Friday, May 11, 2007

Sleep Deprivation with a Plan

I read about some crazy sleep schedule on the internet that lets you get by on 2 hours sleep, and I was impressed and curious and now I'm trying it. And I convinced Tina to as well. There, confession over, time to explain.

It's called Polyphasic Sleep, and the general idea is that by having several small sleeps/naps throughout the day, rather than one long 8-hour sleep, you can drastically reduce the amount of sleep you need. The most well known schedule is called the Uberman Sleep Schedule, for which you take one 20-30 minute nap every 4 hours (6 total over 24 hours), and eliminate normal sleep entirely. What you gain is a whole heap of extra time, but in exchange you loose alot of schedule flexibility. Naps can't really be moved around much, and skipping one causes massive tiredness.

While the idea of only needing 2 hours sleep is very appealing, those sort of schedule constraints simply won't work for me. The program I'll be following is called Everyman (a pun on Uberman), which is comprised of 3 hours "core" sleep (i'm doing 1am to 4am) and three semi-flexible, 20-30 minute naps throuout the day (I'm using 8am, 1pm and 9pm). You still can't skip naps, but once you're adjusted you can move them around by an hour or two without severe tiredness.

The first week of following such a schedule is known as the "adaptation" period. Essentially, your brain has to learn how to get to REM sleep (dreaming) within a 30 minute nap, rather than the usual 90 minute cycle of normal sleep. You achieve this via brute force: essentially you fail for the first few days and get very, very tired, until you adapt out of neccesity. The most common problem people have during adaptation is oversleeping (as you might expect) so I will be investing in a very loud timer. Provided they can avoid oversleeping and stick rigidly to the schedule, most people appear to start feeling better around day 5, and are functioning more or less as normal after a week.

Answers to some obvious questions:
  • Yes, there is a nap in the middle of the work-day. I'm staying home next week while I adapt, and after that yes I will take a nap in my office when i'm at work (I'm buying one of those sleeping mats from Walmart).
  • Yes, people will probably find it very weird when I suddenly announce I need a nap. Most specifically the lady who occasionally shares my office.I have optimistic visions of people initially thinking I am very weird, but then falling over themselves with awe when they find out that I get to be both a late-nighter and a early-riser. I'll be like a geek superhero, except my superpower will be kinda sucky and mildly amusing. Don't ruin my optimism.
  • No, we do not plan on driving days 2-5. At the wheel is one place we don't want to nap.
  • I'm doing this for three reasons:
    1. A desire to get 4 extra hours in every day.
    2. A morbid fasination with being able to "hack" my sleeping patterns.
    3. Curiosity.
  • Yes, I do have some reason to beleive this will work. The following are good examples of people who have followed polyphasic sleeping schedules for reasonable lengths of time (usually until their schedule got in the way).
This is the start of Day 1. We've just had our first 3-hour core sleep, and will attempt our first nap at 8am. I'll be updating this blog daily each morning to let you know how I'm doing (Tina may do as well).


Tina said...

Although I suspect the blog posts will just read, "Tired..."

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Guys, good luck with that! O.O Maybe I should try that too but then I love my sleep and I need lots of it to function so probably not...
If you turn into geek superhero I can still try it. =D

Anonymous said...

Oh, that was Nina by the way...XD

Tina said...

Hi Nina,

Yeah, it's apparently the first week or two that's the killer. If you can make it past that, it's good.

It is weird having extra time - though all I want to do with it right now is sleep!

PureDoxyk said...

Hey! Giant fat amounts of luck your way! I LOVE being a late-nighter and an early-riser; it might very well take serious torture to get me to ever give it up. (It's been nearly a year now and I'm still in good health, so any motivation for changing back to "normal" is fast fading!)

I can't help you with the weirdness thing. Everybody already thought I was weird anyway... ;)

A little more luck at the end just for good measure,