Polyphasic? No, but stably and happily biphasic.

I first tried polyphasic sleep almost 5 years ago, in summer 2011. About 6 days into my uberman adaptation, I gave up. Two years later, I tried adapting to everyman 3, which I persisted with for several months with some success, but ultimately it didn’t quite work for me. Towards the end of that summer (2013) I tried uberman again, because a bunch of people were trying it all at once and I still aspired to greatness.

The results of that experiment are pretty telling: out of a dozen people, none of them successfully adapted to uberman or everyman. This, despite doing nearly everything right, and being all in a house together where they could ensure each other stayed awake. But within a month or two, all had reverted, and I hear that there were some negative effects in the form of narcolepsy and one or two other issues.

So if you’re planning to adapt to one of these schedules, your odds of success are low.

That being said, I maintain that my polyphasic sleep experiments ended up having one of the most positive effects on my life. Why? I learned to nap and became biphasic, fixing a sleep issue I’d had for as long as I can remember.

The Power-nap version of Malcolm’s sleep history

When I was a kid, my parents used to insist I had my lights out by a certain time, but I was almost never able to actually sleep then, so I would sneakily read with a flashlight, or othertimes follow the letter of the law by doing things in my room with the lights out (mostly pushups and sittups).

» read the rest of this entry »

So You Want To Sleep Polyphasically

Over the past few years (and mostly this summer) I’ve amassed a myriad of experience surrounding the enigmatic topic of polyphasic sleep. I’ve yet to write a comprehensive polyphasic adaptation advice post, so here goes. (This post was adapted from an email to a friend who is just starting his adaptation.)

I recommend reading puredoxyk’s book Ubersleep as well and following most of her advice: after all, she’s one of the first of not-very-many people to sleep on the uberman schedule, and has also spent years on various other polyphasic schedules. I would recommend reading that before adapting, as it really helps you create a good mindset for this kind of behavioural shift. Since at this stage you may not have time to read it before starting your adaptation, I’m going to pull out the key pieces of advice for you:

Notes from Ubersleep 2.0

1. Keep to your naps exactly on schedule, while adapting.

This isn’t ±1h, and ideally isn’t even ±5mins. Aim for ±1min. In order to do this, you’ll probably want to have an “alarm” on your phone that goes off shortly before your nap. I have one 10mins before with a snooze time of 6mins, set to a nice pleasant sound. 10mins is like “you’d better know where you’re napping and any details” and 4mins is like “you’d better excuse yourself from whoever you’re with or whatever you’re doing and go sleep.”

2. Practice getting up to your alarm.

The longer the routine, the more effective, but the harder to maintain. Good idea to have the first steps include rapid movement like arm-and-head-flailing, and possibly rendering your mattress temporarily un-sleep-on-able. Easy mode: put various cumbersome objects on it. Hard mode: put a large bowl full-to-the-brim of water on it.

3. Why I Want to be Polyphasic

Write that at the top of a piece of paper, answer it below, and put that paper somewhere where you can remind yourself of your long-term goals and how awesome they are, when you’re at the depths of tiredness.

4. Make a big fat list (BFL) of stuff to do while you’re tired.

Try to minimize external obligations during this time, and be aware that there will probably be times when you are too tired to do a seated computer task. At those times you have to admit it and do something energetic instead. Realize that even if you sit there and try to work, you won’t get anything done anyway. But you do have a lot of time to get other random fiddly things done. Puredoxyk apparently had like 80 things on her initial list and she finished all of them within a few days.

5. Make a list of things you might do before going to bed.

PD recommends:

  • start making some food
  • start an interesting project
  • do a pep talk
  • make plans with someone (online or irl)
  • rotate alarms (sometimes you’ll get used to the ones you’re using)
  • watch the first bit of a movie (I recommend the show Orphan Black, which is extremely suspenseful)

6. Have a ton of alarms to make sure you always wake up.

This one mostly wasn’t necessary for me, as I don’t think I’ve had a single instance where I didn’t at least wake to the end of Matt’s sleep tracks. However, waking and actually rising are totally different. Puredoxyk recommends things as weird as putting various appliances on timer switches so that they’ll start blending, or toasting, or whatever, when you’re supposed to get up. Another option is to take something that needs to stay frozen out of the freezer before your nap. Then if you oversleep, it goes bad. Anything to increase the pressure on the “get up” side of your body’s internal fight. I like Sleep as Android, which forces me to scan a QR code (which I keep in the bathroom) in order to turn it off.

