Polyphasic Sleep Day 370
A little over a year ago began a journey that became a masked attempt at self-discovery through the desire to tame one of the most eluding human activities: sleep. I may not have achieved my goal yet but what I have achieved is a lot more awake time and more importantly, a deeper understanding of something we spend almost a third of our life doing.
When I began polyphasic sleeping though, my sole objective was to achieve more awake time. I was one of those I-cannot-deal-with-less-than-8-hours-of-sleep person. With an impending viva a few months away and a lot of lab work, I had to force myself to find this extra time that I needed. Throughout this year long journey, I have overcome many challenges and I’ll highlight a few in this post.
The initial adjustment to polyphasic sleeping has been one of the biggest challenges that I have faced. But a strong desire to discipline my sleeping habits went a long way in helping me settle into the polyphasic schedule. I began thinking that I will be able to achieve the dymaxion schedule but quickly understood how inflexible it can get. Since then, I have managed myself on an everyman schedule. In this schedule, I get 3 naps a day and sleep 4-5 hours on most days.
While trying to adjust to a polyphasic sleep schedule I developed some sort of sleep deprivation which proved to be a big hurdle. I say ‘some sort’ because it was nothing like the sleep deprivation that one develops after staying awake straight for 36 hours. I found that the only way I could to overcome it was by having a continuous desire to do something. But that means there was a constant need to find something that I was motivated enough to keep doing. It proved to be a challenge in itself. But funnily enough, my desire to find an eternal source of motivation led me to a solution not so far away. Let me explain.
I was quite skeptical of achieving this feat and never thought it would be a good idea to share the experiment with friends. But inadvertently it became a topic of conversation more often than not. I soon realised the power of what Alex kept saying about making public pledges. Quite simply, once people knew what I was doing this, I had more will power to keep doing it. Another source of motivation that came from discussing polyphasic sleep was the realisation that sleep is a problem for almost everyone. Everyone seemed to have a very unique perspective on sleep and it hardly ever worked to their advantage. Polyphasic sleeping was my way of making my perspective on sleep work to my advantage.
Three weeks into the schedule and I had started reaping the fruits of my labour. Adding to my motivation tank what followed was my first lucid dream which I remember till date and since then I’ve had a few of these. Another motivator was that polyphasic sleep kept me in a positive mind frame and pleasantly so.
Enough about challenges and motivation for now though. Let’s see what are things that I have learnt:
- I can take a nap anywhere in any position.
- Many times I can wake up after a nap without an alarm in about 20 minutes.
- My productivity cycle on most days was driven by my nap schedule and not the other way around. It was very important that I did not let naps take over my life.
- Decide, plan and act. Polyphasic sleep has become one of the best examples I can quote when asked about something I decided to do, researched on, planned and then executed the plan successfully. And all of this while winning battles everyday of the journey sometimes related to polyphasic sleeping and mostly not.
- Socialising. When in conversations I try not to talk about myself but with polyphasic sleep I’ve discovered a whole new way of discussing myself without sounding narcissistic.
- Multi-tasking. I’ve always been a multi-tasking person but with the power of polyphasic sleeping I’ve become much more efficient at multi-tasking.
- Meditation. I achieved a meditation like state after my naps. I could go to sleep for a nap with many thoughts whirling in my head and still wake up with a blank mind. It was like during the nap someone had rubbed the blackboard in my head clean. Just think about this for a minute: a power to clear your head. How cool is that!
I mentioned that it became a masked attempt at self-discovery. Let me explain how. When I started this experiment, I was going through a particularly hard phase in my life. I had a lot of things I had to deal with, unfortunately, all at once. With the life skills I mentioned above, I was able to do it much more easily. I could wipe a thought out of my mind when I wanted to. I could do multiple things and be happy about my efficiency. I could socialise in a new way which helped me make lots of new friends. And most importantly, it made me a more confident person everyday of this experiment because of the success that the experiment was proving to be. All this gave me the power to have a stable mind during one of the most trying conditions that I have faced in life. I was able to discover many new things I did not know I was capable of. Even though I was swamped with work, I was able to find time to reflect and it proved to be a very good coping mechanism.
Of course, this experiment hasn’t been without ups and downs. There have been many days when I have not been able to get a single nap because of an inflexible schedule but I’ve managed to get back to the schedule within one or two days. In the polyphasic community, people often mention that it messes up their social life. Not least because the nap times seem inflexible and people need to reschedule their lives around naps. Frankly, I’ve not had that problem. After the initial adjustment, my nap times have been flexible and only rarely do I find my concentration at very low levels because of a missed nap.
It has been an eye-opening journey one that started out with a single objective but soon gave me a fantastic tool for self-discovery. I’ve been through a hard phase in my life and I feel that I have emerged out of it successfully. I think there is still a lot more I can do with this tool and I, for one, am not willing to give it up any time soon.
Photo credits: My snoopy housemate Alex Flint 😉