Last night, I had an encounter with a zombie. *Cue Twilight Zone music*
It wasn’t one of the zombie-sprinters from Dead Trigger. (How on earth do they move so fast?!?) No, it was more like the sort of zombie that, after having its legs blown off, slowly drags itself across the floor like a dog with worms.
So why didn’t I defend myself against it with a shovel or a crowbar? Well, see, the problem was that I was the zombie!
For those of you are thinking, “Good heavens! He’s gone bonkers,” all I can say is maybe…but that’s a discussion best left for another day. Because what I’m talking about is a mental state that the people in the polyphasic community call “zombiemode.” Here’s what the Polyphasic Society has to say about it in their aptly named “Zombie Mode” page:
Zombiemode is the phenomena every polyphasic sleeper experiences where they do things after they wake up, without remembering anything, often resulting in them changing things about then going back to sleep.
This phenomena is completely out of your control. If you wake up when you are in SWS your brain has lots of delta band activity, and your frontal cortex is disconnected from the rest of your brain, and very inactive.
You can create a trained response with pavlov’s dog -like training, so that when you are in this state you start doing a morning ritual rather than going back to bed.
At 3am this morning, I was feeling much more tired than usual. I could hardly do anything but listen to death metal and rap, straighten up my room, and pace back and forth in a frenzy while waiting for my next 20-minute nap. So, in the euphoria that I felt when my “drop whatever you’re doing and go to sleep” alarm finally went off, I absentmindedly deviated just a little bit from the system that I had been using up until then.
You see, ever since the first nap that I took during my exaptation, I’d place my alarm (a.k.a. my phone) up high on a shelf in my closet and connect it to a portable speaker. Along with probably pissing off my roommates, this setup meant that I had to 1) jump out of bed and run to turn it off before it caused too much of a ruckus, 2) do a bit of a stretch to reach it, and 3) be far enough away from my bed when I did switch it off that I woudn’t be tempted to crawl back under the covers. It seemed like a foolproof system when I first started using it.
This time, though, a little part of my mind said, “Screw it! What could possibly go wrong?” and decided to place that alarm next to the bed for my 4:24am nap. That was mistake #1. Now, I don’t remember turning off my alarm at 4:45, I don’t remember being awakened by it, and I don’t even remember falling asleep for a nap beforehand. All I know is that I checked the time after what felt like a few seconds after I placed the alarm next to my bed. It was 4:50!
This was when my mental zombification really started to take its toll on me. I think I came to the conclusion that I had somehow missed my nap and, as a result, needed to make up for it. So I set a 20-minute timer and let my head hit the pillow. Mistake #2.
I woke up at 8:45. My “20-minute nap” lasted for about four hours.
What I’ve Learned From This
Accidentally oversleeping tends to make it way more difficult to adapt to a polyphasic sleep cycle (—the Polyphasic Society peeps actually recommend restarting one’s adaptation process if this happens early on). However, I’m going to try to salvage this situation as well as I can. I’ve sacrificed far too much sleep for this to all be over so quickly!
So what can I do now?
- First, my plan is to keep following my schedule, getting some exercise between naps to make myself tired enough to fall asleep despite the fact that I overslept this morning.
- I now realize that it’s most useful to approach polyphasic sleeping with the mentality that, if I don’t stick to every detail of my plan, my subconscious mind WILL screw me over. No iff’s, and’s, or but’s about it.
- Until I’ve adapted (which will take at least a few weeks), I’ll try to stay out of my room when I’m not napping. Being in there makes it too easy to “accidentally” turn off the lights and float into my warm bed.
- Last, but most importantly, I’ve learned not to trust zombies. They will trick you every chance they get. If my schedule says one thing, and my zombie brain says something else, I should listen to my schedule. Because it’s much easier to revise a schedule later on than to recover from a napattack.