7. Have a buddy.

Have a dozen (err, don’t have so many that you have bystander effect). Preferably in person, and preferably someone who can be with you during your darkest hours (which may not necessarily be the literally darkest hours; for me it was often 5am-11am). If someone else is adapting with you, that can be really effective, as your downswings in energy may not be simultaneous

A photo of a cat doing a faceplant into some cushions, with text that reads "I will nap... HERE".

Don’t let this be you. Not worth it.

Personal advice (i.e not from Ubersleep)

8. Incentivize yourself to avoid even the slightest extra sleep.

I haven’t actually tried this, but you might consider putting a really high financial (or experiential; could be eating a cockroach) penalty on being asleep for more than 30 consecutive mins ever during your adaptation (with an appropriate caveat for schedules with cores). This could add extra gravitas to the need to stay awake constantly, and because the penalty applies every time, it would ruin any ability to say “just this once”. Obviously you want to be careful with this because sometimes you might be totally blindsided and feel like it wasn’t your fault. Still though, like Beeminder, this would allow you to be hyper-vigilant about the moment-to-moment decisions so as to achieve your ultimate goal. This could be combined with tip #7

9. Find a way to get past the discomfort of realizing you’ve already messed up.

Something further from my own experience: I would sometimes doze off, and then half-wake-up but not actually get up. I think part of this comes from not wanting to consciously face the shittiness of just having overslept. But it So you might consider a separate motivational hack in that case. That would be almost impossible to actually enforce though, which means it might not make sense. At the very least, be aware that this might happen.

10. Move objects fast and rotationally.

Something for the Big Fat List: learn to juggle, or (even better) spin poi or devil sticks. I’ve found this to be a very wakefulness-inducing activity. Juggling is okay but I think poi and devil sticks are better as they allow you to build up a lot of rotational momentum in objects, which is really engaging and exciting. Juggling balls doesn’t have that. Juggling pins, maybe? This sort of thing only costs $20-$40 to start, so it’s worth going and buying some objects like this for the sake of adaptation, unless you’re extremely broke.

How to think about the adapation process

Unfortunately, not much is known about the mechanism by which polyphasic adaptation works, and there are actually several models of this. The model that polyphasicsociety.com uses is that napping is mostly a skill to be learned, so they make suggestions like the Nap Exaptation (often “naptations”) which involves taking a lot of practice naps. Puredoxyk’s model is that your body needs to be taught to get its sleep at different times of day than it did before. At first, deprived of sleep during the normal hours, the body will respond violently with a survival response designed to get you to fall asleep immediately at all costs. Then, once you refuse to yield, the body tries a different tactic, which is to get sleep during the polyphasic periods allotted. If you give in, you tell your body that the sleep deprivation works, and thus it doesn’t try adapting.

Based on that, you want your immediate response to “I’m dozing off” to be “OMFG I better run around the block right now! It’s life or death!!!” Maybe not that dramatic, but that’s better than your response being “well, I’ll just get up in a few moments”. If you have the ability to install dramatic imagery, you might try something like a bear chasing you and forcing you to hibernate with it. More realistically, you could simply suddenly point your fist to the sky and say “No! I must not sleep! Sleep is the time-killer! Sleep is the little death that brings total hibernation!”

One thing that is embarrassingly common to see among wannabe polyphasers (including a younger Malcolm) is to remark, mid-adaptation, something to the effect of “clearly my body isn’t meant for this”. This, I think, is the counterpart to the legitimately mindblowing reality that even with no experience, you’re still way more rested with 20min naps every 4h than not. This can lead to a sense of “wow, my body is doing this cool thing.” Which it is. Just know that until your body is doing that consistently and you feel totally rested almost all of the time, rather than rested-enough some of the time, you are not fully adapted. Being not fully adapted means that you’re still experiencing sleep deprivation, which yes, your body is not meant for.

But don’t confuse this temporary pain for an incompatibility with the system long-term. This is like visiting Brazil for a week and saying, “I could never live there! I couldn’t understand anybody!” Your brain is much more malleable than you think.

(As far as I can tell, neither Puredoxyk’s model nor Forevernade’s model on PolySoc really explain all of the data I’ve experienced. So there’s clearly more to it. They both have their merits though.)

