The end of polyphasic sleep

Today is the final day of my month-long experiment with polyphasic sleep.  It has been very interesting and novel; I have felt most of the time like I have had an advantage of the rest of the population, who get only a sluggish 16 waking hours, pah.  But having said that, I wouldn’t want to do this long term, for reasons I will go into later.  First of all, a few more notes I have made since the last post I made, which seems like a long time ago because I’ve had various problems with internet connections, servers, and at one point I accidentally deleted this whole blog (oops!).  Luckily I had a backup on the previous incarnation of the site.

•    Get up straight away

When your alarm goes off, get out of bed immediately, don’t wait around and relax.  Doing so is a good way to extend a nap by accidentally falling asleep.  I did this a few times, and it left me more tired, groggy and unable to function than missing a nap did.  I believe the term for it is sleep inertia.

•    Exercise

I’ve been exercising regularly by jogging and weight lifting throughout the polyphasic period, and have not noticed any negative effects on recovery or fatigue, or anything like that.  I noticed that other people who have blogged about polyphasic sleep have noted the same thing.

•    Energy levels

Certain times of the day are sometimes tough; the first hour on a morning, and the last hour at night are often quite difficult, particularly if I’ve had a few alcoholic drinks.  But this is not really any different than a monophasic schedule.  Then again, there are days when I feel fully alert throughout the whole day.  I have not noticed anything in particular that might cause this, unfortunately.  Mental energy is a slightly different story; in the last few days I’ve found it hard to concentrate in the early hours of the morning, however this is almost certainly due to some missed naps over the last few days.

•    Missing naps

There have been a couple of times where I’ve been immersed in something, and totally forgotten to take a nap.  This is frustrating because the general wisdom (which I have found to be correct) states you should continue as if nothing had happened, and wait until the next nap to sleep.  If I miss two naps in a row, then I get really sleepy and this has happened occasionally.  Probably should have set a reminder on my phone to tell me when naptime is…

•    Adapting to nap times

One thing that I have recently started doing, is waking up sometime between a few seconds and a minute before a nap ends.  So my body seems to be used to the 25-minute nap period.  I wake up with a very strong feeling that the alarm is about to go off; not in a “ah there must be a few seconds to go” kind of way, but more like a “aww that awful noise is coming” way…

The thought of sleeping just once a day is a little bit weird.  What do you do? Wake up, and then just stay awake all day until night again??  Strange.  One thing I’m looking forward to is being able to drink coffee at any time I want!  In fact I might just make one now.  Also, I’ll be able to leave the house for longer than 4 hours at a time.  I’ll be able to get a job (my attempts to get a work-from-home job failed miserably!).

Pros and Cons

What are the benefits of this weird experiment?  I got a LOT of stuff done (doesn’t this website look nice now?) and I’m actually quite impressed with that.  I’m able to fall asleep within a maximum of 5 minutes, assuming I need to sleep and I’m not wide awake, of course.  Previously, I would roll around for literally hours before getting to sleep.  This is something you’re just forced to learn when sleeping polyphasically, like being thrown in at the deep end.  You get four times the amount of practice, and there are severe consequences if you fail, which are probably good conditions for learning almost anything!  More benefits: it was interesting and novel, a new way of experiencing life, which is always good.  I’ve learned a lot about sleep and how much I actually need, which turns out to be far less than I thought.  I’m much better at waking up and getting out of bed, and as a result I expect I’ll be an early riser from now on.

Downsides?  The first week was tough at times.  The schedule is extremely restrictive, and although missing the odd nap here and there is not a major problem, missing two in a row IS a major problem, and you still have to fit everything around a nap schedule.  You can’t start watching a film close to a nap, you can’t go out for longer than four hours, and you can’t get a job with longer than four hour shifts, or do overtime.

Concluding Thoughts

At the start of the month I wondered whether I’d continue after this month.  At the time, I thought I would, but the schedule is too restrictive to do so.  If I did a polyphasic routine again, it would be when I had a work-from-home business, and I would do the uberman schedule – a 20 minute nap, every 4 hours.  As it is though, I will definitely not be returning to a ‘normal’ 8 hours per day schedule.  I plan to start with 5 hours per night, an increase from my usual 3, and keep the 6pm nap.  I will try this for a while.  It seems that many have functioned fine on 5 hours alone, and I will see if I need the nap or need to extend the core sleep.  I’ll mess around with it, what I want is a schedule where the nap is optional; it can give a bit more alertness (probably most relevant towards the end of the day), but isn’t absolutely necessary if I have things to do.

Tomorrow I will start March’s experiment.  I will explain all tomorrow, but I will say that I am not straying too far from the pillow…

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