Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Update: Polyphasic, Night #12

The past week has seen some triumphs and some failures, though I must concede that I have not yet reached the true polyphasic rhythm. In preparation for an overnight visit from my mother on Thursday, I did an excellent job keeping myself busy all night Wednesday night cleaning the house. Then on Thursday, I let myself miss my 5:30p and 9:30p naps, to get in more visiting time while she was here. The result was a pure crash when I took my 12:30a nap a little early at 11:30p... the next thing I knew, I sprang awake at 600a. I think this may have been the key screwup that has my nighttime difficulties where they are now (as outlined below).

As far as the naps go, for the most part I do fall asleep quickly and easily. I think I am dreaming, at least a little, during most of the daytime naps. However, the nighttime naps are when I crash really hard -- dreamless sleep, and damn hard to make myself get up when the timer goes off. Several nights in the last week saw me sleeping straight through the end of my 12:30a nap and suddenly waking up around 5a or 6a.

My diet has completely reverted back to "normal", except I'm still off caffeine. I think I am indeed noticing my body sleeping harder, but no more restful, since resuming my normal intake of meats and animal-based food (mainly milk). It's been far too easy to eat "normally" when at home, and this was a three-day weekend that just ended. Now that I'm back to the office, perhaps I can make a better effort to resume the mostly fruit diet.

The key obstacle remains staying awake during that 12:30a-4:30a stretch, sticking to only those two naps. Having a plan for how to keep my body up and moving (i.e. list of chores) was all that was necessary the first week, but this second week has found my brain in a state of sleepiness that would simply shove the list aside when it came time to get up from a nap. I anticipate another difficult night like that tonight... I have my TODO list, but the hard part will be getting to my feet when the timer wakes me up.

I have generally been fairly alert between 9:30p and 12:30a naps, and have gotten online work and reading done just fine. So, I do at least have that extra productive time achieved. But to finally reach the polyphasic rhythm, I must improve over the next week on how well I manage myself during the night hours. I'm past the need to be prepared for the hardship... I'm to the point where I need to be disciplined to handle that hardship when faced with it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Update: Polyphasic, Night #5

So, tonight begins my 5th night following the polyphasic sleep pattern I'd mapped out. Staying awake between naps during the overnight hours is definitely proving to be the hardest part. My brain is in enough of a fog during those hours that I come really close to dozing off, thinking "it's perfectly normal to doze off when I feel this sleepy"... i.e. I'm forgetting about my experiment! To help combat this, I decided to make a list in the middle of the day of tasks for my night time... that way I have some clear focus to guide me during the night fog. First on tonight's list -- blog a status update :-P

I've been able to stick to my planned nap schedule fairly well, with only a couple of instances where my nap start time came late due to other circumstances around me, such as starting my 5:30p nap at 6:00p due to family dinner. My initial naps over the weekend generally were such that I did fall asleep even if I didn't dream, but during the last two days I'm finding it more difficult to fall asleep during my daytime naps. When I start a nap, it seems like I'm not going to reach sleep at all, like I'm sitting with my eyes closed for 15 minutes thinking "I'm not asleep yet"... then suddenly the timer goes off, and I realize I did finally fall asleep, though I did not reach dream sleep. The night time naps are different, in that I do fall asleep fast, but still no dreams. The only exception was today's 12:15p lunchtime nap, where I fell asleep fairly quickly and woke up exactly 20 minutes into it. Also exceptional about this nap was that I was not groggy or foggy at all after waking, and was more clear-headed through the afternoon than I have been since I started this last Friday. I had thought perhaps I'd moved closer to the sleep transition, but then my 5:30p and 9:30p naps were dreamless and I slept up to the timer alarm. I'm fairly groggy while writing this, though focusing on this is helping clear the fog... although, it's still difficult to keep my burning eyes open to read what I'm writing.

One alteration to my original plan that I started this morning was to set my timer to 40 minutes, whereas it was originally 30 minutes. I had thought that perhaps another 10 minutes of sleep time might allow me to reach dream sleep, especially since lately it seemed like it's taken longer for me to initially fall asleep. I plan to continue this, especially after today's lunchtime nap showed me that I'll most likely wake up myself after around 20 minutes of good sleep, timer or no timer.