Tiny tips

  • Want to nap barefoot, but hate putting on cold socks afterwards? Sleep on your socks! This works for most kinds of clothing, actually.
  • The sleeve of a long-sleeved t-shirt makes a great face-mask to keep the brightness out.
  • Anything that involves moving about energetically is great for wakefulness. Unless it’s dangerous.
  • I found I would sometimes feel like I was relying on backup alarms, so instead of setting it to on I would tap the toggle button over a dozen times without looking, which means that there were decent odds of me having a backup alarm, but it was something I couldn’t rely on.
  • Puredoxyk recommends not eating shortly before or after naps, but I once was literally still chewing meat as I laid down and I proceeded to have 15mins of REM sleep. So…

On Sleep and Sticktoitiveness

I want to share something I’ve gradually learned about myself with respect to sticktoitiveness, using my experience with polyphasic sleep as a case study.

Almost exactly two years ago, I embarked on a quest to adapt to the uberman sleep schedule: sleeping only six 20min naps per 24h. I made it about 6 days.

Almost three months ago, I started an adaptation to the everyman sleep schedule: 3.5h core sleep at night plus three 20min naps. I’m still going. The obvious difference between the two cases is that uberman is insanely hard and everyman is only very hard. I think that’s a big part, but there’s another pattern I want to delve into.

Quitting… while… ahead?

One day in my high school cafeteria, a friend of mine got a few of us to see how long we could hold some sort of downward dog plank exercise. One friend collapsed, and it was just two of us. Someone said something that made me laugh, and I toppled, lamenting that that had caused me to fall. One of my friends immediately laughed and said, “That is so like Malcolm!” and the others agreed emphatically. I wasn’t sure what they meant, or… if I did, I wasn’t then brave enough to admit it, even to myself.

Years later, I quit my uberman adaptation with a similar attitude, although it took me longer still to realize the parallel. A quotation from my final uberman post:

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.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that my blog is not dead. Immensely glad. But there’s an aspect in my tone of voice that suggests that I didn’t give the adaptation my best, or fullest shot.

Sticktoitiveness vs determination

Growing up, my parents would often use “sticktoitiveness” to refer to a certain kind of determination. I’m going to suggest a subtle distinction between them based on their etymologies.

  • Determination: seeing something through to the end
    (de-, “concerning”; terminus, “end, limit”)
  • Sticktoitiveness: refusing to let something end prematurely
    (just sticking to it, ends aside)

So, determination is what pushes you through the last mile of a marathon, and sticktoitiveness is what maintains your habits.

In preparing to write this post, I re-read my old uberman archives, and I was somewhat surprised at how many references I made to my life as a future ubersleeper. I had been thinking that one of the reasons I gave up before was that I didn’t have a long-term commitment to it—that I lacked determination. Rather, I had determination, or at least some of it: I was committed to successfully adapting. What I didn’t have was sticktoitiveness: I didn’t have commitment to the process of adapting.

With everyman over the last three months, I’ve at times felt discouraged, and at other times felt very frustrated with myself. “It’s like I’ve got an addiction to my bed!” I lamented to my roommates after another episode of getting up and crawling right back in. Ultimately though, I’ve made progress, and while I’m still not fully stable in my sleep schedule, I feel like I nonetheless have a firmly polyphasic lifestyle and I’m not worried about slipping off of it. (I’m tempted to use the word <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metastability” title=””Metastability describes the behaviour of certain physical systems that can exist in long lived states that are less stable than the system’s most stable state.” – Wikipedia” target=”_blank”>metastable, which sort of applies insomuch as this current situation is stable enough to endure for the medium-long-term but I’m ultimately expecting to end up in a more stable state.)

Commitment to the process

I’ve matured since that day in the cafeteria. I’ve learned to tough things out more. More powerfully, perhaps, I’ve learned—and created—new ways to understand my own behaviour. This is one of them.

Sticktoitiveness, as I’m defining it, isn’t a blind persistence that persists even when it no longer makes sense. But it’s a commitment to the process of learning, growing, or establishing a new habit, that goes beyond just a commitment to have finished doing so. And sometimes that does mean refusing to be overcome by opposing evidence: at least, refusing to be easily convinced, when the evidence seems to favour what’s convenient or comfortable.

Polyphasic Sleep 2: Everyman (Day 11)

Polyphasic sleep, we meet again.

As you may know, I attempted to adapt to the rather incredible uberman sleep schedule back in summer 2011. The first half-dozen posts on this blog document that process.

