Polyphasic sleep 2010, The End

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.

Moving on

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.

The Zeo

I mentioned in my last post how I was trying to get my hands on a Zeo Personal Sleep Coach, despite them being unhelpful to say the least when it comes to shipping to Europe.

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.

Speculation

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.

The Future

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.

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Polyphasic sleep 2010, day 31

Here I am hitting the one month after a very rough week. I started working, which did not go all that well to be honest. I was not fully adapted, but that was not a huge problem… what was a huge problem however was my circadian rhythm. Let me explain.

You may recall that as I started this experiment, I recommended that you first turn your circadian rhythm on its head, in order to ease the painful zombie times. This may have been a sound advice for the most part, seeing as I have had a much easier time this time around than my previous attempt, with a much reduced quantity of zombie time.

However, while adaptation is said to take a month or so, I only had three weeks of vacation left as I started the attempt. I was aiming at being adapted enough to have proper daytime activity, which from what I heard should be fine after three weeks. My problem then, was that my circadian rhythm was the wrong way around — so as I started working, I had perfectly good nighttime periods, but was really tired during the day. Bummer.

I ended up using a fair amount of caffeine to get myself through that first week of work, which was still fine since it did not cause any extra problems going down for naps, which I had otherwise expected and feared… there is no telling what impact that had on the adaptation though. I would guess it was not beneficial… Then I had to solve the problem somehow. I couldn’t just turn the rythm over like you normally would, since… well, there’s no core sleep to move.

Moving your daytime — the fast method

There is one option here that I considered at length. The various cycles in the body are interconnected — sleeping, eating, resting, activity. In order to reset your body’s circadian rhythm, one way is to use these connections. By fasting for 16 hours and then breaking fast at the point in time where you want your “morning time” to be, you can reset your circadian rythm to start there.

I have done this once before when I was about to start working after a vacation and had turned completely night owl, and it seemed to work decently.

Crashing out

I chose a different path however. At that point, I had started feeling some side effects that quite simply scared me — my head felt like it was under much too high pressure, for instance. I obviously had not adapted as the plan was, I was still microsleeping during the daytime whenever I was not pumping my body full of caffeine, and I was fast approaching a second week at work.

So I chose to do a crash. Crashing is generally the name given to a polyphasic sleeper oversleeping or simply sleeping for a long time. This would serve the dual purpose of giving my circadian rhythm a starting point and getting my sleep deprivation back to sane levels.

Last Saturday evening then, I went to bed and slept 12 hours away. As that goes, that made me wake up around noon, which wasn’t all that clever concerning my circadian rhythm, which is still rubbish. It did, however, give me back a reasonable amount of energy, allowing me to keep going and to perform at work.

Level of adaptation

I am, as I mentioned earlier, not adapted. This much is clear, despite the fact that I went long enough to become adapted without major mistakes. I cannot tell what causes this. I have seen glimpses of adaptation, and boy were they awesome… some naps that were just brilliant, leaving me in a state of near euphoria that I have heard others talk about. That is something I would like to return to — the perfect nap.

I know my body is capable of it. However, I have no way of telling why my other naps do not turn out that way, and I certainly am not getting the rest I need from the average naps. I am well enough adapted to easily drop into naps, and to be close to a reasonable adaptation, however… which means I have reached some form of steady-state, where I can experiment with different factors in trying to make things better.

While I am getting more tired with each passing day, not so at a higher rate than a normal person on monophasic sleep may do during weekdays and then sleep in during the weekends like I used to way back before I started studying sleep. I can essentially do the polyphasic version of the same.

I am trying to get my hands on a Zeo Personal Sleep Coach, which is turning out quite a challenge as they refuse to sell them outside of the US. With some friendly folks from twitter, it should sort itself out now though. Having something to properly measure my sleep cycles would help immensely in trying to analyze what is going on and what to change.

Some ideas I have had are the sleep tracks may be causing me to not sleep deeply enough or something such, nap length may not be right, sleep posture may not be good. My girlfriend has reported that I do snore a fair bit when sleeping on my back, so maybe that was not a good idea.

I will be doing some experimentation with these factors to see. If I get a Zeo, I have a chance at properly measuring these things.

Sleep schedules revisited

Last time I wrote about adding extra naps to catch up before starting work. I did, and the interesting thing is that I seemed to fare pretty well on that amount of naps, even though I was not fully adapted.

There is a new sleeping schedule only recently presented to the polyphasic sleep community, with the quick and easy name SPAMAYL — “Sleep PolyphasicallyAs Much As You Like”. Essentially it says take a 20 minute nap, then get up for at least 20 minutes. After that, if you like, you can go back to bed for another nap. It sounds like an interesting concept to me, and is similar to how I added more naps, but really does not mesh well with working.

Funnily enough, when I wrote that last post I seem to have completely forgotten about non-equiphasic sleep schedules. From the very start, my plan had been to add a core sleep if I had not adapted reasonably by the time my vacation ended.

So, since SPAMAYL likely would cause problems for me right now, I have been trying to add a core to my sleep schedule. I started out trying to get a 1.5 hour core in the morning, with catastrophically bad results. I completely slept through my alarms the first day, and the second day had to be dragged forcefully out of bed by my girlfriend, pretty much ruining the morning for both of us.

Which leads us to my current situation, finally. I intend to try a 3 hour core tonight, possibly with the sleep cycle alarm clock on my iPhone to help with waking up, as well as the usual backup alarms.

Either way, deep down I do feel like the core sleep is a workaround, not a solution. I still need to figure out how to get my naps down properly. Once I do, I should be able to go equiphasic properly again.

One thing is sure — I am not giving up now. Life isn’t exactly easy now, but I’m still happy I have found a steady state which allows me both to be effective at work and to keep trying to tune my sleep to where I want it to be.

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Sting and a tale of evil

I just came home from a Sting concert, part of the Symphonicity tour. It was a display of fantastic musicianship, beautifully arranged orchestral hybrids of Sting’s songs. An inspiring event, then, and one that once during the show reminded me of the history I have with Sting’s music.

For a long time, I was unable to listen to his music, despite liking it a lot. You know how, when you listen to certain music a lot while doing something else, one starts reminding you of the other? The mind anchors things together, making one a way to quick access of the memory of the other. I have certain albums that remind me of certain computer games, some music that reminds me of some people or events in my life, even music that immediately makes me think of painting walls.

