This past week or so has been quite an experience, but after learning a bit more about Uberman and about polyphasic sleeping in general, I have decided that my Uberman transition is over. It’s 3:34, so if it weren’t then I ought to be napping. Here’s a summary of the termination of my adventure.
What convinced me to stop:
- Claudio Stampi, one of the major researchers on polyphasic sleep, states that the naps don’t become exclusively REM, which violates my main premise for attempting Uberman – the idea that I’d get extra REM sleep compared to monophasic. All he says is essentially that if you have to get only 2-3 hours of sleep per day, these are more effectively acquired in short naps. Polyphasic sleep does not appear to actually be more effective than monophasic sleep.
- Reading about polyphasic sleep on Supermemo. It’s quite long, but not a heavy read, and definitely worth reading if you’re considering doing this.
- The naps are inconvenient. This was not a major disadvantage, but it was only outweighed by the promise of increased productivity, which seems to have been a mirage.
- I’ve been learning about other life hacks and ways to increase productivity. I’d like to try these, but they don’t work well with polyphasia.
What surprised me:
- People were extremely accommodating. I’m part of an A Capella group, and our practises were from 5:30-8:30. I talked with the exec and they were completely fine with me taking 20 mins off to nap in the middle. Fortunately, the group practises at my residence, so I could actually go nap in my bed.
- It is possible to function for lengthy periods of time with very limited sleep. Despite not being 100%, I am still quite functional right now, having slept only about 21h since last Monday.
- One of the biggest hurdles was simply how weird it felt to spend so much time awake. I had no idea how much I’d want to just sleep for hours and escape from the world. Being perpetually awake kind of traps you in reality… although I suppose if I were having long, vivid dreams during each nap then that would be less of an issue. I feel like some people might give this up simply because it feels so strange to do it.
What it cost me:
- I completely missed handing in an assignment last week, but it was only worth about 1.5% of my final grade in that course, and I’m nowhere close to failing, so this is not very significant.
- I haven’t really done many creative things over the past week, especially in the later days as my fatigue increased. I’ve been meaning to record a song, and I have some other projects that I’d like to be working on.
- People seemed to think what I was doing was dangerous, but I don’t really think that over the past week I’ve done any serious harm to myself. That said, there have been articles suggesting that long-term sleep deprivation like this can reduce the brain’s ability to respond normally to cues about sleeping. I think I’ll be fine though.
Benefits of trying anyway:
- I switched to vegetarianism, and have eaten some very tasty meals that I mightn’t’ve otherwise. This switch also illuminated the challenges of eating out as a vegetarian and of getting enough protein. The vegetarianism is going to end now as well, primarily because I’m eating most meals at my cafeteria and their meals aren’t always ideal. Even still, I’m going to consume plenty of legumes and vegetables… I just don’t want to completely give up meat. Once I’m on my own and buying/cooking my own food, I’ll definitely revisit vegetarianism.
- I now have a snazzy blog up on my site. I still need to flesh out some of the pages but the form itself is here.
- I learned how to get up instantly to an alarm, a skill that still will be extremely useful on a regular sleep schedule.
- I feel like I’m better at napping now, although that will have to be re-examined once I’m no longer sleep deprived.
- I rediscovered the joys of going for long walks. I’m not sure when I’m going to find the time for it in a normal schedule, but maybe I’ll bring some friends with me and make it a social event. (If any of my real-life friends are reading this and would like to go for a walk sometime, let me know!)
- I feel ready for anything. It’s strange, because I didn’t actually succeed at Uberman, or even succeed at keeping to my schedule for more than 2 days, but I feel like I had to exert more discipline than I usually have to. Studies have shown that practising self-control is actually practice — ie. it improves your self-control for future events. This makes me feel like I could now take on another challenging habit change.
I’m pleased to see that the list of benefits is longer than the costs lists. I definitely don’t feel like this was a waste of a week, although all of these benefits could be incurred without an investment in polyphasia.
Would I recommend doing this?
No. There are other ways to improve your productivity or sleep habits that have actually been shown to work successfully for large numbers of people. Uberman does not.
Where I’m going from here:
I’m going to spend a few days examining different aspects of my life and then come up with a plan for something new to try. I haven’t maxed out my awesomeness yet. I will likely be taking some ideas from 40 Sleep Hacks: The Geek’s Guide to Optimizing Sleep. I’ll potentially be adopting a light biphasic schedule, also known as “siesta”, in which I sleep for fewer than 8 hours at night but also nap in the afternoon. This will depend on the research I do and also on an assessment to see how well that would fit with my school schedule.
And now I am going to go lay in my bed, with no alarm clock set, and get up whenever suits me.
PS: The Supermemo article I linked to above describes how many bloggers try this, and some of their blogs just end abruptly with no conclusion. While I was ultimately unsuccessful at transitioning, I’m very proud to say that I did not crash or burn out.
Edit April 12, 2013: I’m currently in the process of adapting to a different kind of polyphasic sleep, known as Everyman 3. Read my Day 11 adaptation post.
Edit April 9, 2016: Everyman lasted a few months, and then I switched to a biphasic sleep schedule, which I’ve been doing since (for over two years). Read this update to find out more: Polyphasic? No, but stably and happily biphasic.