In January 2nd of this year, I once again began the transition to polyphasic sleeping. Polyphasic sleeping is a sleeping pattern where you don’t sleep through the night in a block (monophasic sleeping) but take a series of naps throughout the day or night. There are a variety of polyphasic sleeping styles, from the Everyman, which is a block of three hours followed by three thirty minute naps during the day, to the Uberman schedule, which consists of six twenty minute naps spaced four hours apart.

I had previously lived on the Uberman schedule for eight months in 2009: you can read about those experiences, as well as more about the sleeping schedule itself, here. It has been an interesting learning experience going through transitioning to polyphasic sleeping a second time, and I feel that I have learnt many new things this time round.

Below is my diary from January 8th-January 24th. The first part can be read here. I stopped keeping a diary at this point because after a month your body has fully transitioned to the sleeping schedule and, while the psychological problems with being constantly awake continue, you do find that your body naturally starts wanting to fall asleep every four hours. It become harder to oversleep and when you do it happens for shorter periods of time than you would naturally sleep monophasically. That’s not so interesting to write about. :)

January 8th:

12:31am: 4pm and 8pm naps went fine. Looked at clock twice during midnight nap and feel fine. I’m guessing that’s the sleeping tablet-induced eight hours sleep then…

8:44am: Took 4am with some trepidation but got up fine, with some difficulty. For the 8am I made myself sleep with an arm outside the covers and slightly propped up on the pillow. I woke up by reaching out my arm and picking up my clock exactly as it began to go off, which was quite interesting. Just eaten, feel slightly sick and trembly. Stumbled down stairs, so sleep deprivation has kicked in.

8:24pm: 12pm went fine, 4pm I woke up from but have a vague memory of voluntarily going back to sleep and dozing in and out until half five. Got up to deal with guest polyphasic sleeper but decided to take another nap to try to clear the aching tiredness. Up ended turning off the alarm without realising and slept through until someone called me at half 7. 8pm nap, however, went as usual.

January 9th:

12am: Feared I would not wake up again, so I made sure to prop myself up with pillow and sleep with an arm above the duvet. Got up with some tiredness but felt quite well within fifteen minutes. Had drunk some irn bru and Jack Daniels beforehand, so particularly proud.

12pm: I woke up from my 4am feeling tired. I took a short acting-stimulant at one but not after, so the fact that I was able to sleep does suggest that it is possible to take them and stay on schedule. However, after the nap I was the only person in the house, so after I got up from my 4am and checked my email I went back to bed without setting an alarm. I woke up at 9am. Consequently do not feel fatigued but do feel tired – oversleeping seems good at the time…

January 10th:

12:40 am: One observation a flatmate just made is that a part of being asleep is the comfiness of the duvet, and that when you take it away, you become tempted to stay in bed and oversleep, not because you feel too tired to get up, but because of the comfiness of the duvet.

3:55pm: 4am nap overslept by 45 minutes. 8am I woke up fine, but due to absolute boredom I slept until 12:30pm. Was woken up twice and felt awake, so polyphasic has worked physically, but my lack of a laptop is taking its toll on my ability to motivate myself to stay awake. Buying a new one tomorrow.

10:12pm: Everyone was tired for the 8pm, so it would seem that we all overslept. I was out til 10 exactly. Ah dear.

January 11th:

12pm: Woke up from 4am nap fine, but due to my guest having fallen asleep in my bed next to me and not having a laptop to work on, I decided it would be easier to just sleep monophasically. Woke up several times but reached the same conclusion every time. Eventually got up at half ten. The thing about monophasic sleeping is that when you engage in it while polyphasic, it does feel just like a light switching off – you’re out and then you wake up ten hours later feeling as if no time has passed at all.

5:49pm: Took 4pm late as was out in town. Took it at about 4:45 instead. Noticing a definite increase in the desire to roll onto my front as opposed to lying on my side – this suggests I have now fully adapted physically to polyphasic sleeping. Mentally I have some way to go.

January 12th:

Woke up at 11am after taking the 8am nap. This was particularly interesting because neither me nor my guest at the time had felt particularly tired. We lay down fully expecting to get up again and just didn’t. I have experienced this before which suggests something of a secondary phase of adaptation, where your body has physically adjusted but there’s still something going on to make you oversleep. Because I have no memory of switching the alarm off, I cannot say what this is. Naps have otherwise gone fine today, and have felt myself relax into REM sleep at will, which is good. I am going to stop monitoring every nap now.

January 13th

Had coursework to do. Procrastinated by sleeping from 1 til 9. I am a bad person. And it’s still there… Also took every nap today late because I was working too hard on other stuff. I can feel my body rebelling as a consequence. 8pm nap was highly restful, not sure why. Boredom is definitely a major part of the battle to avoid sleeping – if someone wants to go polyphasic they really need to think up a variety of tasks that don’t involve computers, tvs or reading, cos you eyes just hurt after a while and your brains turn to mush.

