Polyphasic Sleep: Days 2-3

The following are significant changes, experiences, and thoughts in my Polyphasic Sleep trial from afternoon on Day 2 to dawn on Day 4.

I followed the same 8-nap schedule on both days, sleeping for 20 minutes each at 1 AM, 3 AM, 5 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, 1 PM, 5 PM, and 9 PM. This adds up to 2 hours and 40 minutes of sleep and a total of 5 hours and 20 minutes of sleep in a 48-hour period.


Cold Reduction (sort of)

Nights are colder than days, and the second night was not as cold as the first. I wore a jacket and pants for most of today but I think it was more for comfort than warmth.

For night #3 (the technical start of day #4) I was concerned that wrapping myself in a blanket would make me sleepy but this hasn’t been an issue at all. I think night #3 was colder than night #2, since this is the first time I’ve wanted a blanket while awake.


Vividness Reduction

A lot of the weirdness (e.g. vivid, creepy images) I experienced on Day 1 and early on Day 2 have vanished. I like to think this was the “hazing” period: I made it clear that I would go through with this no matter how wacky it gets, so they (they being my Frat-Overlords) laid off and said, “Fine, you’re in.” J

In addition to sleep no longer being a spooky adventure, my dreams have not been nearly as vivid, though they still are easier to remember than on monophasic sleep. I think it will be easier to become lucid on polyphasic than monophasic sleep, but I have yet to find out.

I did, however, have one instance of eeriness today. After getting comfortable I thought to myself, as I have at each nap, “Okay, sleep now.” When I did that a chill came over my whole body and I think I had butterflies in my stomach. I opened my eyes, relaxed for a moment, and then I fell asleep okay.


REM Sleep?

Speaking of dreams, I’m not sure I’ve had too many of them. I noticed this after Day 3’s 5 AM nap: where are the dreams? Considering that almost all of the sleep on this schedule is supposed to be Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, AKA dreaming, this was a tad alarming. So I went into the 7 AM nap firm about having a dream, and I did. Maybe I’ve caught several minutes of REM sleep here and there since then, though I don’t recall any dreams.


Short-term memory lapses.

Speaking of recall, my memory has been, well, interesting for the last several days. Particularly, when I wake up from naps I often am confused and/or astonished. Where am I? What’s happening? How did I get here? Are you sure I slept? I usually can’t recall having fallen asleep. Several times I’ve woken up five minutes into a nap worried that I overslept or took an unplanned nap. Even after I check the clock and see that I already have slept or should still be sleeping I am skeptical.

What’s particularly confusing is that I’m not so sure whether my alarm always goes off. For my last nap (night #3, 3 AM) it seemed like I woke up on time without it but I also remembered waking up to it just prior to that, so I have no idea what happened. After a moment’s consideration I tend to conclude with, “Sure, I guess I slept” and then I stand up and go about my business.

Issues with memory are most potent immediately following a nap, though I’ve had them at all points in the day. I went for a walk earlier, and when I asked myself What time did I leave? I felt a hole in my mind. I was completely blank. I had no clue. This bothered me at first, but then I wondered if my mind is letting go of such object-based, largely unimportant details in order to make room for all the novel information I’m now absorbing constantly. Do I really need to know precisely when I left for a walk? In the face of overhauling my lifestyle for a month, I don’t think so.


Choosing to fall asleep, and falling asleep quickly.

I have a sense, when I lay down, that it is totally in my hands whether and when I fall asleep. This is completely novel to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say, “Okay, let’s sleep now,” feel my body relax, and be asleep within 2 minutes (sometimes less). I’m still getting comfortable with this: sometimes it’s a little eerie to see and feel myself be swallowed up by darkness (which is usually the case—especially if I have trouble falling asleep), but when it works quickly it works wonderfully.

Especially if I actually fall 100% asleep during them (which I don’t always yet), naps feel incredibly long. When I wake up I expect to see that hours have passed, though only 20 minutes have. I suppose this is better than its opposite (i.e. sense that I have slept very little).


Activities that make it easy to stay awake vs those that don’t: it matters in the moment.

Oh, how lovely the difference! During night #2, which is also the start of day #3, I struggled a bit. I couldn’t bring myself to write anything, which is what I planned to do all night. I felt bad about this but I allowed myself to try other things I felt inclined to do. I read a few articles on Cracked.com and laughed, which was incredibly relieving. I played minesweeper for many more hours than I initially realized. At some point I decided to find the long-untouched crayons in my room and draw, and this was amazing. I didn’t want to sleep when the time came. I very quickly went from almost-hopelessly tired to feeling fine.

This led me to realize just how much I repeat the same activities from one day to the next: it’s far more than I realize. I suppose the block of 6-10 hours of sleep at the end of each day justifies it somewhat, since there is always more of an activity to be done tomorrow that I didn’t finish today.

But now I can spend 10 hours writing and still have 11-12 waking hours left in that technical day. Plus there is no big block that breaks up activity except maybe for when I eat, so I am able to do the same task almost nonstop as long as I maintain this sleep schedule.

That, in turn, has prompted me to feel that I ought to try other activities. In particular, I’ve I don’t do “right-brained,” creative activities enough, such as drawing, playing music, and perhaps making love (is that logical? Probably not, right?). I’ve generally let writing serve as both my right-brained and left-brained outlet, but now I see that it isn’t quite as bars-off creativity as I thought. Perhaps if I was writing fiction or poetry it would suffice here, but it’s just a little too far to the left, like some politicians. Then again, I may just need to step up my game here. Hm…

I played the viola for 10 years, and it has been a year since I last played. I’ve been wondering how I might think and work differently if I were to re-integrate that into my life. Because I started playing music at 8 years old it’s tough to say how it might have seeped into other areas of my life—it was just always there. So, if I were to start playing regularly again now I might get to see what can happen.

