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.

Uberman Day Zero

As those of you who know me in real life know, I have recently decided to undertake a transition to the Uberman Sleep Schedule. That link will tell you most of what there is to know about Uberman. If you don’t like reading, the following diagram somewhat summarizes it.

Diagram comparing the Uberman Sleep Schedule to regular Monophasic sleeping.

Circle is 24h. Red is asleep. Black is awake.

Basically, rather than sleeping ~8h at night, I’m going to be sleeping for 20-25 minutes every 4h. At first, the body violently resists this, because it does not know how to get any REM sleep while only sleeping in 20 minute stints. After a couple of weeks, though, the body can adjust to this and then actually becomes more rested since it actually gets 2 full hours of REM every 24h versus only about 1.5h REM on a regular sleep schedule.

I’ve given this past day (June 27th, 2011) the name “Day Zero”. I had a full night’s sleep last night—aside from my roommate’s phone waking me earlier than I’d intended—but I started my naps at noon, and have just finished my fourth (my midnight nap).

My nap schedule is: 11:30, 3:30, 7:30 (am & pm).
I’ll post abut Uberman at least daily for the first week or two, then after that it will depend on my state. My hope is that polyphasic sleeping will become my normal state (or close to it) by then and there won’t be many more anomalies to remark.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment! I have plenty of time now, so I should be able to answer it 😛

Malcolm

PS: My friend just sent me a link to this comic about sleep deprivation.

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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