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It seems the polyphasic sleep adaptation is beginning to take root. I’m finally beginning to have dreams during my naps, which indicates REM sleep. In fact, sometimes the dreams seem to begin even before I feel I’ve fallen asleep. It’s not quite the same as lucid dreaming. It feels more like being in two places at once.
I’ve been feeling much more rested and mentally clear after waking up from naps when I have a dream, another good sign. Mentally I’m still a bit off, but I’m feeling much better today and not so exhausted. I’d say I’m around a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. I was able to function fairly well for the past 8 hours. I’m still not feeling quite normal yet, but it’s a big improvement from yesterday’s zombiehood.
An idea I have to make the adaptation period easier would be to increase the frequency of naps, but not their duration. So instead of taking six 20-30 minute naps, why not take eight naps or even twelve naps? My understanding is that the idea is to deprive yourself of REM sleep by never sleeping long enough to reach REM as you would during a normal 90-minute sleep cycle. So then your body must adapt by kicking into REM much earlier instead of waiting until the end of a 90-minute cycle.
I believe the idea is that after you’ve successfully made the polyphasic adaptation, six naps are intended to provide the equivalent of roughly six cycles of REM sleep, which would allow you to function as if you’ve gotten about nine hours of normal sleep. So given that reasoning, six naps makes sense to do post-adaptation, and it’s no wonder that people report feeling good on those six naps once they’ve made the adjustment.
But what about during the adaptation period itself, when you still aren’t getting any REM sleep at all? I’m not a sleep doctor, but I think it may be easier to do more than six daily naps during the adaptation period, as long as you continue to keep the naps under 30 minutes and keep them spaced far enough apart (say… 90 minutes minimum between naps). You’ll still feel like a zombie without REM sleep, but the extra naps could provide additional rest and help avoid oversleeping. I noticed that virtually everyone who’s tried the six-nap sleep schedule had problems oversleeping at some point. But I think oversleeping is less of a risk if you intentionally nap more frequently. Of course this only works if you have a schedule that allows more frequent naps during the adjustment period. Mine does.
More frequent naps seems like it would also help during the recovery period once you begin to experience REM sleep again. At this point your body has an REM sleep deficit to make up from several days of REM deprivation. So why not help it along with some extra REM naps each day until you feel normal again? Then you can reduce the naps to six per day, and you’ll probably feel OK reducing the naps at that point because you’ll no longer be playing catch up.
So the two benefits to taking more frequent naps would be to make the adjustment period easier and to speed up the recovery period. This requires a very flexible schedule, but if you have that flexibility, I think this may be worth trying. I took a couple extra 20-minute naps last night at certain times of peak drowsiness, and I think they helped prevent me from oversleeping and hitting late-cycle REM. Many people warned me of the risk of oversleeping, so I figured I’d better put that behavior on cue and try to mold it to the goals of this experiment instead of allowing it to foul things up. Oversleeping seems to be the major problem that leads to premature derailment for almost everyone who tries adapting to polyphasic sleep. Perhaps an extra 20-minute nap when needed can help keep the experiment on track. Remember — the goal isn’t to deprive yourself of all sleep and rest, just REM sleep, and only until the adaptation takes hold.
My appetite was low yesterday, but in the afternoon today it seems to have bounced back. Even though I’ve been awake at night, I’ve had no desire to eat an extra meal during that time. Overall I feel totally disinterested in food at night. I also seem to prefer eating simple foods like raw fruits and veggies, but this isn’t unusual for me. I think this makes the naps more restful because these foods digest quickly and easily. If I eat a really big meal, it’s not like I can just sleep it off.
I feel I’ve made good progress, but I don’t know for certain whether or not I’m past the hump here. The next 24 hours should give me a better indication. At least I’m feeling basically functional right now. I think that’s pretty good considering I’ve only slept about 10 hours out of the last 80. Right now I feel wide awake and alert with no drowsiness, but still a bit mentally cloudy. I could easily handle more days like this one, but I’m anxious to see further improvement.