We’d had a long and whisky-fueled (except when it was whiskey-fueled, ’cause these terms are island-specific) discussion one night at my cabin. Topics included barefoot’ry (we’re both fans), fasting, making toothpaste, the surprising value of homemade shoe-destinker-stuff as both insect repellant and underarm deodorant. You know, guy stuff. And a bit about writing and daughters and wives too. It was fun.
The “barefoot shoe” thing is only sort of a joke. ‘Cause, see, going barefoot causes social problems even though I think that’s stupid, and then there’s ice, and shoes are after all tools…so one ought to acquire the right shoe for the current conditions, yes? Therefore I’ve got silly toe shoes, trail running shoes, rubber-and-string sandals, some fancy handmade leather dinguses, and other oddities in my closet by now. None of ’em have the faintest hint of a raised heel, arch support, or padding other than sheepskin in my cold-weather boots. So it’s like, you know, all natural and stuff for my feet. Right? This is what “going barefoot” entails. Isn’t it?
A couple of weeks later this guy texted me asking about the quality of his soul. Well, about thickness of the sole anyway, but given that he was asking me, that obviously meant I had the upper hand and could interpret as I chose. I suspect he used some sort of modern-tech smugness detector, because he then sent me a two-word interrogatory text: “polyphasic sleep?”
I’d never heard of it. I scanned a Wikipedia article, saw it was about some kind of crazy hippie-ass thing with people taking naps all over the place, and replied that I’d only recently started sleeping well (a side effect of the fasting, that, and it’s been working for a bit over three months now) and…well, I used to have trouble going to sleep at all, so doing it more than once per day was out of the question.
No response came. Hmm. Was there something to it?
So the notion sat around in my brain for a while, as notions do, and I remembered: back when I was 21 or 22 and playing poker in Vegas, my watch battery died. Taking that as a sign or a portent or perhaps an omen, for a while I wandered around without a timepiece. I had no clock in my apartment either, and of course the casinos don’t display clocks. I’d wake up whenever I woke up–might be daylight outside; might not–and wander over to get in a game. Sometimes I got sleepy again fairly quickly. Sometimes I didn’t. After all, I might have been sleeping for only ten minutes. Or it might have been nine hours. Often there was no easy way to tell.
My idea at the time was that I might as well try sleeping whenever I wanted/needed to, and who needs a clock for that? But it was awfully inconvenient to wake up at 10pm, not feel like playing poker, and try to figure out what I could go do for fun. So eventually I bought another watch battery and become a perfectly normal person. At this point in my life I think it’s kinda funny that I would ever have actually felt there “wasn’t anything to do” in nearly any context…but I was young and stupid. Anyway, I’ve been normal ever since. Ask anybody.
Okay, so that wasn’t quite the sort of thing these polyphasic folks were talking about. But…what were they talking about, really? So I googled (actually I startpaged, because that’s what I tend to do) around and found this post by Steve Pavlina. It was sort of interesting–well, the guy writes code and writes English and appears to live in Vegas, and also he plays poker. So I read more on the topic.
Seriously? There are people who sleep only 2-3 hours out of every 24? Bucky Fuller did it for two years? This Pavlina guy did it for five and a half months? This is a learned sort of thing, and not just weird genetics? Cool!
I read more. Euphoria? A sense that life is all one very long day? Improved mental acuity…eventually, after a lot of adaptation and possibly anguish, but, you know, eventually? Intense and sometimes lucid dreams?
It all sounded…well, wacky. Not exactly plausible, but at least possible. And then (I realize this is a great surprise to you folks) I decided I just had to try it.
So I will, starting on or around July 3. We have relatives coming into town, and that’s the day they leave.
Is it just my general loopiness driving this? Maybe. But the thing is, a while back I discovered a repeatable and fairly easy way to write a lot of fiction–but it only works for me if I do it first thing in the morning. And I quit doing it one day because I got sick, and then I got back to hanging out with my family for a while of a morning…and bear in mind that I (used to) have real trouble going to sleep, and I like being with the fam of an evening too, so…well, you see where this is going. I’m still writing, but progress is slow.
But. What if I had several “mornings” every day? What if a couple of ’em happened in the middle of the night? Couldn’t I…you know…return to the productivity I loved and also get to be with my peeps when they’re home and awake? An occasional 20-30-minute nap doesn’t seem too high a price to pay.
See, I get most of that benefit no matter which “polyphasic” schedule I settle on. But the one I really want to try involves a nap every four hours, and no other sleep. ‘Cause…well, my daughter’s now nearly five years old. What if I can also spend a lot more time with her? I really don’t want to put her into the sort of environment where people think she should ask their permission to go to the bathroom. That’s just icky.
It may all flop horribly. “Horrible” is by all reports an excellent word to describe the first week, or maybe the first month, or maybe the whole idea.
Meanwhile it’s clear to me that I’ve been had. My friend knew exactly whom he was dealing with when he sent that damned text message and then shut up. Turns out he was secretly all excited about polyphasicality himself, and plans to start in August. Well, screw him anyway. I’m going first! And besides, I think (and if you examine the Wikipedia URL above I’m sure you’ll agree) that his text could have been only one word long. That sort of wasted effort–double the required word count!–is almost certain to spell (heh) his eventual undoing. Sloppy work there. Pshaw.
I’ll keep ya posted as I go.
And have fun out there!