Polyphasic Sleep Log – Day 5

My polyphasic sleeping experience of the last 24 hours wasn’t quite as good as that of Day 4. My naps weren’t as restorative, and I spent much of last night feeling drowsy. I added a couple extra naps to make it through the night. That seemed to help, as I did finally have some dreams and woke up from the 5am nap feeling refreshed once again. The morning and early afternoon went well today.

The nighttime drowsiness problem could partially be caused by my own behavior. I’ve been spending at least a few hours every night reading (mostly fiction, so it doesn’t matter how well I retain it), which is an activity I’d often do before going to bed. So I may have previously conditioned myself to gradually become sleepy when reading at night because I used to read until I’d start to nod off. I might want to take up some different nighttime activities then, ones which are less likely to induce drowsiness. Because I’m still adapting though, I feel limited in using the nights for creative work because I’m not feeling quite as awake as I’d like to be. I’d do more gourmet cooking, but our refrigerator is already overstuffed with food. Today I brainstormed a list of other activities I could do during this time, so tonight I’ll try mixing it up. I want to reduce or eliminate the nighttime drowsiness, not just find ways to distract myself from noticing it.

Some people reported experiencing more vivid dreams and more lucid dreams from polyphasic sleep. While that may be a long-term effect, I haven’t found my dreams to be more vivid. If anything my dreams have been less vivid and more simplistic. I haven’t had any lucid dreams since beginning this experiment either.

I’m still experiencing some light “fog of brain” around the clock. It’s not an unpleasant feeling, but I don’t feel as fully engaged in what I’m doing — my physical actions seem less real and more dream-like.

I’ve also been having some cold-like symptoms the past few days, especially sneezing and a running nose. They’re very mild though.

My fine motor skills are a little off as well. I especially notice this when eating — I sometimes fumble the utensils as I pick them up. My typing is slower than usual too. I’m probably only typing about 2/3 as fast as I used to, and I’m making more typos. These are problems I’d like to see clear up over the next week or two.

Just to be safe, I’ve been avoiding driving a car during this adaptation period. So this limits my range of what I can do in the middle of the night, which is sort of sad given that I live in Las Vegas with so many places open 24 hours. It would be fun to spend one of the nighttime cycles playing poker now and then, but I’m not going to drive anywhere until I feel I can do so safely.

I’ve been keeping physical exercise light during this experiment, doing only yoga and walking. I’m concerned about being more injury prone and having a slower recovery if I do anything more strenuous as I adapt to getting by on less sleep. Once I feel I’ve fully adapted, I’ll have plenty of time to ramp up the exercise.

The main thing I’m looking for in the days ahead is to see this fog of brain clear up and for my energy and alertness levels to become more stable. Currently most of my cycles are OK, but during some of them I feel groggy or drowsy, so the overall experience is a bit of a rollercoaster effect. Sometimes I go into a nap feeling lousy and awaken totally refreshed; other times the opposite occurs. I expect this situation will gradually improve as I become more consistent at reaching REM sleep during the naps. I can see improvement there already — I’m often waking up a few minutes before my alarm goes off, feeling refreshed and remembering my dreams.

I feel fortunate to have the freedom to try this experiment, and it’s been fun to receive so much feedback from those of you who are following it. Obviously, making such a radical change to one’s daily life requires tremendous flexibility and a big commitment to make it through the initial adjustment period. My wife has been very supportive, although she definitely finds this whole thing strange. Can’t say I disagree. After 11.5 years together though, she’s used to seeing me do strange things in the pursuit of personal growth. 🙂

I want to emphasize again that this is a personal growth experiment that comes from curiosity more than anything else. I’ve been getting feedback and questions about the productivity results of polyphasic sleep, which doesn’t surprise me, but I honestly haven’t given much thought to those aspects of this experiment, nor am I far enough along yet to offer a realistic outlook. I’m still going through the adaptation period, which I’ve been told can last a few weeks, so I’m not expecting a great deal of productive output from myself during this time.

Having growth experiences like this one fits directly into my life’s purpose, so just attempting this experiment is a productive endeavor from my perspective. I’m not trying to use this experiment as a long-term means of producing more widgets, words, or lines of code. Those long-term results may be a nice bonus, but they aren’t my primary motivation for doing this. I’m far more attracted to the idea of experiencing polyphasic sleep as an end in itself — simply to learn what it’s like to live for a while as a polyphasic sleeper. It’s such a radically different way of living that I figured it would result in a growth experience however it turns out, and it certainly has done that so far. It’s giving me a new perspective on reality, changing the way I think about time, and it creates other ripple effects like breaking old habits and forming new ones.

I think someone who attempts polyphasic sleep because they believe it will lead to greater productivity will be less likely to succeed in making it through the adaptation period. “Greater productivity” through longer hours isn’t intrinsically motivating to most people. If that’s your motivation, I think it would be easier to give up after a few days or to oversleep when the going gets tough. You might feel like you’re making too big a sacrifice, like trading restful sleep for more stressful work. But if you go in with the attitude of curiosity and exploration, I think you’ll be far more likely to succeed. You won’t be envisioning the reward for success as more work and more stress. Instead you’ll find the experience intrinsically rewarding for the growth and self-knowledge it yields. Then you can even be dead tired and feeling like a total zombie on day 3 and still have fun with it. You won’t be attached to any particular outcome.