Regarding my peripheral changes I'd mentioned making in order to help my chance of success, I easily made the switch to the herbal coffee. I'd brewed a 75/25 coffee/herbal mix on Friday after dinner, just to see what difference in taste I could perceive with only 1/4 herbal, and the taste was fine... I could taste some difference, but it certainly still tasted like coffee. So, on Saturday morning, I brewed pure herbal. The Java blend that I got tastes to me like other semi-flavored coffees I've tried before, so the "this ain't coffee" reaction that I'd feared did not occur. I brewed pure herbal again Sunday and Monday, and didn't feel any need for coffee at all today. I did have a hint of a headache on Saturday afternoon, which I could almost attribute to caffeine withdrawal, but since I've not had one since, I'm not sure that's the case... it might have just been due to the initial sleep deprivation that my body was first having to deal with on Saturday.

I've done so-so on the fruit diet. I didn't have much fruit available already at home over the weekend, so my typical diet prevailed. I don't think it had any problematic effects though. I got back to the fruit on Monday, purchasing apples and bananas on the way to the office. I added strawberries and grapes to the batch today. This fruit-all-day approach is starting to leave me craving other foods during the day, so I'm considering adding my plain-turkey-on-whole-wheat sandwich back, which has always been my stable lunch item for a long time now.

Assuming no big breakthoughs, I'll wait until probably Sunday to post my next update. A big thanks to all my PHP buds that have been checking in on my progress and encouraging me... it definitely helps!

Friday, May 16, 2008

20 Hour Days, Here I Come !!!

Thanks to seeing Travis' post earlier this week, I discovered this oddity called "polyphasic sleep". After reading Steve Pavlina's entire journey he blogged back in 2005 and the success he found, I can't help but give this a shot. The only thing higher than "more time!!" on my "want want want" list is "hit the lottery" :-P

In comparing Steve's lifestyle with my own (based on other postings on his excellent personal growth blog), I see some changes that I think will help my attempt: become an early riser, get off coffee, and go as raw-vegan as I can manage. It only took me one "practice session" to become a predictable early riser, so my response to the alarm clock should help me avoid any oversleeping. I love my daily coffee... those who know me will tell you I'll take good coffee over great beer every time. But since I like my coffee as a beverage, not "need" it as a caffeine crutch, I think making the transition to herbal coffee over the next week should not be terribly difficult. The raw-vegan transition would certainly be the most difficult, if I was going all the way. I think my body's response to my diet will improve significantly just from trying to eat as much raw fruit daily as I can. So, I'll be sticking with apples and bananas mainly for my daily breakfast/lunch/snack times, though I'll fall back to "normal dinner" at home with my family. Again, this diet change should only produce good results for my bodily health, and the lower intake of animal-based products should help my sleepability. I just need to figure out how to add some minimal amount of veggies to it, since there are none that I like to eat ;-P

My daily schedule will require me to space my naps about 3 - 5 hours apart, in a way that gives me my six 30-minute naps:
- 7:15a: nap at office, before work starts at 8:00a
- 12:15p: nap at office, during lunch hour
- 5:30p: nap at home after arriving from work
- 9:30p: nap after family time, when family goes to bed
- 12:30a: nap in the middle of the night, while everyone else is asleep
- 3:30a: another nap while everyone is asleep

This schedule should still work ok for my rather tame weekends also.

Based on Steve's experience, staying awake between nighttime naps was the most difficult. He initially used this for reading time, but as much as I love to read, it will indeed make me drowsy. Instead, I figure that I can use this time for simple household chores during my transition (when least alert), and then start to include exercise time. Once I reach a point where I'm very mentally alert during those hours, I think I can start doing some code work... I think I'd better keep my reading time for the sunshine hours.

Now, I'm nowhere near the writer that Steve is, so I won't be doing a daily chronicle of this. But I will make some attempt to check in to report my progress, highlighting any problems and perhaps describing how I'm feeling. Assuming I get through the transition during the next two weeks, I'll be in perfect form for getting the most out of the third week -- my vacation at the beach!