When I quit uberman after about a week, I reflected about the various benefits and costs of doing it, ultimately concluding that I would not do it again. Well…

(For the sake of brevity and of people who already know anything about this topic, I’m going to try to avoid explaining polyphasic itself. There is already plenty of that on the internet. If you’re confused by something, google it or comment below and I’ll explain.)

What changed?

Well, first of all, I’m not doing uberman again. I’m doing everyman (~3.3h core sleep at night plus three 20min naps). There are a few other factors that have converged to make this happen though:

  1. I met someone very awesome who does everyman, and met other people who know other successful polyphasers personally. This was really helpful because I had much more immediate evidence that this was indeed working for some people. This was the inspiration/impetus.
  2. I’m working at a software startup that has comfy memory foam mattresses and doesn’t care when I sleep. This gives me lots of flexibility, which is super-important for adaptation.
  3. polyphasicsociety.com. This website didn’t exist when I tried uberman in 2011. While various bloggers were talking about polyphasic, nobody seemed to actually know anything. This site actually provides solid recommendations and cites literature. Unfortunately there has still been virtually no direct research on the subject.
  4. I have discovered the Zeo sleep tracker. Sadly Zeo is out of business, but these are totally worth it and I’d seriously recommend trying to acquire one (eBay, Amazon) if you want to do polyphasic.
  5. I have acquired amazing nap mp3s, created (as far as I know) by Matt Fallshaw. More on these below.

The first steps of adaptation

I’m already 11 days in! Unlike my last attempt, where I decided to blog daily, I’m trying to make this one feel somewhat more normal, and therefore I don’t want to have this huge posting thing. The other part is that it everyman is more normal, because I still have a main night-time sleep. Here’s the story.

After deciding in late March that I wanted to do this, I scheduled my adaptation to start the following weekend. I was already intending to go out Saturday night clubbing, and I figured I just wouldn’t sleep afterwards. It is generally agreed among most polyphasers I’ve talked to that the best way to adapt to everyman is to pretend to adapt to uberman. Furthermore, the best way to adapt to uberman consists of sleeping every 2h instead of every 4h, which is called the naptation or exaptation. So that’s what I did.

After not sleeping since Friday night, I finally took a nap Sunday morning, and proceeded to take naps every 2h for about a day. I was pretty tired in the morning but felt quite competent in the afternoon / evening. (Sidenote on feeling competent while possibly having inadequate self-assessment abilities: I’ve started using Quantified Mind to track my cognitive performance. Unfortunately I didn’t do enough trials before starting adaption to be able to negate practice effects, but at the very least if I ever quit polyphasic or switch to a different version, even temporarily, I should be able to tell how it’s affecting my brain.)

REM naps, glorious REM naps

Then, I started cutting out some of the naps midday. Tuesday morning was crazy. I was utterly exhausted and probably would not have been able to avoid sleeping if it hadn’t been for my friend who stayed over and kept me awake by asking me random questions (and tickling me incessantly when I would doze). Even still I think I crashed a bit during while she was totally asleep. I… don’t remember. Anyway, on the advice of several other polyphasers, I decided to start my core that night. This is a cool part of the story. In my uberman conclusion post, I note under benefits:

I feel like I’m better at napping now, although that will have to be re-examined once I’m no longer sleep deprived. — past!Malcolm

In the year-and-a-half since the uberman experiment, I indeed retained my ability to REM-nap, and while I only tried it when tired, tired is a pretty common state for university students, so it came in handy plenty of times. The other cool result of this was that when I started my adaptation to everyman this month, I was REM-napping a few of my naps from the very first day, and about half of them by Tuesday. Apparently many people take much longer (including myself when I tried Uberman) but my polyphasic friends suggested that I could now add a core.

My Everyman Schedule

Radial chart indicating when I'm asleep and awake

My exact schedule. Purple is sleep, black is wake. The circle is a 24h clock with midnight at the top.

It took me a decent amount of time to figure out what schedule would work best for me, but I ultimately settled on:

  • Core: 01:30-05:00
  • Nap: 08:30-08:50
  • Nap: 13:20-13:40
  • Nap: 19:00-19:20

My core was actually originally going to be like 1:15 but the first few nights I was late anyway so I ended up keeping it at 1:30. I’ve successfully awoken every time, but after my core on nights 1 and 3 I didn’t manage to get myself out-of-bed enough and conked out for another few hours.

