Some people go to bed at a reasonable hour and fall straight to sleep.
They sleep through the night then they wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
I hate those people…
But since around the age of 14, this has never been me.
Quite the opposite – sleep, the lack of, or just the irregularity of it, has been the bane of my existence.
It’s possible that lack of sleep is just a symptom of something else.
For example, when I was 14 years old and had become sick of school, staying up late was a way to prolong the subjective experience of having to wake up in the morning.
It’s why many people are compelled to hit the ‘Snooze’ button, sometimes multiple times each morning – they don’t want to get up and go to a job that is raping their time.
Each year of subsequent high school from age 15, 16, 17 to 18, I was staying up later and later.
This meant I was feeling more and more tired at school, and therefore, disliking it more and more.
The effect that lack of sufficient sleep has on a growing brain is kind of scary.
So by the time I began working my un-habit was established.
It got worse and worse until, often, I was just staying up right through the night. At some point, eventually crashing into a deep & unhealthy 12-hour (or so) slumber.
I remember bumping into the father of one of my friend’s in the street and the subject came up.
“Oh, are you still doing that?” he asked, a little perplexed.
Then, while living in Hong Kong, I found something called polyphasic sleep.
Monophasic sleeping is regular sleep – lying down for one straight session, usually 6-9 hours, then getting up.
There are bi-phasic sleepers. Think Mexicans who take a siesta in the afternoon.
But polyphasic sleep is taking multiple, smaller naps throughout the same 24-hour period.
There are many versions of it, however, the one I tried (and the most extreme) is called the uberman which consists of 6 x 20-minute naps spaced every 4 hours.
That means you only sleep for two hours over a 24-hour period.
It seems impossible, right?
Well, many famous people have been polyphasic sleepers in their lives at one point or another.
Buckminster Fuller, who was known for many inventions, including the geodesic dome.
Albert Einstein – you might have heard of him.
Leonardo Da Vinci.
Nicola Tesla (and his wanna-be, Thomas Edison).
Winston Churchill. Thomas Jefferson.
But the most recent, well-known, documented, successful polyphasic sleeper is Steve Pavlina.
So, why would someone undertake this?
I suggest checking out Steve Pavlina’s account if you want to gain comprehensive insight.
The reason I tried it was because of my history of irregular sleep habits of staying up longer and longer.
Having extra time in my day was quite enticing.
It also seemed like something fun to try.
Most people cannot get through the adaptation period, which is apparently 3-6 weeks.
Because we are not used to sleeping so little, it is painstakingly difficult to fight the urge to sleep a little (or much) longer than 20 minutes each nap time.
Every time you over-sleep by a few hours, it’s like you’re starting from scratch again.
Since my circumstances allowed it at the time, over a couple of months, I started and re-started multiple times.
I reached 8 or 9 days straight following the polyphasic uberman sleep pattern.
Then I traveled back to Australia.
At a point, I had to drive my Mum on a trip that was going to take about 2 hours. I didn’t want to risk falling asleep at the wheel, so I took an extended nap beforehand.
If it had only been me in the car, I wouldn’t have. But with someone else’s life in my hands, I couldn’t risk it.
Since I had to essentially start from scratch once again, I finally let the experiment go.
One thing that made it difficult was, at that time, I had mistakenly put a ‘no physical exercise’ restriction on myself because I was practicing a kind of relaxation training (Wing Chun).
When I try it again, I will be able to exercise which I think will help me get through the initial adaptation period more easily.
One thing my polyphasic sleeping attempts did was to sever my compulsion to sleep 12 hours straight.
After taking 20-minute naps, 6 hours seemed like an eternity.
Whereas beforehand, sleeping 10-12 hours straight, on a regular basis, was difficult to resist.
I still only sleep 6-8 hours but, until recently, I was still going to bed later and later.
That’s why, for now, I’m committed to something a little more conservative – becoming an early riser. Which is encouraging me to go to bed earlier and earlier.
I feel like this sleep-recapitulation will be helpful to clear the path for my efforts over the next 12 months or so.