- 6:00am – Crawl out of bed, hit the alarm, and scramble to get ready for day
- 6:52am – Speed walk / speed drive to societal obligation (school, work, etc.)
- 6:33pm – Do homework for that social obligation and watch the hours slip by
- 9:45pm – Lament over just how little time is left for other things
- 11:00pm(ish) – Toss and turn, trying to fall asleep as quickly as possible
- 6:00am – Do the same thing again…and again, and again, and again
If you are like a lot of people, this is your life.
It’s a routine that’s restrictive, but also very resistant to change. Sure, you might remember being able to spend hours at a time playing with legos, reading for no reason at all, or just passing time with with friends when you were a kid, but grownups simply can’t do those sorts of things. Right?
Meet Polyphasic Sleeping
According to the folks at Polyphasic Society, we DO have enough time to achieve the things that we want to achieve without becoming hermits, trashing our social obligations, or turning into sleep-deprived zombies. The way we do this is with something called “polyphasic sleeping”: breaking up our sleep cycles into twenty-minute naps and/or longer periods of rest, called “cores.” If used correctly, this system of naps and cores can supposedly teach our brains how to sleep more efficiently. As a result, an experienced polyphasic sleeper could be just as alert and functional on two hours of shuteye as a monophasic sleeper who spends over eight hours in bed!
If you think this is too good to be true, then you aren’t alone. Polyphasic sleep has received criticism for being unhealthy, leading to drowsiness, and lacking much evidence to support its claims. However, its advocates argue that any health effects and feelings of drowsiness are only temporary symptoms of a lengthy adaptation process, it actually boosts one’s levels of mental clarity and creativity, and that hoards of internet bloggers and college students have provided enough anecdotal evidence to show that it really is safe.
Right now, I spend most of my free time doing homework and sleeping. As a result, I’m not able to spend as nearly as much time with friends, reading for fun, working on creative projects, or searching for internships as I’d like. So I think the possible benefits of trying a polyphasic sleep cycle far outweigh the risks. Life is too short not to try something crazy every once and a while.
Now for my game plan:
- Step 1: Stay up all night in order to induce a state of sleep deprivation. The people at Polyphasic Society call this a “nap exaptation.” (✓)
- Step 2: At the end of the next day, set a loud alarm for twenty-minutes and take a nap. The purpose of the alarm is to avoid accidentally oversleeping. (✓)
- Step 3: Exactly one hour and forty minutes later, take another twenty-minute nap under similar conditions. (✓)
- Step 4: Repeat step 3 until I’m fully rested or able to fall asleep almost immediately during my naps. This will mark the end of my nap exptation. (It’s also very time-consuming, so I’m hoping it won’t take longer than two days.)
- Step 5: Shift to napping once every three hours and forty minutes, which is the Uberman cycle pictured above. (✓)
- Step 6: Either stay on the Uberman or, if it proves to be too difficult after a week or two, shift to a slightly easier sleep cycle. (✓)
With a bit of good luck, I will be done with Step 4 by Monday. I’ve tried a few polyphasic experiments in the past with varying results. Hopefully, I’ll be able to avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve experienced in the past.
Will I fail miserably? Will I transform into a tired mess? Or will I find that it is possible to conquer sleep and squeeze twenty-two hours after each day? We’ll find out soon enough.