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.