Wow, I feel good!
I know: I promised–well, sort of promised–no more polyphasic updates until I was done with the first month. But come on, people! I’ve had an epiphany. I have a new goal. I’m totally going to have a blast. And you think I can shut up about it all? No way!
First, the epiphany.
Actually you might do better to skip this part and move on to the “new goal” section if polyphasic sleep per se doesn’t interest you. You have been warned.
I think polyphasic sleep is a fairly natural process. Or procedure. Something. Anyway, I strongly suspect many people make it harder than it needs to be. Chiefly, I blame a slavish adherence to schedules for many of the difficulties our sleepytime explorers encounter.
Here are a few principles I’ve either come across, or deduced, or simply declared. These principles are very likely to help those who design schedules for polyphasic sleep. But I think there is at least one better use for them! More on that in a bit. First, the principles:
- Circadian rhythms are real, and not to be trifled with unnecessarily or without a well-defined purpose.
- Ultradian rhythms (recurrent periods or cycles within a single day) also exist and serve a purpose.
- Nonetheless? It’s clear from the fact that I’m not dead–nor detectably more insane than usual–that these things can be modified somewhat.Chiefly, it appears well-established that with sufficient (un?)training the human body can derive a great deal of useful rest from a 20-minute nap–which can be fully sufficient for survival and happiness even if no other type of sleep is allowed to occur. This conflicts with pretty much everything you’ll read about sleep in humans. However, I am demonstrating it on a daily basis–and I’m not the only one doing so.
- Although some polyphasic sleep schedules, such as the Uberman, are set up to assume equal intervals between naps and equal nap lengths, there is no immediately obvious reason why this would in the long term be ideal for me or anyone else. (It is, however, an excellent way to train the body to usefully take 20-minute naps!)
- Shit happens. Interruptions to schedules are virtually guaranteed. It’s necessary to know enough about the theory and one’s own body’s reactions to compensate usefully, or–it appears to me–failure is inevitable.
- Schedules are often planned in terms of the effects of circadian rhythms and also specific ultradian rhythms called BRACs (“basic rest and activity cycles”). These can apparently be anywhere between 90 and 120 minutes in length. Their precise duration supposedly responds well to training. For the classic Uberman schedule, BRACs are trained to repeat every 120 minutes, and thus naps can be taken every four hours–with the possibility of an “extranap” at the intervening two-hour marks.
- Some schedules call for one or more “core” sleep periods, with lengths ranging from 1.5 hours to 6.5 hours. These are often most usefully performed at times of day that are consistent with an individual’s circadian rhythm.
Well, guess what? I came up with my own schedule, to which I intend to shift after my first month of Uberman is complete (IOW, in about a week). But…although I love many things about polyphasic sleeping? I do not like the rigidity of schedule that many seem to believe is required. Plus, the notion of scheduling things to occur near “dusk” is pretty damned laughable to those of us living in, for instance, Alaska. Plus, I’ve never really been strongly tied to a circadian rhythm, sleep-wise. Like many people’s, mine appears to naturally be a bit longer than 24 hours. And a regular sleep schedule is just not something that’ll ever make me happy.
So instead, I’m introducing a “new” scheme: The Polyvagrant.
It consists of the following rules for napping and sleeping:
- All naps will be taken as close as possible to 30 minutes past the hour on (some but not all) even-numbered hours. This is arbitrary, but matches my current schedule.
- There is no goal of striving for an “equiphasic” schedule (meaning the naps can be of different lengths, with different amounts of time between them).
- Naps will be either 20 minutes or 1.5 hours in length. A semi-inflexible goal is to take a maximum of one 1.5-hour nap per calendar day.
- During the hours I tend to be wide awake, I will tend to space the naps more widely. During the hours I tend to be sleepy, I will either (a) space the naps more closely, (b) precede the shorter naps with a longer nap, or (c) do both.
- I will feel free to move naps around as seems convenient. I will not take a nap simply because a clock tells me to–I will do so only if I am currently sleepy or trying to use the nap to be sure I’m awake and alert for some non-nap activity that is scheduled in the near future.
- I will feel free to take extra naps, of either length, to compensate for periods of unexpectedly long awake-time.
- When planning naps I will take into account what I have learned (via the Uberman schedule) about the times of day/night during which I tend to be especially alert or sleepy. If necessary, I will also take extra naps to account for the effects of exercise.
- Just for fun: jet lag should be impossible with this scheme. In half the world’s timezones, I’ll take naps 30 minutes after odd-numbered hours. The others should require no modification. In any timezone, the local sunrise and sunset (and/or my exposure to light) will very likely affect the timing and length of my naps.
This actually strikes me as easier than sticking to any of the schedules currently extant. It will require a certain degree of mindfulness. Perhaps even a bit of good judgment. Well, I might make it work for me anyway!
My “starter” schedule currently consists of one 1.5-hour nap, three 20-minute naps, and one optional 20-minute nap. I think it’ll work very well for the majority of my days–it’s designed to fit my family’s current schedules as well as my sleepytime needs. But! I can modify it whenever I want…such as when I want a night on the town during what would normally be my 1.5-hour “core” nap.
My New Goal: Vegas, Baby!
In a couple of months (or so), I intend to put my polyphasic superpowers to the ultimate test. Bear in mind that I’m a big fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books and stories–Reacher travels the world without a suitcase and with no fixed address. He doesn’t own a car. He buys new clothes as needed, and rents places to sleep. He doesn’t keep much of anything besides a toothbrush. It’s very cool.
So what am I going to do? Simple: I’ll go to Vegas for 30 days. I’ll rent a car. I will not rent a hotel room or an apartment. I will do all my sleeping via naps–most or all of which will happen in the car. I will play many many hours of poker. I may even do a few days’ worth of 20-minute naps only (a la Uberman) in the car in a nearby parking garage, or possibly in some sort of lounge if I find a good one where I might be left alone, and I’ll see if I can keep playing at the same poker table for…three days? Five? Who knows?
Speaking of that, I’ll do some sightseeing. I’ll get into odd conversations, and exert myself somewhat to make new friends. I’ll visit old friends and acquaintances.
And I’m going to write a book about it all. It’ll involve my Polyvagrant adventures in Sin City, the difficulty/ease of maintaining my fasting schedule in the midst of that, probably a few barefoot escapades, my decades-long love affair with Las Vegas and how it’s changed over time, the poker subculture and its changes over time…for me, this trip will be a blast. Guaranteed.
And my wife love love loves the idea. Which is how I feel about her, too. She gets me, and she likes me just as I ever-changingly be. Cool!
The book’s working title? Same as this post’s. But that may change. Much, in fact, may change before this adventure is completed. In fact I’m counting on it.
But I really, really want to pack up (lightly!) and leave right now.
Either way, have fun out there! I know I will.