I have been rather silent about this lately, thinking about what to do. Keeping up the diary-like updates wasn’t really worth it, since I got stuck in a place where it would basically have been more of the same. I also felt somewhat overworked, and decided to take a break from all the blogging and projects to just rest. Regardless of how much I enjoy all the things I do, making space for a relaxing vacation was important.

People feel lazy when they spend a week of their vacation in the sofa watching TV and doing nothing. Never let that feeling get to you — this is just your system recharging itself (that is, if done temporarily — if you regularly live like this, you need to activate yourself).

Last time, I wrote about how I was not fully adapting. I have spent a considerable amount of effort to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, and I believe I am now on my way to having sorted it out. The whole process gave me some nice insights into how and why the whole adaptation process is such a problem to many people, which I haven’t really seen shared anywhere before.

Pure Doxyk lists many of the things you can do to help “solve” these problems in the Ubersleep book, but she neglects to mention why they are so important… this is what threw me off, and probably what throws many other off as well. I will try to tell that story in a way so that it is easy to follow. Understanding why these things are cruicial will definitely help you pull through.

Statistics

Now these statistics could be some one’s imagination — I haven’t found out the source for them. Essentially, they say that 98% of everyone who tries to adapt to the uberman pattern give up within a week. It sounds like it is too high to me, but it could be true. Most blogs I have seen about polyphasic sleep attempts have run for more than a week. Also, nearly all have had very similar problems as mine with oversleeping so it would not surprise me if the statistic actually refers to the amount of people who have failed in one way or another within a week.

Also, oversleeping significantly is said to set the adaptation process back by 60%. Again, I don’t know where these numbers come from, but this one seems very likely.

It is with those numbers as a background we need to view the process of adapting.

Risk vs reward

The main problem with adapting to polyphasic sleep is that it runs counter to how our bodies are constructed to work. As humans, we have no mechanism for long-term planning other than our conscious thoughts. This does not just make polyphasic sleep hard to adapt to, it causes many of the problems we have in our modern societies like obesity (when  your body says “I want more food” it is incredibly hard to not eat, even if it is better for you long-term, and even if you know it).

We operate on an immediate risk vs reward basis, and with most things we only do them if the rewards is significant enough to make it worth the risk.

There are a lot of simple errors you could make while adapting to polyphasic sleep. They all set you back quite a bit (regardless of whether or not you believe the 60% number, you can bet it is significant). This all means that even if you learn to deal with one problem at a time, you are going to slowly wear your body down.

The internal battle

The one thing that has surprised me the most about trying to adapt to polyphasic sleep is just how absolutely emotional the process has been. Clearly, I have felt amazed at some of the results like having dreams in so short spaces, but mostly what I did not expect was the emotional attachment I have felt to the process itself. I have felt pride when I made it through a particularly difficult time period.

The same thing makes it extra hard though, since it is so easy to put yourself down and feeling disappointed with yourself when you make a mistake and oversleep, setting yourself back. I think this is the one thing which has been the most difficult for me to handle — the absolute feelings of disappointment in myself at times. It is hard not to feel like a complete failure when this repeatedly happens, even if you know the reasons for it.

It is not strange to see where the feeling comes from though. Adapting is painful, and oversleeping sets your adaptation back, which basically means that you have just caused yourself a whole lot of extra pain. As you wake up from oversleeping, it is hard to not let that get to you. At the same time, your self confidence is your number one asset in getting through this — so wearing it down is a real problem.

The two parts of adapting

Adapting to polyphasic sleep has two basic hurdles. Mostly, people talk about how painful it can be to be sleep deprived, and how you will be tempted to go to bed. Self discipline is heralded as the key to getting through. In a way, this is true — if you lack self discipline, you are unlikely to pull through. I have seen bloggers ruin an adaptation attempt that was going a whole lot better than mine by consciously choosing to sleep for several hours — this is what you need self discipline to avoid.

There is a more important aspect to it, however, which is also a reason that people who go polyphasic together with a friend seem to have a much higher success rate than people who do it alone: you need to control how you act when you are not awake.

In a state of sleep deprivation, you will be fully controlled by your subconscious as you wake up from naps. Your subconscious will be out to fix this problem of not getting enough sleep, so it will try to take you back to sleep. This is the reason people tell you to get lots of alarm clocks. Sleeping through an alarm is a possible risk, but not the main one. The big risk at hand is that you get up, still half asleep, turn off your alarm and go back to bed. At that point in time, you are not really awake, so there is nothing you can do about it.

Most people who try polyphasic sleep seem to not reflect further on this. In fact, learning how to beat your own subconscious at this game of cat and mouse is the key to adapting.

So how do you get around it? The way to go is to do very detailed planning, and that is where the alarm clocks come into the picture. What you need to do is set up so many things that you will be forced to deal with that your conscious self has time to wake up and take over.