And Sting, sadly, once became a psychological minefield. It is a story I have all but forgotten, locked away safely deep inside myself in a place where it has surely shaped who I am but that I do not really think of much anymore, nor is it something I regularly talk to others about. Perhaps that then is a good reason to dig it out, and share it here, because while it is not part of my daily life, it can never be completely forgotten.

Rewind time a slight bit past a decade. The Internet has just started making its way into the life of normal people at a scale. For me, I ended up spending a large part of my time on the IRC chat network EFnet through my late teens. I met a lot of fantastic people there, most of whom I have sadly lost contact with today.

On IRC, I found friendship that I was in part lacking away from keyboard. In school, I had been the odd kid, subject to harsh words and always the one not quite welcome. Online, I was a popular guy — more popular than even I realized myself at first. “You were all that and a bag of crisps”, a friend once explained to me, as I had failed to understand just how some people saw me.

In that environment, there was also stronger feelings. I fell for a woman called Sneaky. She was, in reality, Carolyn — an American from outside of Houston, Texas. She was older than me, 30-something, but behind a text interface age didn’t matter much. We connected, and whatever superficial attributes would have stopped us from talking had we met in flesh never stopped two aliases from chatting on the ‘net.

That started what can be described as an online distance relationship. It worked for a fair while, and we had a blast together online… but then she started acting distant. We fought, and eventually she said she was leaving me for my own sake. I wasn’t satisfied with this though — I felt that we should solve things for real, and that I should be the judge of what was best for me. So I borrowed money from my grandparents, booked a ticket and left a note on the hallway floor for my parents who I knew would never understand or let me go, as I headed out on quite an adventure.

Another online friend from Texas had helped me out with directions. I flew into Houston, had a close call with customs, caught a local bus to the middle of nowhere where I managed to catch a Greyhound bus to the small town where she lived. I stepped off and it drove off. I don’t think I ever considered what could have happened if something went wrong at that point.

I did manage to find her house, which looked like it was about to collapse. As I knocked on the door, a woman opened that I did not recognize. She was certainly 20 years older than the Carolyn I knew from pictures online and certainly several times her weight. I am, understandably, fairly upset at this point.

She tells me she is really just helping hide the real Carolyn, who is under FBI protection from an ex-husband trying to kill her, and then stashes me away at a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere. This then begins a week with phone calls and the hope of meeting her in an ever more elaborate tale of extraordinary events, expertly spun.

I spent a week isolated in that motel, unable to get anywhere (since Texas is a state where walking is an unheard of and unsupported mode of transportation). The TV had a porn channel which was uninteresting to me at that time, a local news channel and the God channel. The radio had several God channels that only played Christian songs about God and Jesus. I got my fair share of local news and advertisement that week.

I wrote down things in my notebook as I tend to do when I am creative away from computers… poetry, lyrics, stories, as I gradually slipped into what I can only call insanity. My one companion was my portable CD player, and a copy of Sting’s Fields of Gold collection.

This, then, is how I came to associate Sting with the pain and near-insanity of being in love with a woman who did not exist. The music probably kept me alive through that dreadful week full of lies, but it also anchored itself to a desperate feeling of pain.

At the end of the week, she drove me to the airport and told me the FBI had an agent on the flight, so I better not think of trying to avoid going home. The whole thing came apart soon after I came home as I was left untangling the threads of lies. I later discovered how she had had several boyfriends online simultaneously all the time, playing each one in the same manner in a long series of expert serial deception. I was, of course, unable to help any of them as they would not believe me.

It took me a long time to bounce back from that ordeal. Among ways to learn of the evil people can do, this was a harsh one. Of course I heard the songs from time to time, but each time they would call up the feelings from that motel room, threatening to suffocate me.

A few years down the line, however, I heard Fields of Gold again, and at that time I was in a new relationship. And as the emotions came rushing, I thought “No. These are too beautiful to be eternally bound to this pain.” I wanted the songs to be there to mean things of beauty again as they had been, that they were too good to be sacrificed to such an evil.

After that insight had hit me, I simply listened to the songs in the context of my new situation, refusing to let the old emotions grab hold. That attitude was enough to break the anchor.

Since then, I keep coming back. Music has always been my gate to poetry and way of finding deeper meaning. I very much live by the music I listen too, finding lyrical quotes that serve as milestones for my walk through life. And I really am grateful that these ones stayed with me.

On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star,
Like tears from a star

On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are,
How fragile we are

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Polyphasic sleep 2010, day 18 & a dilemma

It is now day 18 of my polyphasic sleep experiment. I have gone through a fairly rough ride this far, and I am not fully adapted (which is as expected). For more than a week now, I have felt like my naps are incredibly refreshing. I have no problems falling asleep, sleeping or in general getting up from naps. I do dream while napping fairly often, and it is quite common that I get up from a nap feeling like hours have passed rather than minutes..

However, the problem is that I still feel sleepy at times. It is as if a nap does not have enough rest in it to cover the entire 3 and a half hour span for me, so the final hour I tend to end up drowsy. Add to this the sleep deprivation I gathered up getting here, which the naps seem incapable of paying off. Perhaps these two problems are both the same, really.

The result is that I still nod off if I am not careful with where I rest, and still microsleep. It does feel like this is slowly getting better, as I am not quite as prone to microsleep as I was a week ago or so, but inactivity is still a big no-no for me.

A thought I had was to perhaps double up on naps for one day to see if that would let me catch up a bit more, but I am still undecided on this issue.  This is also my last week of vacation, which means that by Monday I need to be reasonably focused during day time.

My performance graphs from the tests are pointed the right direction. After a long time of rubbish results on working memory tests and sequence tests I have finally started going back towards normal results. The dexterity test still shows a lack of precision.

Naturally, if I could pay off the sleep debt before Monday that would be ace, but if that would not be possible, I should still perform decently at work — certainly no worse than I used to do all the time before on my short nights’ worth of sleep.

Fitness

I have run into something of  a problem, however. At the start of this experiment, I concluded that I would not do any heavy exercises like I did last year, since I thought that was a likely cause of extra sleepiness. I believe that was the right choice and that it has been one of the contributing factors to the higher level of success I have had this time around.

However, during last year’s experiment, my body also maintained physical shape. I play football with my friends every weekend, and last year I was surprised at how I was actually performing beyond my normal capacity. This year though, I was hardly able to run at all last weekend. Simply put, my physical shape seems to have degraded to an appalling degree.