January 14:

Out from 1 til 5. My bad. Boredom again. Otherwise naps kept absolutely fine, do not feel tired. Amazing.

January 15:

I’m pretty sure the willpower required to get through the night is never going to be there when the alternative is coursework. On the other hand, planning to take my naps in the library tonight. Oversleeping impossible.

January 16:

Stopped keeping diary. Polyphasic now.

January 18th: Woke up at 11am. Had an essay due. Electricity went out in my house so I decamped to the library with caffeine, clock and dinner. Now 12pm and I have not overslept. Yay!

9:33pm: Woke up disoriented as fuck for the 8pm – but on time. 8 naps. Excellent. Feeling slightly fatigued though, but will be heading to the library in a bit.

January 19th:

One other thing I’ve been doing when I get tired is to just sit myself comfortably and not move for a while to allow myself to physically relax. One of the consequences of being awake 22 hours a day is that you end up feeling really quite creaky. It also provides a useful demarcation between activities so you don’t feel like you’re just experiencing endless time and everything is bleeding into each other.

January 20th:

Well, that was an adventure. Discovered that sleeping in chairs produced same quality of sleep but made it impossible to oversleep. Successfully spent 3 days and I think 17 naps consecutively awake, feeling mostly fine (though powered on caffeine for the very early hours of the morning so I could get my coursework done). Took a trip to London to attended a training day on the 19th, the first all day thing since I went polyphasic. Took 8am on the train no problem, the 12pm was delayed until after lunch and was taken sitting on a sofa in a hallway at the venue: good quality sleep. The 4pm had to be crammed into an access break and consequently only lasted ten minutes, which left me feeling a bit rough. As a result, I was typing up notes that eveing at about 7pm on the train, and my body just started to start down. No kidding, my vision started to darken and my muscles started relaxing. I realised something was wrong when I looked at what I had just typed and I’d written “”powder enflamed mad guy com then I counted how many hapennies did we eah on has i’ sure but it all happens at 58 this week, :)” Put myself down for a twenty minute nap at 7:30pm and then when I woke up reset the clock for another twenty minutes for my 8pm. However, woke up three minutes before the alarm was due to go off in utter confusion unable to work out what I was doing. Took a few minutes to clear.

Streak ended when I ate a very heavy meaty meal just before the midnight nap yesterday and, although I made it through it fine, felt sufficiently ill and disinclined to stay awake with the looming prospect of coursework that I went to sleep in my bed at 1am with the intention of getting up at 7am. I actually got up at 1pm today. I have no memory whatsoever of the alarm at 7am, but I was awake at 9am. Set alarm to take a monophasic nap and get up several times, but each time either fell asleep or felt so warm and cosy I couldn’t up.

Lessons learned:

1. I do not want to consume meat anymore because of the way it makes me feel.
2. After 3 days wake, trying to set an alarm when sleeping monophasically is pointless. Just leave a day.
3. Beds have never, ever felt quite so comfortable once you’ve given up sleep. I was lying on a particularly squishy sofa at the training day and felt almost joyful sitting on it, it was that nice.
4. You do not feel rested even when naturally waking from monophasic sleep. I felt tired, drowsy and like I just wanted to go straight back to sleep again. It would be interesting to see just how long I could sleep for if I were to just stay in bed as long as I felt like it.

I now have so much stuff that has piled up while I fucked around this month that I can’t afford to sleep until about the 31st of January. That will be a challenge.

January 21st:

Room in which I was sitting got very cold, and suggested it would be difficult to sleep (hard to sleep when your body’s shaking). Ended up sitting up in bed wrapped in my duvet. Fell asleep polyphasically, if deeply, but could see the risk of having a nice warm bed to snuggle down in.

January 22nd:

It’s 12:29am and I have drunk only a few mouthfuls of energy drink, and feel mostly fine. Have an incident at the 8pm nap where I was woken early by feeling too hot and felt constantly confused until I sat down to go to sleep again. That nap was interrupted by a flatmate but otherwise passed peacefully and I felt much better.

6am: Aha! Oversleeping happened. Took an extra two hours that I didn’t know took while sitting in my chair. Discovered that Firefox’s sounds had cut out again and my alarm had never gone off. Desperately tired.

An interesting thing I have noticed recently is that because all my muscles relax when entering REM sleep, my jaw does so as well and I end up sleeping with an extremely slack jaw, which is a very odd feeling.

January 23:

Chose to oversleep last night, as coursework was in and I felt like relaxing. Didn’t set the alarm and slept from 3am until 11am. Stayed in bed until 3pm. Interestingly, no fatigue at any point. I went to sleep feeling wide awake, and woke up feeling wide awake. I just stayed cos of the comfy – sleeping in a bed tends to make one want to go back to sleeping in a bed. Highly addictive would probably be the best way to describe it.

January 24:

Took my nap half an hour later than usual. Seems to be okay up to half an hour. Thirty five minutes off and then you get progressively more and more tired after that.

More on my experiences of polyphasic sleeping here.

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