The Hours I’ve Gained

This week I have been napping three times a day for 75-90 minutes, equally spaced throughout the day. The hope is that I reach REM in each of these naps. My overall sleep time has dropped from 7 hours per day to roughly 4 hours per day. Assuming that the chemistry of my sleep will adapt to this schedule over the course of a week or more (the adaptation phase causes some sleepiness), I will acquire the same amount of REM over the course of these three naps. Effectively, I am wasting less time in the abyss of unconscious, unproductive theta and delta sleep cycles. “The polyphasic discipline is an attempt to maximize the productivity of your sleep. This has made my sleep MORE valuable, not less, and my awake hours LESS drowsy, not more.” – Chris Jeub, fellow polyphasic sleeper.

So far this cycle is infinitely easier to maintain and sustain than the six rounds of 20-minute naps that I attempted last week.

  • It doesn’t require extreme sleep deprivation because the next round of napping will at least partially restore me in a 90-minute nap. In the 20-minute nap schedule, it would take 7-14 days for my brain to realize that I desperately need to get every minute of REM from each 20-minute nap.
  • And I interrupt my day half as much (three naps per day with two during the night vs. six naps per day).
  • It’s much easier to fall asleep and get decent rest in 90-minute naps vs. the 20-minute naps.
  • I liked the first sleep schedule because it was extreme – only 2 hours of sleep per day, but I prefer this schedule because it is still minimalistic and long-term sustainable.
  • I have missed one nap, but this is not the end of the world quite like it would’ve been if I missed a 20-minute nap.

Overall, this nap schedule is much better than the other.

The Problems

Yes, I am still having trouble waking up at the right times. My early morning nap is from 4:30 – 6:00 AM. I have slept through to 8 AM twice this week, but I assume this is a part of the adaptation phase (this adaptation phase is far less intrusive and abrasive than the 20-minute nap schedule’s adaptation phase) where I reconstruct my psyche maximize 4.5 hours of sleep.

I’ve been yawning throughout the day, but I never feel too tired to function, drive, engage with other people, socialize, or anything like that. My biggest frustration is when I wake up; I’m usually a fairly grumpy goober. My grumpiness seems heightened when I sleep in a little which could be due to mistiming my naps. I’ll likely tinker with the schedule of my naps next week to see if there is more optimal timing for my naps. (I’m considering one core 90-minute nap in the middle of the night to simulate the monophasic schedule that I have slept for 24 years. With the core sleep I’m considering adding three 30-minute naps throughout the day as rejuvenating energy boosts.)

The Appeal

My list of reasons for choosing this sleep experiment seem to grow every day, but the one that I continually come back to is minimalism, Occam’s Razor, minimum effective dose, or whatever you want to call it: why do with more what you can do with less? Why would I build a house with 5,001 bricks when it truly only needs 5,000? Why consume ten extra calories that I’m not going to burn? Why spend more money on the same car? Why sleep more than what I actually need?

I’ve always admired (and this admiration is growing as I plan my packing list for my ‘Yak the Mississippi trip) the hikers, trekkers, and mountaineers that are concerned with what they pack on their backs down to the very ounce and tenth of an inch. Traveling light is a practice of intentionality that builds an appreciation for the little that you carry. I’m applying the same concept to sleep: the less I sleep while getting what my body requires increases the appreciation for sleep that I previously did not have. I’m not addicted to more sleep like many of us are, but rather I am seeing an elevated appreciation for the little sleep that I need and get.

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