filed in Sleep on Oct.19, 2010
I know this post is late. Very late. On the verge of what you might call extremely late. What has happened is a long story, and I intend to tell it all including all the things I have learned… but first, let me do the short version.
I went another one or two weeks on polyphasic sleep, experimenting as I went with adding a couple of hours of core sleep. I settled on a 3 hour core, which was what seemed to work best for me. Then I got ill… caught a fairly bad cold.
I could not starve my body for sleep in that condition, so I crashed. I guess you could call it polyphasic sleep still… I slept through the days in periods, but each one was hours rather than 20 minutes. When I finally came out the other side, I lacked the energy or even motivation to go back into it. I was working, the Swedish elections were coming up and I had a political interest, so put simply I have been incredibly starved for time.
This should come as no surprise, really… the major reason that polyphasic sleep has been such a call for me is that I have enough things to fill my time with for two or three full days every day.
Level of sleep deprivation
One thing that I saw a hint of when I crashed in the last post and that struck me as I slept back my sleep dept was just how sleep deprived I still was. I noticed that I was sleep deprived, but while my body had seemed to adapt to it, it may well be that my body had adapted to the symptoms of sleep deprivation rather than to the way of sleeping.
In short, it took a whole lot more sleep to get back to normal than I had thought it would. This should serve as a fairly important warning for those who want to try adapting: you will be completely unable to judge how sleep deprived you are. I even measured my state using a number of tests, yet I was completely unable to grasp how sleep deprived I was. Still, people in my surrounding definitely picked up on me being sleep deprived.
The only way to gauge that would be to have someone else fill you in on how you place on a scale from 1 to 10 or such after spending a few hours with you. Preferably a number of different people who have not seen your entire adaptation process, as they could also be fooled by gradual changes (pick a trusted friend rather than a family member who sees you every day).
This was actually fairly scary to me. I had noticed I was getting close to the limit before I crashed, but I had not realized how far out the limit really was. This experiment is definitely the most hard core thing I have ever done.
My first attempt at adapting to that schedule went wrong in all manners of ways. I messed it up, pure and simple, by not knowing enough and being well enough prepared. This second attempt, however, was close to flawless. I prepared for a year. I read everything there was to read on the subject, did everything I should have done. I still could not adapt.
I have seen theories posted that being able to adapt to the Uberman schedule is something only a few people can do, but that Everyman schedules could work for pretty much everyone. I am inclined to believe this is the case, and unless I find a good reason to give up on the theory I have been piecing together from various sources on how this actually works, I will not be trying to adapt to Uberman again.
I am currently swinging between a monophasic schedule and sleping biphasically. I learned how to go for quick naps during the daytime with a sleep track, and while I do not fall asleep instantly like I did when I was sleep deprived, I can still fall asleep quick enough that taking a break for half an hour is enough for a good nap.
I also learned to listen to my body. I have become a lot better at registering the signals that my body is starting to feel sleepy, so I can take a nap rather than slog through it and remain exhausted for the rest of the day. Napping at work is annoying because it forces me to take a 30 minute break and drop whatever I was doing… but in exchange I get to be much more efficient through the afternoon. It is something I have become used to from my earlier sleep schedule either way.
With the help of a friendly American twitter follower, I did get my hands on one (at a horrible expense, really). Sadly, it did not arrive until after my cold has passed, so I never got a chance to use it during my polyphasic sleep attempt.
Of course, I am not one to leave such things alone. The first thing I did was start a new experiment of comparing the Zeo to the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock on the iPhone, which I figured could be of interest to many people who use the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock. I have gathered a fair bit of data on it, but still need to process it and draw conclusions, which will be a fair bit of work.
I will report as soon as I have a result.
In addition to that, just from quick glances at the Zeo display in the mornings I have learned a lot about how my sleep cycles work.
Polyphasic community news
On the subject of Zeo, they have actually reached out to the polyphasic community with an idea: to make a net-based documentary of sorts of a few polyphasic sleep attempts. They would be sending Zeo Personal Sleep Coaches and video cameras to a few participants who would record their attempts.
The company would then help analyze the data, edit the video into shape and so on, with the end result being published on a new community site for the Zeo. They were also looking for someone who had already successfully adapted to do measurements using the Zeo. This could be highly interesting data if it goes through — being able to see exactly how a nap for a polyphaser works and compare it to my own would be invaluable.
They would also have their Scientific Advisory Board weigh in on the data, which would be interesting… it would be the first time in a long time that we actually start getting some proper data on polyphasic sleeping, even if it is not a clinical study.
A second new development (also related to the Zeo) is a poster on the polyphasic google group measuring his sleep phases, realizing how nearly all his deep sleep was gathered at the start of his sleep. He then cut his sleep into two parts, two-hour evening nap and a morning nap, aiming to get all his deep sleep in the first nap and all his REM sleep in the second nap, adding in a recovery nap sometime during the daytime.
It apparently lets him get by on 6 hours or so, which is not nearly as powerful as some of the other schedules, but I find his reasoning and method behind it extremely interesting.
SPAMAYL-type schedules are also quickly gaining popularity and seem to have a higher (albeit still small) success rate. I may have to investigate that further at some point.
With my own experiences of polyphasic sleep, with the measured sleep data from the poster I mentioned above, with my own sleep data and with everything I ha’ve read, I have started to formulate what is to me a credible speculation about how and why polyphasic sleep works that goes beyond the normal explanations that in my view fail to explain a lot of aspects of polyphasic sleep out there.
I will be following up this post with a more detailed post about that speculation, but this is already becoming a far too long post.
Right now, I have refocused my life to finish off some other projects that require me to not be sleep deprived or that just require all of my motivation. I gained a fair bit of weight and got a fair bit out of shape through my sleep experiment, which is something I have started working on redeeming. Once I am in better shape, I will free up time and energy for other experiments.
I mentioned above how I was uninterested in trying to adapt to the Uberman schedule again. With what I have learned just recently, I feel like I should be able to experiment more loosely with polyphasic sleep though.
I intend to use the Zeo to identify pieces of my sleep cycles that could be isolated, and potentially start mixing up my sleep with periods of being up, to see how that works.
The ability to properly monitor sleep opens up brand new possibilities. I believe the whole “abrupt switch and then adapt” method is a false track — it works for some, but probably more out of dumb luck than anything else. The way forward is to monitor sleep cycles, change one parameter at a time, monitor the result and find new ways to adapt.
At least, that is what I intend to do. Your mileage may vary.