Monday, June 9, 2008

Faltered: Polyphasic, the Events of Week #3

My week at the beach was a great vacation, though it unexpectedly put a temporary halt on my polyphasic pattern halfway through. Now that I'm back home, I'll recover my pattern... but what led to such failure?

Preparing for the drive down to the beach was slightly tricky, in that I needed to plan around my naps. With six people traveling together across two vehicles, I didn't want to impose any more on the others as necessary. We decided to hit the road immediately after my 3:30a nap, which would allow us to make our breakfast stop on the road in time for my 7:30a nap. Assuming a good drive with no traffic hiccups, we'd reach our destination before my 12:30p nap. This plan indeed proceeded without a single hitch, I'm happy to report.

So, at the beach... Saturday through Tuesday, all is good with my naps. Since I'd still not reached the "final state" of the polyphasic pattern, where you wake up alert after each and every nap, I still had the brain fog combined with no low-brain tasks available during the early morning hours, but most nights this was mitigated by all the older kids still being awake. I had my guitar, and could play reasonably quietly out on our patio... with the continuous noise of the surf (which I miss already), this quiet music was no problem for the sleeping family or neighbors. I should also mention that my brother's family (wife, daughter) had also come down for the week, and brought my other brother's daughter. So, ten of us altogether.

On Sunday afternoon, I hit the on-site exercise room, did five miles on the treadmill followed by a decent chest/triceps workout, and noticed no signs about "hours of operation". I took this to mean "open 24x7", so on Monday night, I hit it again but at 10p. Did my five miles, then a few sets of sit-ups, and went back for my 12:30a nap. After the nap, I was quite mentally alert for the entire night up to my 3:30a nap, and then moderately alert between the 3:30a and 7:30a naps. I thought "this is what I need to be doing late at night when we get back home". Note to self: find a way to use my treadmill at home without waking up the house.

Tuesday night began innocently enough. Sun goes down, older kids are cruising around the pool and beach with new acquaintances, the little kids are in the pool... my brother grabs a beer, my wife grabs a beer, so I crack open one of the bottles of red wine I'd brought along. Four hours later, everyone else is asleep except my brother and me, who continue to drink and talk out on the patio. Another four hours, and he calls it a night. By then, I'm nearly finished with a second bottle of wine, so I stay up and finish it by sunrise. I finally hit the bed around 7a, just as nearly everyone else is waking up and preparing to spend the day at a nearby water park.

Left to my own devices, I sleep until noon. Apparently I had no contingency plan to combat two bottles of Muscadine Red from Jules J. Berta Vineyards.

Although I still went down for my remaining daytime naps on Wednesday, I did not wake up well from any of them. So, when the difficult naps came during the night, I slept straight through. Given that it was now Friday, our last full day at the beach, I chose to drop the naps completely and enjoy the uninterrupted day with the family. Saturday was the drive back home, again nap-free. Sunday was a full day of readjusting to being home, and again nap-free.

This has been a major backslide as far as my polyphasic adjustment process, but it has also taught me some things about the pattern and how my body deals with it. I am resuming my nap schedule today, and will be forcibly incorporating the nighttime running to take full advantage of the extra alertness that results just from the bodily high that follows good exercise. I'll still be keeping household chores as backup tasks to do in case I feel drowsy at any points during the nights, but I'm hoping to finally utilize some nighttime alertness for my hacking fun tasks (which was the key goal to start with).

I should also mention that during the vacation week, I allowed myself some regular coffee... another occurrence I can blame on my brother ;-P What I found interesting was that we drank a pot one evening, and I saw no discernible problems with all the naps that followed it. At the least, I expected the caffeine to hinder the very next nap, but it did not. I think perhaps once my body is moderately adjusted to the nap schedule, the caffeine has little effect... maybe it helped me start the original transition, but now I think it's no longer necessary to avoid. So, coffee (wonderful coffee) is back in my diet. But again, I do still think it was helpful to drop the caffeine for the first two weeks of sleep transition.

All in all, my gut feeling is that I'll ultimately settle on some compromise between monophasic sleep and the full polyphasic pattern. I remember reading in Pavlina's later postings during his experiment that he eventually learned to just recognize when his body was prompting him to take a nap, rather than sticking to a hard schedule. Based on that, I think I'll end up doing the same... maybe never letting myself sleep longer than two hours at a stretch, but really only going down for the general short naps when my body prompts me. I was able to feel those promptings throughout week #2, so I can already recognize them.

So, the experiment continues...

No comments: