Today is my third day on a brand new sleep cycle: SPAMAYL. It stands for “sleep polyphasically whenever you want,” and it’s kind of like the Uberman sleep cycle in that it consists of nothing but 20m (20-minute) naps. However, its similarities end here.
The Uberman cycle imposes a rigid schedule on the people who use it and makes it exceptionally hard to make up for missed naps. With a nap every 4h (4 hours), and not a minute too early or too late, it forces people to drop everything that they’re doing to take naps, to be glued to their schedules, and to be confined to sleep locations. Alternately, SPAMAYL allows its users to nap whenever they start to feel a natural lull in their productivity and whenever is convenient. Naps become a tool that enhance performance instead of detracting from it and SPAMAYL users gain the freedom of being able to jump at opportunities that no Uberman would be able to accept—like unplanned nighttime get-togethers.
However, there seem to be a lot of SPAMAYL bloggers who either admit to defeat in just a handful of days or put up a few posts only to mysteriously disappear. (Hmm, I wonder what happens to them…)
But if you have it as your goal to get started with SPAMAYL, your best bet probably isn’t to rush into it without at least knowing what you’re getting into. From my polyphasic experiments, there are two tracks that you’d probably want to follow.
#1) The Fast Track
For those of you who are impatient (like me) or are pressed for time (which, if you’re like me, is a byproduct of waiting until the last minute to do stuff), then this might be the most attractive path for you. Here’s what it involves:
- Staying up for about 36h to make yourself reeeeeeealy sleepy. This is called an exaptation, and its purpose is, pretty much, to put your body in a state of sleep-deprived shock that will force it to start falling asleep as soon as you go to bed.
- At the end of those 36h, taking a 20m nap every 2h on the dot for a total of 12 naps every day. From what I’ve read, this is called a napdaptation. You should continue your napdaptation until a) you start dreaming more than 50% of the time or b) you feel more or less recovered from your sleepiness. For me, this has typically taken 2-3 days.
- Next, switching to taking those 20m naps precisely once every 4h. That means dropping every other nap from your cycle. If you’ve made it this far, then guess what? You are now officially on the Uberman sleep cycle. You should stay on this one for at least a month unless it becomes either completely unbearable or you start dozing through your alarms every day (and trust me, at least one of those two things WILL happen sooner or later unless you’re more strong willed than pretty much everyone else who was crazy enough to give the Uberman cycle a go).
- Getting ~ 1 full night of sleep. At this point, that’s just enough to get rid a good amount of your sleep deprivation without destroying your ability to seep in 20m intervals.
- Wake up and, from that point on, take one 20m nap whenever you’re tired. This is SPAMAYL! It does come with a few restrictions, but they’re pretty reasonable. First, you can’t take two naps that are less than 20m apart. If you do, your brain will interpret them as one long nap that isn’t as restful as a 40m nap, but isn’t as efficient as a 20m one. Second, each of your naps has to be close to 20m long. (You can have longer or shorter sleeps if you want to, but if so, your sleep cycle technically isn’t SPAMAYL. But, technicalities aside, don’t worry too much about this one.)
Now, the fast track is pretty darn quick, all things considered. By about 4 days, you will have already cut down your sleep time to 2h per day. By about two weeks, you’ll be feeling pretty good (which is amazing for a polyphasic sleep cycle). By a month or so, you’ll probably be taking 7-9 20m naps every day as a SPAMAYL napper for a grand total of 2h 20m to 3h of sleep every day. And a few days into SPAMAYL, you’ll be feeling pretty swell.
And that’s pretty much the only good thing I have to say about the fast track. It’s fast. But what about its bad qualities? Well, it will probably cause your grades and/or your work performance to suffer for a few weeks, its initial stages will eat up almost all of your free time, you’ll be subjecting yourself to all of the risks inherent to being extremely sleep-deprived, your body will feel awful for for a few days (I’m talking weak muscles, eyes that look and feel like they belong to the world’s worst professional boxer, and a loss of circulation). And that’s not all! You’ll pass out at odd times. I’ve had days when I’ve spent a good hour or two passed out without being aware that it happened until someone would tell me about it later on. You’ll also wonder whether you’ll ever recover from what feels like (or maybe is) a self-induced state of psychosis, you’ll piss off most of the people around you with your exceptionally rigid routine, you’ll give of the impression of being constantly drunk and high, and your sleep-deprived brain will make tons of bad decisions.
Do you still want to follow the fast track? If so, then, in my humble opinion, you’re batshit crazy. But you know what…that’s okay. Crazy makes the world go around. You’ll learn a heck of a lot on this sleep track, you’ll have some fun stories to share with your friends, and you’ll be adapted to SPAMAYL, one of the craziest sleep schedules in the history of crazy sleep schedules, faster than you’d be able to quit smoking or get that toned beach body that you’ve been working on.
#2) The Slow Track
Now here’s one for those of you who are sane. (Note: it would probably take a crazy person to think that I should be included in the “sane” group, so I’m not picking sides. [Note-note: Actually, I am picking sides. I’m picking the side that isn’t my own, which, for some reason, is the most politically correct thing to do.]) Dear sweet Jesus, I just double-stacked my parentheses. This is going to be a weird post…
Anyway, I present to you, the slow track, which involves:
- Sleeping like a normal human being, trying to implement healthy bedtime habits, like limiting your exposure to white light 30m before going to bed, having a relatively consistent bedtime, getting roughly 8h of sleep, and not hitting the snooze button when you wake up.
- Add a 20m nap to about the middle of your day. It doesn’t matter if you get any sleep during that nap. If you lie there, still as a rock, then your nap has been successful. Then, take 1h 20m off of your usual nightly sleeping time. That’s roughly 6h 40m of sleep each night + one midday 20m nap. Easy. From now on, we’re going to call any chunk of sleep that lasts for 1h or more a core. Also, this is technically a form of what is known as the “Everyman” sleep cycle. It’s typically abbreviated with an E, along with a number that signifies the amount of naps that it has. This one’s the E1 schedule.
- Now for the waiting game. Keep going with your E1 schedule until you can consistently fall asleep from your 20m naps and wake up from them feeling well-rested. This might take as little as a few weeks or as much as a month. Then, take off another hour and twenty minutes from your core, and add another nap to your day, placing it about 4h before or 4h after the first nap (—choose one and stick to it). Hallelujah! You are now on the E2 schedule. Just like before, keep this up until your two 20m naps leave you feeling clearheaded and alert.
- Now, doing the same thing as before, add a nap either 4h before your first one or 4h after your second one, taking another 1h 20m off of your core. Well, would you look at that! You’re a polyphasic pro on an E3 schedule. [Note: Yes, there’s a bit of sarcasm in my tone. I made the fast-trackers seem like lunatics; I’ve got to balance things out by making you slow-trackers seem like wimps. It’s not discrimination if someone spreads the hate equally, right? ;)]
- Now, keep on going until you’re on an E4, and then an E5 schedule. Then, when you make the next logical step in this progression, you’ll be on a slightly more flexible version of the Uberman cycle. A comfortable middle ground between Uberman and SPAMAYL.
- Gradually experiment with moving your naps around more and more. Add some naps when needed, take some out when you’re feeling especially energetic or pressed for time, and just like, you’ll be on the SPAMAYL sleep cycle.
Now, then slow-track isn’t nearly as quick (it takes anywhere from a few months to half a year) or exciting as the fast track, but it’s a heck of a lot safer and almost completely pain-free. So if the fear of suffering sleep deprivation if what’s keeping you from making that leap to polyphasic sleeping, don’t worry. We have you covered!
As for my sleep routine…
I’ll have to let you know how it goes. I think I’ve just completed a version of the fast-track schedule, but only time will tell whether it will work out in the end.
—Your resident philosophical bunny