Having a friend is an incredible asset here, since our brains are conditioned that talking to someone means you should be conscious — phone calls or being in the same room both have a hugely beneficial effect. Also, the risk that you will both fail your “consciousness checks” at the same time are much smaller than the risk of one person doing so.

So are you lost if you are on your own then? No. I was doing this alone, and know of several others that did too. Here’s where your alarm clock extravaganza that is advised. I used 3 alarm clocks.

It was nowhere near enough.

Yes, I am serious. Three alarm clocks are reasonably quick to switch off. I used one  just at my bed, one on a desk on the other side of the room, and once in the next room. Having at least 5 more alarms would have been beneficial… and especially having one or two in really tricky positions or that are a proper pain to switch off. Throwing one under the sofa where I slept at night might have been a good idea. Pure doxyk mentioned her “behind the fridge alarm” — that might be useful too.

This seems extreme, and it is. The more sleep deprivation you endure, the more your subconscious will be taking you over. The only way to combat this is to have done more and more extreme things beforehand.

Planning and preparing

The key to even getting your adaptation to the point where your self discipline will be needed is to be properly prepared and to have plans. When you get sleep deprived, one of the things which fails is initiative. When things are the hardest, you will need a rigid schedule to guide yourself along.

I understood this after a while, and as nights were my hardest part, I scheduled my night-time hours (midnight to 8 AM) to 100%. This helped me know that there was something I had to do just after getting up from that nap, which also helped shift my brain into conscious mode.

Preparing can also mean making up a number of rules. At the end of my learning experience, I had a rule that said never get close to the bed unless it is nap time, a rule to never sit down on anything soft during night-time, and a rule that forbade me from sitting down at all during night-time if I was feeling sleepy. These kinds of extreme rules help you keep from falling asleep when you should not.

It all seems very extreme, but there will be points where your body is just wanting to give up. If you sit down in that situation, chances are you will fall asleep sitting.

Another kind of preparation I also had was alarms set on my cell phone for when to get up, five minutes later and ten minutes later. This meant that I had extra alarms from there as a fallback if I fell back asleep after turning the alarm off. Another good thing I did was to set up an alarm pulse during the night (which was my most difficult period). I had alarms ever 30 minutes, which gave me another chance to get going if I actually did fall asleep, and limited the amount of oversleep.

It may seem you’re being incredibly mean yourself here, but really what you are trying to accomplish is to get through the adaptation as quickly as possible. If you oversleep or fall asleep when you should not, what you are doing is lengthening the adaptation period, causing yourself more of the pain.

Keeping busy

The one thing to do when you are feeling tired is to keep busy and stay active. Reading a book or watching TV when you are tired makes it easy to nod off.

There are several levels of active, however. I found that doing things that were mentally engaging kept me active when I was tired. Playing video games was one such activity that would make me forget about being tired for a while. Finding such mentally engaging activities is important, since they allow you to stay awake easily without exhausting your body.

Sometimes, that just wont be enough. There are times where the only thing you can do is keep physically active. I took long walks and exercised during the nights when I felt the worst. This allowed me to feel good instead, since activating the body makes the brain cut away the layer of tiredness it otherwise imposes to make you go sleep.

Be careful about this however. Don’t overdo the exercise thing, since you can easily end up feeling exhausted and sore from it. Some people advocate not exercising at all during the adaptation period. I recommend doing it as much as needed, since it is an excellent way of ensuring that you get through the difficult periods.

My current situation

My attempt at polyphasic sleep taught me lots of things. I tried applying the things I learned, and then I tried switching to an everyman schedule. I kept oversleeping, which was not very strange considering how tired my body was at that point after a long period of half-adaptation. A successful adaptation really does need to start out being rested and needs to be quite successful all the way through, I figure.

So after oversleeping twice on the uberman schedule, I decided to switch to Everyman, and then immediately overslept my core sleep on that as well. At that point I took the decision to go back to monophasic sleep.

I simply thought I would give up and go back to monophasic sleep for the time being when I took that decision. Later the same day, however, when we were shopping for groceries I realized how much that would cost me — some of the groceries I would never need if I did not have the extra time from sleeping polyphasically. Even thought nights have been hard to pull through, I have done so many things that I would now have to quit: I have started practicing playing guitars again for the first time in years, I have started exercising properly again, and I have had loads of time over to play games, which I normally do not, I even had time to do some baking. And that is all without even being properly adapted!

So, as a result, I’m gearing up for a new attempt by allowing my body to rest and get back into monophasic sleep. I will probably let it go for another day or two until I feel entirely rested again, and then I will be ready to apply all the things I have learned. Sadly, I will likely have to do it alone, again (take that as an open invitation), but at least I have a much higher chance of success this time around.

Well, at least after I have bought more alarm clocks.