Update: 343 of your fellow adventurers are now enrolled in Stature, our new character sculpting deep dive. How would you like to grow your character for 2020 and beyond? Join us for this epic journey!
Just a few things to report in this polyphasic sleep experiment update.
Shifting Perceptions of Time. The sensation that time is passing very slowly that I mentioned in the previous polyphasic log update continues. I’m amazed at how long this weekend seemed to last.
To measure time as the passing of days no longer seems relevant for me. Technically a day begins and ends whenever the clock crosses midnight. But because I’ve lost that nighttime sleep period which serves as a strong divider between days, each day now blurs into the next to create an unbroken temporal continuum. The particular date or day of the week doesn’t mean anything. I think of the passing of time in terms of what I did — the order in which I worked on different projects. I don’t have a sense of my actions being connected to any particular day or time though. So I can’t say what I did on Weds or Thurs, but I can recall that I completed certain tasks in a certain order.
I never expected these perceptual shifts to occur when I first began this experiment. They’ve certainly taken some getting used to. Overall it has caused my sense of time to shift from external cues to internal ones. External cues like the sunrise, the clock showing 12:00, or my kids going to bed don’t have much effect on me. My energy and alertness patterns no longer follow such cues. Now I’m more driven by internal cues. If I begin to feel tired, I know it’s time for a nap, so I take a break for a nap and then continue on with whatever I was doing before the nap. This pattern is the same for me whether it’s noon or midnight or any other time of day. It’s as if my internal clock has become disconnected from the external clock. I notice the external time cues like a passive witness.
Interrupted Naps. Several people have asked me what happens if a nap gets interrupted prematurely. This has happened to me a few times, such as with a phone ringing or the kids making too much noise in the next room. It’s really not that bad. First of all, there’s a very small window for the interruption to occur, only about 15-20 minutes in duration. If an interruption occurs while I’m still awake and haven’t fallen asleep yet, it has no impact. If it was a big interruption, I’ll just reset my timer and start the nap again. Same goes for the interruption occurring right as I’m waking up. But if the interruption occurs mid-nap, usually I just drift back to sleep again within a minute or two and continue where I left off.
Remember that if I get woken up during a nap, it’s either going to be during very light Phase I sleep or during REM sleep. Getting interrupted while in these phases of sleep won’t leave me drowsy. In fact, waking up from REM sleep feels great. But if a nap is cut short, it may mean getting less REM sleep than desired. And this just means that during the next cycle, I may feel like I didn’t get quite enough sleep. Usually I’ll feel the desire to nap again sooner than usual, such as after 2-3 hours. And if I can, I’ll nap again when the urge strikes. So an interrupted nap is far from fatal. It’s little more than a minor inconvenience as long as I’m still getting some REM sleep.
Diet Connection. I spent a few hours at a vegan potluck this weekend, and by a strange coincidence, someone mentioned that he knew a person who used to sleep 15 minutes at a time several times per day. That got my attention of course, so we ended up talking for quite a bit about polyphasic sleep, and I shared my experiences with it. I think a couple people were on the verge of wanting to try it after I explained how it worked. Others felt there was a strong connection between diet and sleep. One guy had done a two-week juice fast, and he said that during the fasting period, he only needed about four hours sleep per night. Once he came off the fast, his sleep requirements returned to previous levels. Interesting…