Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 4

October 24th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

If there’s a hump, I’m probably past it. The past 24 hours of polyphasic sleep have been my best so far. Last night was the first night where I felt fairly alert and awake without too much drowsiness. I still grabbed an extra 20-minute nap at 3am (between my scheduled 1am and 5am naps), but I think I could have managed OK if I skipped it. I did have a very vivid dream during that nap and awoke feeling more refreshed than usual. But I think I’ll soon be able to wean myself off this extra nap.

Right now I feel pretty good. I’d say I’m about an 8 on a scale of 1-10 in terms of my energy and mental clarity (where a 10 would be how I normally felt on a monophasic sleep schedule). I don’t feel drowsy or tired at all. I don’t feel as clear-headed as I did on monophasic sleep, so I want to see some additional improvement there. At this point I’m thinking the experiment is succeeding, at least in terms of being able to reach the point of basic functionality on a polyphasic sleep cycle.

I’ve noticed that how I feel is closely tied to the quality of the nap at the start of the cycle. If I get some decent REM sleep and awaken remembering a dream, I feel great during the next cycle. If I don’t quite hit REM, I may feel a bit groggy. But I’m getting better at hitting REM. I’d estimate I’m getting there about 2/3 of the time now. You have to deal with the same issues on a monophasic sleep pattern — how you feel during the day will depend heavily on how well you slept the night before.

During the night my appetite is virtually nil, even though I’m awake most of that time. Last night from 9pm until 5am, the only thing I ate were some grapes. However, I had a really big breakfast after that — I found I was much hungrier than usual. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

I’ve experimented with different sleeping positions and found that lying on my back works best for falling asleep quickly, especially when I’m not feeling very tired. I can usually fall asleep within 5-10 minutes.

I use a digital countdown timer alarm to wake myself up. This way I don’t have to keep resetting the alarm time when I go to sleep at different times. I keep the timer set for 30 minutes, and the alarm beeps for 20 seconds when it goes off. It’s not very loud, but I’ve never had a problem sleeping through it. Sometimes I awaken before my alarm goes off. Those are the best naps of all, leaving me feeling the most refreshed and awake. Even a 15-minute nap can totally refresh me if I have a dream (REM sleep).

I experienced a minor muscle pull in my lower back yesterday and also a foot cramp. That’s definitely out of the ordinary for me. In both cases the pain went away within a minute. These problems are probably related to this experiment. It could be a result of spending more time in certain positions than my body is used to. Or it could be that I sometimes nap on the couch and other times in the bed, which my body isn’t used to. Or perhaps this sleep pattern makes me more prone to injury. I can’t be certain of the cause.

I feel a lot more sensitive to cold than I used to. Before starting this polyphasic sleep experiment, I’d prefer working in a room where the temperature was 68-70 degrees F. But now I’m finding that’s too cold for me — around 72 feels “normal” now. I notice the cold sensitivity seems to be greatest right after I get up from a nap. It could be the result of getting out of a warm bed (or couch) several times per day, or maybe my metabolism is lower now, so my body isn’t running quite as hot as it used to. When I take a shower, I now crank the water temperature up much higher than I used to. Also, when I took a long walk outside when the temperature was 60 degrees, I found it very unpleasant — way too cold for me even with a sweatshirt. But prior to this experiment, that temperature would have felt good to me. This effect could be temporary — I don’t know.

I’m still getting used to the overall weirdness of this sleep schedule. I’m awake many more hours each day, so the days seem to pass more slowly, mainly due to being up all night. I no longer feel such a sharp division between one day and the next. It’s really screwing with my sense of time — times that I was previously sleeping are suddenly occupied by long stretches of waking hours. Now that I seem to be able to function this way without being a zombie, I’ll have to put some thought into what to do with all this extra time.

I’ve been so accustomed to thinking of monophasic sleep as “normal” that this requires a big psychological adjustment. I sometimes feel like an android who plugs himself into a wall socket to recharge once every four hours. I was reminded that babies naturally follow a polyphasic sleep pattern, and my two-year old son is biphasic with his daily naps, so monophasic sleeping patterns may be partially a learned behavior. I read that we’ll tend to drift away from strict monophasic sleep in the absence of time-of-day indicators like sunlight or clocks. I think it’s possible that a more polyphasic pattern could feel natural and normal in the absence of social conditioning. It’s beginning to feel more normal to me with each passing day.

Even though almost everyone sleeps monophasically, does that make it the optimal choice? Not necessarily… that just makes it the common choice. In many other health-related areas, such as diet or exercise habits, common is pretty bad when compared to optimal. So I don’t think it’s a terrible stretch to be suspicious that the most common pattern of sleeping may not be the best. Why do people find it necessary to consume caffeine and/or sleeping pills? How come so many suffer from insomnia? Could these problems partially stem from our beloved monophasic sleep patterns? I don’t know.

After experiencing a polyphasic sleep pattern for the past few days, I still don’t know what to make of it. It feels even stranger from the inside than it originally looked from the outside. I didn’t even think it possible I could live like this until I’d experienced it for myself.

One thing I like about this polyphasic pattern is that it breaks up the day into blocks. A nap is never more than 3.5 hours away. This sleep schedule forces me to take regular breaks, keeping my energy and alertness more constant throughout the day. The nap schedule is a big downside for some people, but for me it’s had some hidden benefits. I think it could help with problem-solving too, since I’m giving my mind six breaks every day to allow my subconscious to go to work. Also, going to bed six times every day creates the illusion I’m actually sleeping more than I used to. I’m just spending less time unconscious.

Some people have asked me what my motivation was for undertaking this experiment. I’m sure many people would assume it was to increase my productivity. That’s a good guess, but the real answer is intense curiosity. After reading recent posts on other blogs about polyphasic sleep last week, I thought to myself, “Is this even possible??? 2-3 hours of sleep per day??? What would it be like to live like this???” I wanted to see for myself what it was like. Hopefully it’s common knowledge by now that I put the greatest trust in hands-on personal experience. It’s similar to the motivation I had for learning card counting when I was 21 — I didn’t want to count cards for a living; I was just curious to have the experience. Plus I knew that this blog would allow me to make a public record of the experiment to share it with others who might be curious as well.

What’s funny is that a couple weeks ago, I put a lot of energy into focusing on the intention of raising my consciousness. I guess I should have been more specific — I meant that I wanted to reach a higher level of consciousness, not a greater quantity of it. :)


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