Given a full adaptation achieved in a couple of weeks, that would let me ramp up on heavy exercise again I suppose. However, I am uncomfortable with my body falling so far out of shape while doing something so potentially harmful and unknown. Today, I discovered one more problem…

A dilemma

When I was younger, in my teens, I spent years dealing with a fairly severe depression. There is a lot to be said about this, but that is for another post. What is relevant in this context, however, is that I only defeated the grip of that depression once I realized body and mind were inseparable. Psychological health, for me, could only be achieved when my body was in decent shape. I broke free of my depression when I started doing weight lifting for the first time.

Ever since, I can tell the warning signs of my body falling out of shape which is affecting my psychological state. Usually, that will coincide with me being too lazy to exercise properly for a while. Maintaining this dual strength has helped me overcome many obstacles in life.

Now then, I have been going through a fairly long rough spell in my relationship, and in the context of this sleep experiment my body is not only sleep deprived, it is also falling out of shape. You can see where this is going.

Today I felt the most clear indications of a returning depression than I have ever since I first broke out of it.

This then is my dilemma. If I do not start getting into shape, I risk dropping into a depression which, simply said, could completely destroy my life. If I do start, I introduce a major problem into the experiment. The choice is easy, so what remains is a simple question: What do I do to counter the negative effects of exercise on the sleep experiment?

My current thought is to start exercising during the night, just like I did last year. This does have the additional benefit of activating my body during its most “low” period. One option would be to add a seventh nap, directly before or after the exercise, to provide for the extra need for sleep.

In combination with the idea of doubling up on naps for a day to beat the sleep debt, I think that may be the best idea I have right now. I do not want to give up this experiment as well, since it really is going well and has been three weeks of work to get this far.

It really is a pity to have to change anything at all at this point in the experiment, since it has been going so well… but I really have to do something about this depression.

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Polyphasic sleep 2010, day 9

This is the third part of my description of my new polyphasic sleep adaptation attempt. I will be detailing exactly what I am doing to measure how this adaptation proceeds and show some of the data I have gathered this far.

Status

First things first though. The last 72 hours have been miserable, especially day 7. I have essentially been too tired to do anything even remotely passive, since I would immediately start to fall asleep. Grogginess from some of the naps would last for several hours. That also explains why this post was slightly delayed, as I had planned on posting it yesterday.

The result was that I have been standing up most of that time, and I have been extremely limited in what activities I could do. In the end, this made for a fairly painful few days. Yesterday morning this seemed to start easing up though, as the grogginess wore off form the 2:30 AM nap.

Instead I have found it increasingly hard to actually wake up from my naps, with my girl friend having to step in several times during the day. One of those times I slept through a loud song 3 times in a row, which comes out as a 12 minute oversleep or so.

As for how the adaptation is going, that is still on track. I have no other oversleeping to this point, and I am consistently getting all my naps, and they seem to be fairly good quality. Generally, I can only go about 2-2½ hours on a nap though, which means there one hour of sleepiness at the end of each normal awake period.

Groggy/sleepy periods started out being only when I used to be sleeping monophasically, so at the start of the adaptation my mornings would be worse than the rest of the time. Now, that seems to be fairly evenly spread around the day.

Right now it is ok. I am pretty sure it will go back to being miserable before going the right way. The microsleep thing would be good to get rid of though, hell if I know how. They are very disturbing, since not only are they microsleeps, they are actually something like microdreams at times. I will just notice how I have closed my eyes without wanting to and my “imagination” is going wild about something that I was not thinking about just then, just like a dream. Nothing to do but force your eyes open when that happens I guess. The only way to avoid them is to both be standing up and be doing something active at the same time… which simply is impossible over any longer stretch of time.

I do feel like it’s slowly getting better though, like it very much depends on the quality of the last nap or someting like that. Also, tonight — right now — when things are working out brilliantly, the thought of failing this and going back to monophasic sleep is intolerable.

Experiment documentation

Ever since that first experiment last year I have wanted to do an experiment where I document much more of it. After each nap, I record on a spreadsheet my subjective evaluation (1-5) of a number of factors as well as the amount of oversleep that happened in connection to that nap, and some freeform notes.

The values I record are:

  • Sleep quality: How easy it was to fall asleep, if I feel refreshed afterwards, if I had a dream, if I woke up by myself, etc.
  • Difficulty waking up: Just how horrible was it to push myself out of bed?
  • Grogginess: How groggy I feel after getting up.
  • Sleepyness: How sleepy I am through the period awake after the nap?

I am unsure what this will give me in the long run, but it is clear to me looking back on last year’s experiment that I defenitely did not record enough information on what went on.

I will also be keeping an exact count of how much I oversleep, which is currently sitting at 12 minutes for the oversleep on my 4th nap yesterday.

I actually bought a video camera as well, and have been recording some things in a video diary like format. I never liked video blogs though, so what I would use the material for is more something like a cut documentary at the end of it. This all depends on what footage I get and so on, it may all amount to nothing in the end as well.

Tests

I also decided I wanted some more objective measurement on how well I was doing mentally than “how do I feel?” To that end, I hunted down a set of tests to do for my reaction time, working memory, etc.

There is a big problem with those tests however: it is very hard to see if an improvement is due to something with the adaptation or if it is learning a test better or something unrelated. Still, over the course of time this should give me some nice insight into how I am changing.

The main problem right now though is that they are quickly becoming mind-numbingly boring. I have now done them 27 times, and while my initial thought was to maybe do the tests at a predetermined time in each polyphasic segment of the day I quickly realized that I would not be able to make myself do it so often. If I did that I would simply be doing tests with all my extra spare time — if the tests take around 15 minutes to complete, that means I am already approaching 7 hours of nothing but doing tests.

Instead, I am kind of doing them ad-hoc now, trying to get at least one instance in per day.

I have only used tests which are available online, both as a way of making it simple but also to be able to do the tests from anywhere I happen to end up if I go away for a day or two.

The majority of the tests come from the web site cognitivefun.net:

  • Reaction time tests: Visual reaction time, Auditory reaction time. I simply do these a minimum amount of times and write down the average reaction speed.
  • Reactive decision time: Go/No-go Visual reaction time. Same with this one.
  • Interference test: Stroop. I simply do the test, write down the average correctness percentage (average of normal and interfered displays), as well as the average time.
  • Memory tests: Corsi block task. The way I use this test is as an escalating difficulty test. I start it out low (5 is reasonable for me, the default of 3 works too but is somewhat tedious — there is absolutely no risk that I would fail a 3-4 span), and do two repeats for each number before moving on. The end result is the sequence length where I first make a mistake. I also do a working memory test, and write down the correctness percentage I have for the 2-back and 3-back versions of it.

