Today is the fifth day of my polyphasic sleep experiment. I’m amazed at how much better I’m feeling than I was a few days ago. The first week or so in one’s adjustment to a polyphasic sleep cycle tends to temporarily kill one’s motivation, blur one’s thoughts, and make one feel quite unhealthy as one’s body starts to do odd things (e.g. have extremely dry skin, develop dark bags under one’s eyes, and take far too long to heal). However, other than being a little bit tired and groggy from about 1am to 8am, I currently feel pretty much like someone who gets the average amount of sleep…but who has to constantly ask people, “Can I sleep in your car?” or “Will we be back from this event by 8:00?”
But there’s one thing that I haven’t anticipated—the nap that I took today at 12:25am felt abnormally rejuvenating! I woke up in what felt like a cross between a flow state and a meditative trance. When I stepped into the kitchen afterwards, it seemed as though everything had received a Photoshop touch-over to make it brighter and more colorful.
But all of that pales in comparison to my “nap”…
The nap that led to that flow/meditative state started out fairly normal. At the sound of my “dude, you really need to go to bed now” alarm, I got onto the floor, wiggled into my sleeping bag, donned my zebra-striped sleep mask, and spent a few seconds reminding myself to try to have a lucid dream.
I hadn’t recalled having a dream in a long time. Since no dreams = no REM sleep, an extremely important restorative sleep stage, I decided to try a little experiment to trick my brain into dreaming.
I first fixated my attention on the hypnogogic images in front of me (those are the little neon colored fireworks that you see when you close your eyes in the dark).
I then picked out the shapes of waves, sand, and clouds, trying to find more and more details. Pretty, soon, I saw the faint image of a beach in front of me. After another minute or so, I could feel the sand between my toes.
Then, I felt my attention being pulled back to myself. Not the “me” on the beach, but the “me” who had been getting started with his nap.
It felt like a thick sheet of iron was slowly being draped over my body, from my legs to my head. I couldn’t move. And when I tried to take a deep breath, my lungs refused to obey my orders! I could hear an odd assortment of sounds in my room—musical tones fading in and out, people whispering, clicks and electrical buzzing. But all the while, I could still make out the sounds of my roommates preparing a midnight snack in the kitchen. And, for a little while, it felt like there was another “presence” (something dark and ominous) lurking around inside of the room.
I was in a state of sleep paralysis! That’s what you get when an odd combination of events happens in your brain: your body gets the signal to lock in place to keep you from sleepwalking, but your mind stays wide awake. It’s also the stepping stone to having an out of body experience (or an “OBE”). I ended up spending a few minutes trying to turn my sleep paralysis into an OBE, but found that I couldn’t get my “dream body” to detach itself from my “physical body.” But that wasn’t so bad, because, at that point in time, I started to hear my alarm buzzing in the distance. It grew louder and louder as my body started to wake up, and just like that, I could suddenly move my arms and legs. So I got up, turned off my alarm, and put some oatmeal in the microwave.