. I woke up seriously considering dropping this experiment or maybe trying the Everyman schedule. But now that I am awake and my sneaky subconcious is laughing at his small victory, I have decided to accept this blip and continue forward! In doing so I will adjust today’s schedule to stay awake during 8am and 1pm, and pick it up normally at 6pm.  I didn’t have any trouble going back at 6pm and made plans to go out at midnight, right after my nap!

Day 6

Damn!! Overslept last night again! And I had made plans to go out at midnight, meet up with friends, go dancing… This time my alarm didn’t go off. My phone alarm is finicky. I was playing with settings to figure out how to have it chime with a silent ringer as to wake me up on time but not disturb me with calls. Still have to work that out I think. Woke up at 2am on my own. Shortly after that the power went out. I stayed on my computer until the battery died, then I thought, screw it, it’s pitch dark and I can’t just sit here…I went back to sleep on purpose. So in total this morning I overslept 2.5 hours, so…ugh…I will try to reset my schedule again like yesterday.

On second thought, maybe not. I have been doing more research on polyphasic sleeping and I think I am going to go with something tried and true…Everyman. Everyman  is a core sleep of 3 hours with 3 20-minute naps in the day. Judging from my oversleeping patterns I think I will shoot for 3-6am as my core sleep with a nap at 1pm, 6pm and 11pm. Actually, I will start big with hour naps and see how they go. I find that in the afternoons it takes me 10-15 minutes to fall asleep and I get up 10-15 minutes before my alarm. Usually. But if I can fall into this 6-hour pattern and gradually decrease my naps, it might make it easier to adopt the Everyman.

And I am surprised I am finding it hard to fall asleep this afternoon! Just laid there. Also spent an HOUR trying to figure out why my alarm won’t go off. Reset all my alarms twice, changed the profile on silent mode…fingers crossed. Going out tonight if it kills me.

Day 7

At least I can stick to one goal. Went to 4brothers at 12:30am and danced until about 2! Fiddled around on the comp until bed time and promptly konked out. I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm went off (which did go off, think I finally sorted out the alarm issue) and…damn I wish I could go back to sleep! Actually I am more hungry than sleepy. Pancakes maybe… at 7am decided on oatmeal. Was pretty groggy this morning for the first two hours, got super hungry come noon and spent an hour and a half lounging with the gf, sleeping the first 30 minutes. Dinner was ready at 6pm but saved it for later to try and stay on schedule…didn’t work. Didn’t sleep. Just laid there thinking about…sleep.

Sleeping conditions aren’t ideal…the temp is high 70s in the evening, low 80s in the afternoon. There is always noise outside. And this evening my room smelled like ant spray thanks to my combat efforts against biting sugar ants that have taken up roaming through my room during the afternoons. Should sleep well at 11pm and I expect 3am is gonna be a blessing when it comes!

Day 8

Wow. The more of a commitment I make to this experiment, the harder it is to stick to it. I slept straight through my alarm. I had a dream that Ramin, the finance guy, was hanging out in the street with a bottle of rum telling me not to worry, today isn’t Monday, it is Sunday. And I woke up very groggy…even after 7 hours’ sleep.      Today IS Monday and I have a lot of work to do. It has been a week…I never expected to cap 7 days of polyphasic sleep experimentation with a 7-hour nap! That should be coming in the beginning, right?? I feel like a drunk struggling in AA…and I keep falling off the wagon.

Week 2 should be interesting…I am heading out to the Pacific side for a hippy festival, full moon party included. Thinking to sew backpack straps on my pillow so I won’t be caught between a rock and a hard place (so to speak). Between boats and busses it is at least a full day to get there and a full day return. And I will not bring my computer, which means I will not be updating this post until I come back. I leave on Thursday (day11),  but I WILL return!

1pm and 6pm naps didn’t yield any deep sleep, but I was in whatever stage you are when you have twitches. I lay down thinking about sleep and so I am much more concious of my subconcious creeping up on me. One thing I hadn’t considered is that today is Valentine’s day. Thinking I miiight be obligated to the missus to be in bed all night, and if that is the case, there is little hope of sticking to my schedule.

Day 10

It is difficult to stick to an Everyman schedule when the girlfriend comes over.  <sigh> I woke up briefly during the night, fought with myself for an hour as to whether I should wake up and well, gave up. 1pm brought good sleep, surprisingly. 6pm didn’t. I could barely hold my eyes open until 11pm. Seriously considering starting easy, like biphasic or triphasic…something more in tune with what my body wants to do rather than to fit it into such a rigid schedule.


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