Finally I use one other test not from cognitive fun, which is simply a typing speed test, which measures my dexterity and precision. I use the one at typingtest.com, set to 1 minute on today’s travel headlines. Using headlines means I can’t learn the text by heart, which is good… but also means that sometimes you get more difficult texts.

Preliminary results

When it comes to reaction times, not much can be said. My reflection about it is that the results seem less clustered when I’m tired or sleep deprived, which is especially true for the Go/No-go test. Sometimes I have just as good reactions as on monophasic sleep, at other times I do significantly worse.

The Stroop test is perhaps not interesting, in that it seems to me that the major effect is that I have learned to do it more efficiently. I may stop doing this test as it seems to not give much, but then again it is also one of the quicker ones and I don’t mind it much.

The memory tests are the most obvious, really. While I would solidly hit 7 every time on the corsi block task before starting the experiment, I now rarely do reach 7, nearly always failing on 6 and sometimes even failing on 5.

And for the working memory tests (2-back and 3-back), it’s even more obvious. When doing these tests, I notice a clear lack of ability to keep focus, sometimes even having microsleeps during the sequences. I have a feeling that the n-back tests will be a good thing to look at as I approach full adaptation, to see if they come back up towards 100%. Note here that it is not the “memory” component which is the problem here, it is the attention component.

Finally, then, the typing speed test doesn’t seem to say much. I do think however that the variation in the graph is a sign of something. When I am not tired, I should be able to keep the wpm on 65+ at all times.

And that is it. When I have more results down the line, I will of course share them with you. I also have a feeling that there is more interesting data analysis to be done, like cross referencing the subjective nap data with the test data, for instance.

That, however, is for another time. In the meantime, if someone wants to tinker, I could provide the raw data.

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Polyphasic sleep 2010, day 6

Yesterday’s post sort of spilled over into this one. So, this will be part status report for the day, and part another chapter of the things I’d intended for the original post, about how I do my naps — what I changed from last time (hint: a lot), how to prepare, etc. Also today: how to deal with the low periods and beat that zombie feeling.

Tomorrow, I will be doing a post about how I am measuring and documenting this experiment.

Status

First though… how are things coming along? I have had a rough couple of nights since the last post. Tonight was the first night that started looking something like proper zombie mode. I got up, decided to make pasta to eat, went into the kitchen and was presented with the seemingly unsurmountable obstacles of cleaning the stove and bringing out two cooking pots.

Eating helped, but it also meant sitting down. I notice now that I am getting quite clear microsleeps if I do sit down and just watch TV or so. Intense games that just keep throwning things at you are good to keep your mind from relaxing.

I still have no oversleeps, and my nap quality is starting to become seriously good. Compared to last time, I got into it and out of it really quickly. Before midnight last night I had a nap with a dream from which I woke up by myself about 30 seconds before the first alarm. Brilliant.

I do feel though like each nap is not quite giving me enough steam for the period that comes after it. So even during daytime, and even if I had a brilliant nap just before it, I may only last 2 and a half out of the 3 and a half hours between naps before I start getting really sleepy. In general this will not impact my ability to function much unless it becomes really bad, it is just that I feel like I would fall asleep in a second if I relaxed, similar to how I feel at night.

Napping

Anyway, that brings me to the things I wanted to say about how my naps are done. In my previous attempt, I would go lay down pretty much as I usually would when sleeping monophasically (I usually fall asleep laying on my side), with a piece of blanket covering my eyes, often in dark rooms.

I had three alarms: a pillow vibration thing as my main alarm (which is absolutely brutal). My cell phone would be my second alarm, which would be placed on my desk on the far side of the room. The third alarm was a normal small alarm clock. I would set it and then toss it as far under the sofa I was sleeping on as possible. This meant I had to go sprawling on the floor to get it back, which was a good way of fighting off my inner zombie.

So what has changed? Pretty much everything. To begin with, I have started using a sleep track as my main alarm clock. This is essentially a nap-long mp3 file of some sort of noise which then fades, and potentially contains some wake-up sounds. A poster on the polyphasic google group called placebo has made such tracks from generated noise that a lot of others have liked.

I tried placebo’s tracks, but didn’t like them. Then I switched to a recording of the sounds in the rain forest during a rainfall, which was better, but contained some hilariously screaming birds or monkeys or whatever. The track I am using now (and have been since the start of the experiment proper — make sure you sort out these kind of questions in advance) is an edited version of the rain forest track I made which has the annoying sounds stripped out.

I chose not to include any wake up sounds in it, but simply fade it out at the end, leaving the waking up to the song after it in the playlist. Currently, I am using a number of repeats of this song, as it is both heavy enough to wake me up and actually is actually someone telling my brain to wake up. Sometimes, this sort of message can be better than just loud noises. If you are interested in trying out the sleep track I use, please let me know.

Posture

Using the sleep track means wearing headphones of some sort. I am using sport in-ear buds now, which work great — in-ear which means they have got good sound and fit my ears, sport design making them hard to accidentally lose. This really does work best if you’re sleeping on your back though, and I have read discussions where polyphasers have hinted towards sleeping on your back being more efficient for naps, making it easier to get up. So I decided to sleep on my back as well. The only problem is that I have never been able to fall asleep reliably on my back. It has worked surprisingly well, and I only have problems with it the first couple of naps.

To summarize how I nap now then: I nap with a 23 minute sleep track in my iPod, followed by music as my main alarm. I am using my pillow shaker as a backup alarm, which has still not been needed, and with my girlfriend as an additional backup when she is awake. As I start to get more zombie, I will be piling on additional backup alarms.

I sleep on my back, always with the lights on or light from outdoors illuminating the room, but with a sleep mask. This in combination with the sleep track is an excellent preparation for sleeping in uncomfortable places with lots of disturbances — sleep track to keep sound out, sleep mask to keep light out. During nights I sleep on the sofa, during daytime naps I sleep on the bed.

Staying awake

There will be times when it is simply impossible to stay awake if you lay down. There will be times when it is simply impossible to stay awake if you sit down on a soft surface. Yet standing up for several weeks on end isn’t a viable solution. My feet hurt from the amount of standing up I do already, and it’s only a couple of hours during the night.

For my last experiment, I had rules for how I could sit: Never sit down on a soft surface during night-time, and never sit down at all if I was feeling at all sleepy.