I’m curious as to see what else 21-22 hours of being awake each day will reveal to me about myself. This could get deep fast—maybe even blown to the center of the universe. :)

Anyway, I can also feel myself become significantly more tired immediately after stopping a task. The message I get from this: even if you aren’t exhausted, when you task-switch, beware. It’s not efficient, y’know.

I do appreciate this heightened sense of what activity is right for me at present. It’s not so bad that it could ruin the experiment, but it is intense indeed. If I’m doing the wrong thing, I’ll know. :)

At one point while playing minesweeper I involuntarily had a few thoughts that ran in parallel to what I was doing in the game. I basically told myself a story based on the game. For instance, while deciding which flags to place around a number 3 the story said something like, “And then Scott gave three beers to this guy…” These stories seemed to act as some ridiculous form of reasoning, and I felt I played much better while they were going on. Sadly, this experience was fleeting, but it was awesome.


Clearer sense of being in a virtual reality.

The feeling of being a character in a game world (basically subjective reality) is quickly becoming my default perspective. It’s not that it wasn’t before, but I had to use more conscious effort to feel it just as strongly as I do now. I didn’t expect this to happen at all. Maybe it makes sense because video game characters usually don’t sleep much, if at all.

I’ve also thought that this is like an endless meditation. Instead of closing my eyes for it, though, I leave them open nearly 24/7. To know thyself, sleep as little as possible. You shall quickly learn.


Night #2 was tougher than night #1, but day #3 was far easier than day #2.

After my 1 PM nap on day 2 I was quite silly, and I did very little that was intellectually or physically stimulating. Aside from a 2.5 hour walk in the woods after the 5 PM nap this trend remained true basically until the evening on Day 3, when I wrote about Belief Experiment #7.

I wrote straight through night #1 for a total stretch of 10.5 hours. On night #2 I wrote nothing. I definitely did not want to write about sleep. On night #3, I wrote maybe 40% of this article. I also could read with no problems, unlike night #2. I am steadily getting better at using this sleep schedule.


Vision boost?

When walking home on the afternoon of Day 3 I swear there was an instance where I looked up at the trees and the sky, blinked, and suddenly gained perfect vision. I’m not kidding. Right now, however (morning of day 4), things look nice but they still look just a little nicer with my unused glasses on.


Polyphasic Sleep and Ultramarathons, Round 2

I’ve been thinking about what I wrote on this topic in Polyphasic Sleep, and I’ve basically concluded that, as far as ultramarathons go, polyphasic sleep would fare best for fairly long-term efforts—say, several thousand miles— in which the individual chooses solely for himself when he moves and when he doesn’t. It might also help that the journey is point to point, rather than in laps or an out-and-back loop.

A prime example of this is to hike (or run) the Appalachian Trail. I’ve been thinking about traversing the trail in the relatively-near future, and one of the biggest decisions I’ll have to make is whether I will hike or run. I know others have successfully run the trail unsupported but I don’t know much about these attempts—in particular, how big was their pack and how much could they actually run with it on?

That aside, I’ll also have to determine the sleep schedule I will use for the trip. I definitely didn’t consider that at first. This will largely come down to whether my body proves it can recover just as well on a polyphasic sleep schedule as on a monophasic one.

The possible implications of sleep schedule here are huge. Say I need to allocate an average of 2 hours each day to chores such as preparing food, securing water, pitching a tent, and getting supplies from towns as needed. On a monophasic schedule this leaves me with 14 hours in which I can get a move on. On a polyphasic schedule, I have 20. So let’s say that my body indeed recovers itself well with frequent naps, and I decide I’m wild enough to move forward for all 20 of those hours. If my average pace is 3 miles per hour (a leisurely walk—without a pack which contains your life in it, that is) I can travel 60 miles per day. Even if it’s a pitiful 2 mph I can travel 40 miles per day. And if it truly is possible to maintain a pace of 5 mph with a pack and across such a lengthy effort, I could travel 100 miles per day. That would bring me to the trail’s end in about 22 days.

Maybe I should learn more about the AT before I consider what’s possible and probable, but hey, this polyphasic sleeper can dream. :P

The third major decision will be whether I make the trip alone or with a companion. If I want to run on a polyphasic sleep schedule there probably won’t be much of a decision to be made here, unless I meet someone nuttier than I.

Each of these choices comes down to one major decision, which is whether I’d prefer to go about this quickly or not quite as quick. Both ways (polyphasic, solitary running vs. monophasic hiking with another person) have their enjoyable points as well as their separate challenges. I’m sure I’d have a lot of fun either way. If the physical side is manageable enough what might be tough about running it alone is that if I’m trying to go as fast as I can I probably won’t make much time for meeting other people, which I’m sure is a lovely (though occasionally bothersome) aspect of hiking the AT.

If I have trouble deciding, I can always traverse the trail twice. J

Anything Else?

Oh, yes-- I look fantastic. I can hardly look at myself in the mirror without smiling at myself in pity or feeling my eyes get heavy all of a sudden. The light shade of brown under my eyes really does look good on me. Maybe I should stay in the adaptation phase forever so it sticks around. The same goes to my probably-bloated face.

I have a feeling that attempts at unconventional sleep schedules are more likely to fail if a log is not kept of when the person sleeps and wakes up. You have to affirm, in writing, Heck yeah—I’m doin’ it! You have to make it believable to yourself that this can be and will be done. Keeping records showing that you’ve done it so far is helpful and possibly crucial to this, especially for those of us who have trouble believing that we just slept. :)

Finally, to bring all above points together, constipation has been my pal for three days. May we have a bright future together.

Read Related Articles: