In this post I will present a factual outline of what I have experienced over the first week+ of my attempt to adapt to polyphasic sleep. I will save my commentary for a follow up post where I will share some ideas about what’s happened differently with me, as well as speculation and questions about the nature of sleep in general.
From what I had read of the Uberman schedule, it requires a short but very intense period of adjustment to adapt. The term ‘zombie’ seems to figure prominently in descriptions of the adaptation experience, though this time of intense sleep deprivation typically seems to last only for a copule of days. This being the case, I wanted to have as little in the way of responsbility as I could imagine during the first few days of the process, so I decided to have day 0 be a Thursday.
In the week leading up to day 0, I started napping (or resting, at least) during the day at the times I had scheduled for polyphasic napping. I decided this was a good way to see if the daily nap times were even feasible to maintain given the practical relaties of my life. If they weren’t, there would not be much point in starting the adaptation process. As it turned out, it was relatively easy to stick with the daily naps, so I did not anticipate much trouble on that account.
About a week after I started daily napping, I cut off sleeping on a Thursday night. From what I had read of the experience of others, it was critical to not oversleep in the first couple of days, but assuming I could manage that and make it through a “zombie” stage of sleep deprivation, I should start dreaming Saturday night or Sunday morning. As it turned out, this was easier than I expected. To be sure, I felt tired, but I kept up the schedule, never reached what I would call a zombie stage, and had my first dreaming nap at 4am Sunday morning, right on schedule. I found it interesting that the most difficult time for me over these first few days was the 4-6 hours following my first dreaming nap. I did not feel more tired than I had previously, but it was ridiculously difficult to keep my eyes open.
Sunday night and Monday morning, I felt like I was improving. I could still feel the fatigue from the sleep deprivation I had put myself through, but it was diminishing. By late Monday morning, I was starting to feel worse again. At the time I was not sure why, and it was another several before I realized it was not from lack of sleep, but rather that I had picked up a stomach bug that both Connor and Rowan had been sick with over the last week or so. (It might be tempting to attribute my suseptibility to it to a lack of sleep, and it’s possible this is true, but several other people I know ended up getting the same thing, and of those I heard enough detail about, I had the least severe case of any of them.)
I attempted to keep up with my napping schedule, hoping the illness was just a short one. However, Monday night, shortly after my midnight nap, I fell asleep and did not wake up again until nearly 7 hours later. At that time, I felt well (though I found out later in the day I was still physically weak). After hearing how bad oversleeping was the for the adaptation process, I was afraid I may need another day or two of sleep deprivation to regain dreaming naps, but decided I would forge on and hope for the best. As it turned out, although I did not really sleep for the first couple of naps following the long sleep, I did continue to dream during my naps. I was optimistic that the adaptation process would continue on smoothly. However, since that time there has not been a 24 hour period when I did not sleep for an extended (more than 20 minutes, but less than an hour, typically) period at some point. Tuesday I just figured I was still recovering from being sick, but it has continued since then, despite some effort on my part to avoid it. It has not been oversleeping, but rather falling asleep between scheduled naps. I have not felt sleep deprived in the same way as during the first couple of days, but there’s obviously something going on. I will speculate on that further in a follow up post.