This would mean I played games on my PS3 standing up in front of the TV to get through zombie mode, and then sat down on the hard floor, sometimes with my back against a coffee table (not very comfortable, but still some support for my back).

This time I have expanded on those rules, with some new equipment that makes it all a bit more tolerable. I got a height adjustable desk, so I can stand in front of my computer, and I got a yoga ball. The ball is great to sit on, since it’s not as static as a chair and if you fell asleep you’d fall over. Mind you, that’d still hurt. Another great property of the ball is that if I have music on I can now dance around while sitting on the ball.

So, the rules I go by now:

  1. If I’ve had microsleeps recently, or feel that there are risks for them, I have to stand up or sit on the yoga ball while constantly moving around like I described above.
  2. Otherwise, if I am at all sleepy, I’ll prefer the ball to chairs other other sitting surfaces.
  3. If I’m not sleepy, however, I allow myself the comfort of whatever I want.

When it comes to things to do to keep awake, I’ve found that playing intense video games is incredibly useful. It not only keeps you awake, it can actually help clear some of the fog that your brain hides behind.

What you want is games that just relentlessly keep throwing stuff at you and which require constant input. I’ve been playing the Trackmania racing game on my PC during the worst parts, and Rock Band on the PS3… which is slightly less effective, as when I was at my sleepiness peak, I would almost nod off during the loading screens. When I’m at my computer and sleepy, I try to have loud music in my headphones.

Feeling fresh

I mentioned above how playing intense video games would not only keep me awake but also actually help me feel better afterwards. For instance today when I wanted to finish this article off, I was way too much a zombie. However, after an hour of standing at my PC racing, I was feeling good enough to start writing, even before the following nap (which made everything a whole lot better).

I have come across a few other interesting tips during my studies on polyphasic sleep the last year as well. The best one has to do with grogginess and eyes. By chance, someone on the polyphasic google group realized that when she was feeling groggy, her eyes were also always dry and sore. The interesting thing is that the connection works the other way as well: using eye drops when I feel groggy has helped me a lot.

Another thing I noticed last time around was that my grogginess got a lot worse when I was dehydrated. So staying hydrated is an important piece of the puzzle. With me now eating a half-portion after every nap like I described yesterday, this is much easier than it was before… I essentially don’t need to consider if I should be drinking more water, just remember to drink a big glass with my meals.

Phew… that will be enough for today. Tomorrow will be mostly about how I’m measuring and documenting my progress.

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Polyphasic sleep, 2010 edition

Long-time readers will remember my experiments with polyphasic sleep last summer. For a few weeks I tried adapting to a new sleeping pattern, an equiphasic pattern with 6 naps per day and no longer sleep, known as the Uberman sleeping pattern to some. I failed. Which sucks, because for all the pain that the adaptation was, I experienced some awesome things.

Since then I have kept reading more about it, and I have come up with some interesting information. First of all, the two big names in polyphasic sleep when it comes to visibility to others than the polyphasic sleep community are Steve Pavlina, a well known blogger who blogged about going polyphasic for a number of months, and Puredoxyk, author of the book on polyphasic sleeping: The Ubersleep book. I bought the e-book version before my first adaptation attempt, and I still believe it is a good resource… but not without its problems.

This situation is a bit unfortunate, because when you dig deeper, you find that as adaptations go, they seem to be special cases. For Pavlina and Puredoxyk, adaptation took about a week with the worst part of it being the second or third day. For just about everyone else, adaptation takes a month, and the worst part of it usually happens in the middle of the second week — days 9-13 seems to be a common time. This meant that I, like many others I suspect, went into the adaptation period with entirely unreasonable expectations. Ultimately, this misinformation was also why I ended my adaptation attempt last summer.

Anyway, as experiments go, they were fairly successful… I learnt a lot from them… and this summer, I have a month off. This means I have now started a new attempt at adapting. Saturday was day 0, the last day I slept a full night to, which means I’m now on day 5.

I was planning on posting an update about it earlier, but this post has kept growing to the point that I have now decided to split it up over several days. Also, I have been fairly busy recording data and doing tests about my state as I move further into the adaptation period.

There were a number of mistakes I did last time around… some that I have realized afterwards and some that I understood right away. I will be spending the rest of this post and several coming ones detailing the things I have learned and how I have changed the parameters of the experiment and the preparation for it and the results I’m having.

Food

One major thing I underestimated the impact of is food. There has been a lot of discussions in the polyphasic sleep community of whether being a vegetarian is a must for a smooth adaptation. I do not think that is the case, but I do think paying attention to what and especially when you eat is a good idea.

Eating lots of food will tax your body, causing it to slow down and process food. If you eat a large portion of food soon before you go to bed, you will almost certainly drop into a deep sleep which is really hard to get out of. This means that eating habits can clash with polyphasic sleeping. I wasn’t really paying attention to when I ate during my last attempt, and I know that sometimes I would accidentally end up having a large meal right before a nap. Bad idea!

To fix the problem, I am now acting a bit more like each waking period is a mini-day, which gets some routines in nicely. This also means I get up and eat half a portion of food soon after each nap. I’m getting a total of about as much food as I had when I was monophasic (probably a bit more), but never much food at once, and always more than 2 hours before the next nap.

This feels really good, with the only problem being a near constant need to be in the kitchen making food… even if only to warm up a small portion of something in the microwave oven.

Exercise

Last year, I would do a lot of exercise. I took long walks during the night when I needed to keep myself awake — which could be several hours each day. That was probably still a good idea, since it was something I did for the worst zombie time of day, and while I haven’t had to do such a thing yet this time around, I think I will if I need to, although not to such a great extent.

I also did a fair bit of weight lifting though, which was probably a bad idea. Exhausting your body will lead to the need for extra rest, which usually means extra sleep, or extra deep sleep. Either way, that is a bad thing when you are trying to adapt to a polyphasic sleeping schedule.

I am trying to keep away from heavier exercising this time around. I may still go for a bike ride, a walk or a swim while still in the adaptation period, but I wont do any weight lifting and I have cut down on my regular exercise. If I do some heavy exercise on a day, I might add in an extra nap to compensate.

Sleeping rythms

I have learned that the body has two sleep rythms that interact and overlay each others. The strongest one in most adults is the Circadian rythm, which is our 24-hour cycle of becoming sleepy, resting and waking up each night. If you become a night owl during vacations and then have problems getting up once you go back to work, that is your circadian rythm in play. The same goes for jet lag.

There is also a second rythm, called the ultradian rythm, which is the dominant rythm in infants but exists in adults as well. It is a 4-hour cycle of becoming tired, and the cause of the experience almost everyone has of being very sleepy, finishing off something and going to bed, only to realize they are not sleepy anymore. This can lead to tossing and turning until the ultradian cycle’s swings around, and it is 4 hours long. Ouch.

These insights helped me in two ways. First of all, finding my ultradian cycle helped me decide my schedule. The theory is that if you take your naps slightly before you are about to become sleepy, it will be much easier to cope with the downside ofthe cycle. If on the other hand you design your schedule to sleep on the peak of the cycle, you will be running out of energy by the time you come to the dip, which could make things hard.

This probably means that by designing sleep schedules depending on work and such factors (or, like I did last time, just place your naps evenly spaced out from midnight), you are in a lottery as to whether it will work or not. This time, my schedule is evenly spaced out from 10:30, since my ultradian low is somewhere in the half hour following that. If I manage to adapt, I am sure I will have the flexibility I need to move things around a bit.

Now the main problem when going polyphasic is the circadian rythm. During the low point of the circadian rythm and floored by sleep deprivation is where adapters describe entering a “zombie mode”. I think this has several causes, some of which are reasonably easy to do something about. Your low is likely to happen during the night, when it’s dark and you’re alone, which makes it harder to cope with.

Something I did then was to move my circadian rythm before starting the attempt. This is simply done either by simply pushing the amount of time you stay up by 30-60 minutes per day, or by doing a complete reset using fasting. The circadian rythm is tied to food consumption, which means that you can reset it by fasting for 18 hours, breaking the fast when you would like your “morning” to be.

By the time I started my experiment, the last “full nights” sleep I had actually ended at 2:30 PM. What this means is that my worst periods are now in the mornings to midday instead of during the black of night, which also means that my girlfriend will wake up. The light and having another person around is a massive boost towards the chance of making it through.

Results?

This post is already becoming far too long, so I will save more nice details for an update tomorrow. That does leave one important question then:

How do I feel?

I feel pretty good. A quick look back on my last attempt, I seem to be having a much better ride through this time. Most importantly, I have had absolutely no problems with oversleeping, and even though there are pretty bad periods, they are not the incredible zombie mode I experienced back then.

In itself that is encouraging, because it means I must have hit at least some factors on making adaptation easier, which is a major goal in the polyphasic sleep community.

In fact, I think I shall spend some time tonight reading through my old logs so I get an accurate comparison.

That will be it for now though. Nap time is rapidly approaching.

If you’re interested in more information about polyphasic sleeping, read my old series of posts:

If you’re interested in more information about sleep in general, read my old articles

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10 Common Misconceptions About Sleep

Considering that we spend roughly one third of our lives asleep, it is amazing how little most people know about sleep. Learning to control your own sleep and knowing how your body and mind react to sleep can be very beneficial to your well-being.

As a starter, I present some common misconceptions and myths about the way sleep works.

The more I sleep, the better it is for me

Most people think more sleep is better. We see it as healthy to overindulge on sleep, which is probably related to the way our modern life styles encourages a lack of sleep.

Sleep is a need your body and mind has, just like food. Just like getting too little food is bad for your health, getting too little sleep is bad for your health. While most people are aware that eating too much in general or eating too much at once is bad for your health, not many people realize that sleeping too much can be bad for your body — especially sleeping too much at once.

This should not be as hard as it seems to figure out. Anyone who slept in on a weekend and woke up feeling stiff could relate to it,  but we generally view everything surrounding sleep as a mystery.

No matter how tired you are, learning to control the amount of sleep you get can make you feel much more alert and awake the next day. If you are feeling sleepy or tired, taking a nap in the afternoon is a much better cure.

Sleepy, tired… there’s no difference

Usually, no distinction is made between tired and sleepy. I would say that while being sleepy includes being tired, the opposite is not always true. Tiredness is the mind’s or body’s need for rest, which does not necessarily mean sleep. Sleepy on the other hand, is the distinct need for sleep.

Not being able to tell this difference is one reason people go to bed and fail to fall asleep (there are others, as will soon become clear). Sleep includes rest for both mind and body, and an unbalanced tiredness can be an insurmountable obstacle to getting restful sleep.

The lack of physical exercise can be one cause of these problems, as our modern life styles tend to lack moving around.

Caffeine makes me less tired

No. Caffeine makes you less sleepy! As you go through your day, body and mind will slowly start to become exhausted. There are ways to gain an energy boost (like a sugar rush), but these are always short and leave you feeling even more drained. There are no ways to stop this drain.

However, there are situations where you just need to (or want to) keep going despite this fatigue, and this is where caffeine can be extremely useful. Caffeine blocks out your sleepiness, preventing your body from falling asleep regardless of how tired you are getting (within limits). You will keep getting more tired, but be able to keep going without falling asleep or feeling drowsy.

Still, there are many people who can not get started without a cup of coffee or two. Why is this, if caffeine doesn’t make you less tired? The explanation comes in two parts:

  • Caffeine is addictive. The people who need 2 cups of coffee to get going in the morning need those cups because they have an addiction which demands the dose of caffeine is filled. Part of the excessive tiredness felt before those first cups of coffee is simply a withdrawal symptom.
  • Caffeine reduces sleep quality. The half-life of caffeine in the human body is normally around 5 hours — this means that 5 hours after you drank your coffee, half of the caffeine is still in your body. 10 hours after the cup, a quarter of the caffeine is still there.

These things together mean that for people addicted to caffeine (which means most people, really), the caffeine from coffee, tea or soda had during the day is still very much active around bed time. Since caffeine prevents sleeping, many people have problems falling asleep (feel familiar?)

These problems are usually blamed on a stressful life style or something else. It does not stop there, however. Since the caffeine is still active, it changes how your body sleeps, disrupting the balance between the different sleep phases and giving your mind less time to rest during the REM sleep phases. The end result is a less restful sleep that means you wake up feeling tired.

Quitting caffeine is somewhat difficult, takes about a week, and means you will increase your quality of sleep significantly, reducing how tired you feel overall. Interestingly, this also means you will need less sleep overall to feel rested.

I am either asleep or awake

We tend to view sleep as either happening or not happening, yet we are aware at some level that this is not true. Have you ever got up to take a shower early in the morning, only to feel like you wake up a second time when you step into the shower? This is because your mind was still partially asleep.

Sleeping means switching parts of our consciousness off. It sometimes takes time for us to switch all parts back on. This is why you can talk to someone who seems to be awake, only to have them not remember a thing afterward — parts of their brain was still asleep.