The Zeo and phases of sleep

During naps, my Zeo tells me how much sleep I actually got, and what kind. I can virtually always tell when I have REM naps, because I dream, but it’s not nearly as obvious how long I slept. The really good ones, though, where I REM for the whole 20mins (I’ve had I think 3 of these so far) have me wake up feeling like I’ve gone to Narnia. It seriously feels like I’ve been gone for hours, so it’s a weird adjustment to return to a world that was basically like the one I left.

For my core sleep, the Zeo has been hugely helpful in indicating my cycles and how much deep sleep I’m getting (the idea is that REM is gained mostly through naps, and deep (aka SWS / short-wave sleep) mostly during core. There were actually a couple of nights when I got an insanely large amount of deep sleep—2 hours 25 minutes! I only have 2 nights’ of monophasic Zeo data, but this appears to be a solid hour more than I was getting before.

However, I’m much more concerned about REM sleep. I appear to have been getting at least 2 hours when monophasic, which will be tough to replicate polyphasically. I might need 4 naps per day. …although I seem to recall reading that REM is more effective with smaller doses administered frequently throughout the day. Lately I’ve been adding a 10:40am nap, which seems to be very helpful and REMful (one of them was one of the solid 20mins of REM).

The sleep mp3s

Oh man, these are so awesome. Historically I’ve relied on vibrating alarms to annoy me out of bed. I still do that for my core sleep, but for almost all of my naps this time I’ve used this mp3. For length-variants and other polyphasic resources, check out the links on this lesswrong.com comment.

The track is mostly composed of waves, sohttp://blog.myzeo.com/sleep-architecture-again/ft pitched tones, and vague babble (similar to coffivity.com but without coffeeshop sounds) which is pleasant. Then, 20 minutes in, a beautiful, slow, simple synth melody starts, and plays for 2 minutes. At that point, classical guitar comes in, then seconds later piano, then an electric guitar playing rock, followed by some crazy sounds that will make you think you should probably head for cover. I struggle to imagine sleeping through this when it’s playing on headphones. Surprisingly, though, I have never needed this alarming ending. In fact, I become awake/aware almost instantly at the first synth tone. I don’t know how this works, but it feels like magic and it’s so much nicer than having to awaken to beeping, bells, or angry vibrations.

I’m just getting started

This everyman adaptation is going really well. I’ve had a few mess-ups (such as this morning when I managed to sleep for 2 hours sitting in a chair with my computer on my lap. Thank god it didn’t fall off…) but all in all I’m feeling quite confident this will work. I’m already feeling way more rested than I would expect sleeping just 30h/week. Anyway, it’s time for my core! Sweet dreams (:


Edit: 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

Uberman Day 6 Conclusion

I’m done.

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.

Malcolm

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.

Uberman Days 4-5 Roller Coaster

So… I overslept again. I was wide awake for my first cycle, then quite tired for my second. I kept myself awake at first by practising with my friend’s Poi. The poi (basically weights at the end of strings, that are spun around the body in a kind of dance) were hugely useful for keeping me awake. If alertness were measured on a scale from 1-10, then after mere seconds of starting to spin the poi I could take myself from a 1-2 level to a 5-6 level.

So things were great, but I was still feeling super-tired at one point, and it wasn’t yet 7:30. I went back to my room… and woke up at 9:50. Yeah. I must have crawled in bed out of exhaustion and forgot to set the extra alarm again. I felt like a huge idiot, but still didn’t want to give up, so at noon I had another nap, and continued my schedule.  For my next nap, I laid down at 3:31, proceeded to have  fairly long dream about my mum and sister coming to visit me at university, then woke up at 3:46! Fifteen minutes, REM-nap.

That really brightened my spirits, as it made me feel like Uberman will actually be achievable. I spent much of the remainder of the day at Canada Day festivities, then spent almost the entire night in a friend’s room watching TED talks. One in particular stood out to us, because of its simplicity and call to action, but I’ve made a separate post about that » How to Add Daily Awesome to your Life in 2 Easy Steps.

During my noon nap, I had another dream, and I was thinking that I must be doing very well, but then around 2pm I became extremely fatigued again, and took an extra nap. I woke up still tired, and have no idea what I did before napping again at 3:30. I also have no idea what I did between my 3:30 nap and waking up at 8. I’m not even entirely positive that I was up, although I’m pretty sure I got out of bed at 4… Edit: I just asked my roommate. Turns out I was in bed from 4-8 (although he’s not sure exactly what happened when my alarm went off at 4). Ugh. I’m going to think about all of this…

This is weird. I don’t like not knowing where my days are going. I’m not going to give up quite yet, but if this sort of thing continues to happen, I think it’s fair to say that my body really does not approve of Uberman. If so, I’m probably going to try some non-monophasic sleep schedule, but it will include some sort of core sleep at night, between 4.5h and 6h.

Will keep you posted.

Malcolm

PS: One of my lines of reasoning for stopping is that I’m thinking that there are some other really cool parts of personal development that I could explore if I weren’t so focused on Uberman. I was hoping that the extra wakefulness of Uberman would give me a chance to do this, but alas I am not as patient as I would like to be.

Uberman Day 3 Trials

It seems to have become a habit for me to summarize the previous 24h during the next day’s first cycle.

Okay, well, Day 3 was rough. When I awoke at 4am, I was more tired than I have probably ever been in my life. I certainly don’t remember ever being more tired, and I’m certain that if I somehow were that tired then in any other circumstance I would just sleep. In my dazed state, I decided I should still go for a walk, and that it would probably help wake me up. It did not. I practically sleepwalked for over an hour around campus. A route that would normally take me ~40 mins took well over an hour. I had my eyes closed probably more than half of the time. Not one of my finer moments.

Upon returning to my room, it was quite clear to me that I would not be able to stay conscious until my 7:30 nap, but it was only 5:15 or so. I decided that I’d stay awake until 5:30 and then have an extra nap…

…and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up in my bed shortly after 9am. Upon inspection of my phone, I discovered that I hadn’t slept through a 6ish alarm, but that I hadn’t even set one. That’s how tired I was, apparently. Anyway, I had a quiz this afternoon, so it was potentially for the best that I got a bit of actual sleep. As it was, I don’t think I did that well, but there’s a chance I would not even have made it there conscious otherwise. Of course, there’s also a chance that I could’ve had several REM naps today if I’d stayed on schedule. It’s impossible to say. The past is the past.

I’m not prepared to give up that easily though, and fortunately tomorrow/today/Day4 is Canada Day, so this is a long weekend. I’m hoping that 3 days of few commitments will allow me to hit my naps on schedule and take several extra ones, a la Naptation.

Anyway, it’s 3:27, so I need to get ready for nap 2 of Day 4. (I count the midnight naps as belonging to the next day.)

I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.

Malcolm

PS: I skipped my night-class for half an hour to catch some winks on the second floor of the classroom building — literally on the floor.

Uberman Day 2

Well, it’s now Day 3. The following is a summary of how Day 2 went.

It massively surprises me that—despite having a hypothetical 6 extra hours per day—I’m having trouble updating this blog daily. I imagine that part of that is linked to just how tired I’ve been during many of the AM hours. During Day2-cycle3(8am-11:30am), for example, I nearly collapsed into my omelette that I was eating for breakfast. I had to take an extra nap, which I did at 9:30, at the midpoint of the cycle. The extra naps really help keep me going.

As far as my state of being is concerned, well… I’m still feeling generally fine/pleasant. I find funny things twice as funny, although so far I haven’t found an abnormal number of unfunny things funny. I’m super-sleepy at times, but not immensely so, as it still takes me a few minutes to fall asleep when I lay down. Also, sometimes I don’t feel sleepy at all. This is mostly correlated to how active I am,  both physically and socially. I’ve always found conversation to do wonders for my levels of awakeness.

In my second cycle, I went over to Patrick’s res, Velocity, and played the keyboard that’s in the Great Hall while he took his 4am nap. I went to ensure he was awake but he was already up as he hadn’t actually fallen asleep. We went on an excursion that took us through Waterloo Park and over to Uptown Waterloo, then back up King Street, returning on University Avenue. It was much colder than my previous walk (which I did in shorts & sandals) but still very nice. The walks are great for keeping energy high at that time of the morning.

Dreaming! The challenge of adjusting to the Uberman Sleep Schedule is to teach your body how to have REM sleep in just 20 minutes.  One of the most tell-tale signs of REM sleep is dreaming, which does not usually happen in any other sleep phase. I’m happy to report that my noon nap yesterday included a brief dream. Hopefully, over the next few days, more and more of my naps will become REM-naps, complete with dreaming. For some people this apparently takes weeks, but I’m hoping for a smoother transition than that.

10 minutes until Nap 2, and I’m suddenly starting to feel super-tired. A good sign, I think, although it’s hard to say at this point.

Malcolm

PS: Other polyphasers have mentioned that they began craving grapes. My res cafeteria was serving grapes at lunch today, so I got them, but I found them very unpleasant. That’s probably related mostly to where they’re from or how (if) they were washed?

Uberman Day 1 Finished

It’s now shortly after midnight, technically into Day two. I’ve decided I’m going to divide my days based on midnights, because

  1. I have a nap then.
  2. It’s a pre-existing boundary.
  3. I prefer the mindset of getting a ~8h head start on the next day, versus spending an extra 8h in the previous one.

I feel pretty good. I’m tired but not exhausted. I’m not in any real physical discomfort.

My mind is having a hard time getting used to the idea that I’m not going to flop down on my bed and conk out for 8h every night. I was downtown playing at a UW Engineering Talent Show (“TalEng”) and it was weird to realize that I was coming back and just going to work all night, plus probably go for another stroll at 4am. I ate a bunch of food at TalEng too… I’m trying to eat a significant amount during 4/6 cycles, plus snacks in the other ones.

I remarked to a friend at one point that “Normal people probably don’t try Uberman, but if they did they’d probably stop because it just feels so weird.” by which I meant that the pull toward returning to the status quo of sleeping all night is quite strong, all physical aspects aside.

I’ve been advised to create a list of projects to do with all of my extra time. I have a few but so far this hasn’t been needed due to an exceptionally large number of school assignments.

Speaking of which, Calculus time!

Malcolm

PS: One of my friends, Patrick Cockwell, has decided to join me. His naps are on the 4 hours (4,8,12) so we should be able to keep tabs on each other and make sure we don’t oversleep.

Uberman Day 1 – Morning

It’s 5am, and I’m feeling pretty great.

For the remainder of my 12-4 cycle, I tweaked some things on the blog design, and talked with a friend online. is currently sleeping biphasically — one main sleep (4.5h) and a nap (1.5h). We’re going to stay in touch throughout my adaptation process, and presumably afterwards as well. During that time I also read some articles, and… Hm. I remember feeling as though time was passing fairly slowly, but I’m not sure now exactly what I was doing the whole time.

Perhaps it is all just my own bias wanting me to think that I’m still functioning very efficiently. Hard to say.

My naps had all been pretty good until the 3:30 one, when I just couldn’t get comfortable… I was laying in the same shavasana position as all of my previous naps, but my limbs would just feel like they were in the wrong place. I just couldn’t get to sleep. I’m hoping that future naps will not be so restless. For all of yesterday’s naps, I actually slept, although I don’t know what state I was in.

A person laying face-up on a yoga mat, relaxed.

The Yoga position "Shavasana"

On the subject of Yoga, I’m planning to start doing a half-hour or so every day. I’m trying to model my adaptation period quite closely on what I’ve observed on Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development Blog. This includes:

  • Becoming vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat since last Thursday. Apparently, herbivores need less sleep and are better able to adjust to changes in sleep schedules.
  • Walking for an hour. Immediately after waking at 4am, I went on an hour-long walk around Columbia Lake (link shows my route in Google Maps) which was really refreshing and just generally pleasant.
  • Yoga. I’ve been practising Yoga intermittently for several years, but with extra time I’m definitely going to do more of it.

I may also do other things he did, such as cook things, although I don’t know if that specifically ought to help immensely.

I’m going to do some schoolwork etc now, nap again before 8, do more, nap again, eat lunch, go to class!

So far my mental status is fine. I feel tired but not excessively. My energy is at a stable although slightly below average level. I feel like I could sleep now if I wanted to, but I don’t feel like I absolutely have to.

Boom.

Malcolm

PS: I’m chatting with a friend at the moment, and I made reference to the conversation I had with the other friend during my 12-4 cycle as being “last night”, even though it was just 2 hours prior. Interesting, eh? Factors that could’ve caused me to divide the day that way could include…

  • It’s now light out.
  • I actually went for a long outing after I got up at 4.
  • I had a conversation with someone in real life after my walk.
  • The friend I was talking to “last night” proceeded to go to bed after our conversation.
A portrait of Malcolm Ocean

I'm Malcolm Ocean.

I'm trying to figure out how humans work so I can help make humanity work. More about me.

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