It can be incredibly hard for another person to tell if someone is fully awake or not — and it is hard even for ourselves to know, as the part of our brain that would react to us not being awake is still asleep. In fact, some people have such a slow start in the morning that their personality will seem to change during their first hour of wakefulness.

I woke up tired — I must not have slept enough

The quality of your sleep has an incredible impact on how rested you end up. It may be true that you did not sleep enough, but it may also be the case that you simply did not sleep well enough to get the rest you needed. This could be caused by any number of things, like caffeine disturbing your sleep phases, having nightmares or sleeping on an uncomfortable bed.

Another thing that greatly impacts how you feel is what phase of sleep you are in when you wake up. Waking up from deep sleep will make you feel groggy and tired, whereas waking up in REM sleep often means you feel like you had a dream interrupted. There are even “micro-awakenings” where your body has a natural exit point from sleep. Waking up during one of these can leave you with a magical sense of wonder about how you do not feel tired at all.

I’m at the mercy of sleep, I can’t control my quality of sleep

There are a number of things you can do to control the quality of sleep, and surprisingly few of them have anything to do with the sleep itself. Your sleep posture does affect your sleep… especially, one theory is that sleeping on your back can mean sleeping lighter, not falling into deep sleep as quickly as with other sleep postures. This is something I haven’t examined as much as I would like yet, myself.

Another thing that can affect your sleep quality is food. Eating just before you sleep tends to reduce sleep quality. The more you eat and the heavier food, the worse sleep quality. This is because your digestion will mean your body will not be able to shut down properly. On the other hand, trying to fall asleep while hungry can be difficult.

The easiest way to control  how tired you feel is the alarm clock you use to wake up, however. There are a number of gadgets you can buy that increase the chance that you will wake up feeling rested. I have used many of them, and I can tell you they really do make a difference.

Once I paid off my sleep debt I’m fine

The way our society works with a hard working, busy week followed by a weekend off has led some people to adopt a pattern of sleeping less during weeks, catching up by sleeping in o weekends. I used to do this myself for years, before I started studying sleep.

It seems to work — I would sleep 6 hours each night during the week, and around 10 or more on the weekend. Sure, I would be quite tired on Friday mornings, but not terribly so, since I would be getting almost all the sleep I needed.

The problem is that sleep deprivation has many subtle effects. One effect of this pattern is that your body will collect a long-term sleep debt. Sleep debt comes in two forms — short-term and long-term. Short-term sleep debt is what you solve by sleeping in on the weekends — the feeling of being tired will disappear and you will feel fine.

The long-term sleep debt is more devious, since you will never feel it directly and it is hard to connect it to the sleeping pattern. The most clear indication of long-term sleep debt is that your immune system has problems keeping up. Perhaps others comment on how you will often feel sick, catch colds and similar. This is a sign your body needs more rest.

Long-term sleep debt is simple to cure, however: get enough sleep every night for a month or so. It will let  your body rest enough to rebuild.

I need to sleep 8 hours every night — everyone does

Common wisdom says an adult will need at least eight hours of sleep per day. Reality is a lot more complicated than that, and the only way to find out how much sleep you need is by learning from experience. Never feel guilty for not sleeping “enough” — find out how much you require.

Depending on your life style and the way your body works, you may need as little as 6 hours or as much as 9. If you sleep a lot and still never feel rested, your problem is probably quality of sleep, not quantity of sleep.

The good news is that if you quit caffeine, learning how much sleep your body needs is extremely simple. Set your alarm clock for the same time every morning (yes, including the weekends). Then simply pay attention to when you get sleepy, and go to bed. Your body will adjust to the alarm clock and after a week or two you will have adapted to a pattern that tells you how much sleep you need.

Snoozing lets me feel more rested when I get up

The snooze time on modern alarm clocks is engineered to make sure you don’t fall back deeply asleep. This means that you don’t really get any rest during the snooze period… once your alarm clock wakes you up, you’ve lost the chance.

“But it feels better!”

Yes it does, which comes back to the way I mentioned that our brains wake up slowly — you simply allow your brain to slowly wake up with the constant interruptions by snoozing, to the point where you feel somewhat awake. The time is essentially wasted though, as you are not really getting any proper rest — you are better off getting up and accelerating the process of waking up.

The human body is adapted to sleep during the night

Our society is built around the cycle of day and night. For as long as we can remember in our history, people have lived by the daylight, before the invention of electric lighting. As our race evolved, farms were tended in daytime. It would make sense then to assume that our bodies have evolved to be active during daytime?

Still, this is a tiny moment in our history, and there are signs that we may have had a less strict way of life as cave men — that our bodies may not be wired to sleep through full nights, that we simply do so by cultural choice. It is likely that we slept when we felt tired, hunted or gathered when hungry and generally went about life in a more relaxed way before civilization. One sign is the way babies sleep, before being taught to sleep through a whole night.

Another interesting thing is how some countries have a siesta break during the day, where people sleep through the warmest part of the day. There are even those who practice “polyphasic sleep” — spreading sleep out in even chunks during the 24 hours of the day, making it more efficient as a bonus.

Considering how broken and stiff your body can feel when you wake up after a full night’s sleep, there might be something to it. I find this highly interesting — so interesting I tried to adapt to it once. I learned a lot about myself and about sleep, but ultimately failed adapting… but I do intend to try again.

Summary

If you found these misconceptions interesting, I suggest you also read my previous article on How to Stop Being Tired and Start Living with Energy.

Images by orangeacid.

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The lazy line

A few years back, I went to Rome with my family for a summer vacation. We walked around and marveled over all the ancient buildings, filled with history, beauty and grandeur.

One of the places we visited was the Vatican state, with its Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. We went there around noon one day, sleeping in and taking our time. These are highly interesting places to see, which also means a lot of other people were already there. The line for the Vatican museum was about four blocks long, and the line for St. Peter’s Basilica was about as long. Fortunately three of the four blocks was in the shade, since this was during summer and on a very hot day.

A tour guide picked us up as we stood around eyeballing the lines. She offered to take us through the Sistine Chapel and directly into St. Peter’s Basilica, skipping one of the lines. Needless to say, we took the offer. She talked about the history of the place, the architecture and everything else that tour guides excel at talking about as we stood in the line for hours.

As we entered the museum we were greeted with something akin to an air port security check. The contents of my backpack meant I had to leave it in a security locker there, to pick it up on the way out. We went through the place jam packed with people to the point of exhaustion, not having much time or energy to see anything in detail. The Sistine Chapel in particular was so full of people it was hard to get much out of the experience beyond discomfort.

Heading out to the shortcut we were supposed to take, it became apparent that I would not be able to both take that route and get my pack back — the museum would likely be closed by the time I had a chance come back to the entrance. I skipped the shortcut and left the museum the normal way (which included a fair bit of more museum, by the way, so it was not all negative), and waited outside for my family to make its way with the masses of people through St. Peter’s Basilica.

In all, it was a full day that left us all pretty much all exhausted. We went back to our hotel to rest, and only afterward did my brother recall that he had wanted to buy a jigsaw puzzle of the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting.

The story could end here, and it would be nothing but a story on how I missed out on an experience. I was not content to miss out on the St. Peter’s Basilica however. As we neared the end of our stay, I got up early one morning and headed out. I took the subway over around 8 AM, walked through the empty security checks and in through the door without a hint of a line.

The place was stunning, and nearly empty. As I walked around, morning sunlight spilled in through the windows above the entrance and basked the place in a brilliant light. I took my time, unstressed by any jostling mass of people, and left with a marvelous feeling of the beauty of the place about an hour later.

As I walked away, gift shops were just about to open. I sat in the shade and enjoyed the view, bought my brother a jigsaw puzzle and headed back to the hotel before my family had awakened, full of energy for the day to come.

I find that the moral of the story applies to many things in life. If you care to get up early and chase your desires with determination, you may often come away with an easier and better experience than those who are simply content with sleeping in and going with the flow. Being lazy often ends up being more draining in the end than being determined and willing to stand the discomfort of extra effort up front.

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Part-time Juicing for Weight Loss and Health

There has been a few experiments I have wanted to do lately. Instead I have been extremely tied up with work, working a crazy number of hours overtime. When I finally came out of it and got some time off as compensation, I immediately wanted to get started.

Listen to your body

My first option was a repeat of my polyphasic sleep experiment. I learned so much during that experiment, and I have wanted to do a fresh attempt since. I have realized later on from reading more about it that I must have been very close to adapting by the time I quit — so my feeling is that it should be more successful the next time.

Whenever you deal with experimenting with yourself and your own body, you need to know how to listen to the signals your body sends you. My situation this time was simply that I was too exhausted to try sleep experiments. Working so hard had built up an energy deficit that took just over two weeks to recover.

Experimenting with sleep during that period was simply not an option (though I did sneak in a small experiment a few weeks later when my time off was up… but more on that some other time), and by the time I was rested enough it was too late to start a successful polyphasic sleep adaptation..

The polyphasic sleep experiment will have to wait until my vacation this summer.

Juicing

I went to my second option for a personal experiment, which was juicing. I had heard about people doing juice feasts before, and wanted to investigate further for myself. If you haven’t heard about it, juice feasting is essentially a cleansing ritual, similar to fasting in a way.

The difference between a fast and a juice feast is that on the feast, you should be drinking enough juice to cover your normal energy intake. Whatever amount of calories you normally eat, you should drink instead as freshly made juice. Since juice is easy to digest, this gives your body a chance to focus on repairing itself and cleanse out toxins.

I felt like I needed this badly, since my crazy work period had been accompanied by an equally crazy amount of bad fast food.

Another thing I have heard of is people using juicing as a way to lose weight. The bad fast food had predictably made me gain a few kilos and grown my stomach region a bit, making me feel bloated. Combining these two approaches felt like a good fit for me.

Getting started

To my surprise, Lethania decided to join me in this experiment. So we got a juicer, the Philips HR1861 Pro Aluminium Juicer. It is a fantastic machine, which makes making any kind of fresh juice a breeze (the hard part is carrying the fruit home). Compared to other machines I have seen and to squeezing with a manual juicer, it is much more efficient (much less waste).

Note that the whole point of this is to make juice from fresh fruits and vegetables. Buying processed juice in the store to drink is not even near the same thing. If you can afford buying a juicer, I recommend that you do so — the quality of fresh juice you get is amazing.

My first thought was to ease into it by replacing everything but dinner with juice. This worked out really nicely — in fact, it worked out so nicely I never made it past this step.

One thing that immediately became obvious is just how much juice you need to drink in order to fill up to your normal energy. I drank a glass of juice whenever I felt hungry, and I estimate I was still only getting about half of what I would normally need. Combined with a good dinner every day, this was about right to lose weight at a reasonable pace though. If you want to try it, I would suggest drinking a slight bit more (which is what I intend to do when I repeat this).

Another thing that quickly became apparent was the enormous amount of fruit and vegetables needed to go fully on juice. You will get an extra workout just hauling the stuff home from the store. We brought home a great deal of fruit, but it still was nowhere near the amount we would have needed to get enough juice to replace dinner as well. Besides, eating a regular meal for dinner meant we didn’t have to eat a lot of extra supplements.

A light feeling and joy for dinner

My feeling during the experiment is a bit hard to describe. It takes a couple of days for your stomach to adjust, which was somewhat unpleasant but not too big of a deal.

The best way I can describe the general feeling was that my body felt light — almost younger in a way. I definitely felt the lack of energy from getting less food than I was used to, but at the same time my body felt full of energy and my mind alert. It is hard to describe the exact sensation. I was extremely active during the entire experiment, fixing things with the new house, moving furniture and installing things — strangely I felt like I had more energy than usual to keep me active.

One unexpected benefit about going on this diet while at home for my time off was that dinner became a delight. Since food was restricted to dinner only, I only had to cook for dinner (and making juice is extremely quick with a good juicer like the one we bought). Cooking became so much more fun and was worth so much more effort because I was spending so much less time in the kitchen per day! The result was that we made fabulous dinners nearly every day.

As for weight loss, this has been by far the easiest and most painless way I have found this far to keep my energy intake below my normal value. Generally when I lower my food intake, I tend to be much more strongly affected by the lack of energy and feelings of hunger.

The end of the experiment

We went with it for just shy of two weeks. Juice is great, but becomes very monotonous after a while. My intention is to mix things up by going back to juicing every once in a while — definitely a positive experience for me. I do not see any particular reason to go to a full juice feast however — the benefits from part-time juicing are definitely enough to make me think that the extra effort is not worth it.

Most probably I will be doing another juicing period in a week or two, maybe run it for one week, do one week of normal diet and keep alternating like this for a while to keep it from becoming too boring.

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