Motivation and Preparation

Published 19 Jun 2012 16:11

Published 18 Jun 2012

I’ve been wanting to try polyphasic sleep for over a year, and decided about 4 months ago to try it this summer (2012). My motivation is many-pronged – an extra 4 hours per day, personal challenge (see: Nietzche’s will to power), eccentricity, and perhaps even health. It first began when I read a BBC article detailing the history of human sleep, and how the 8 hour snooze is rather unnatural. We were once biphasic sleepers, who would sleep for 3-4 hours as soon as the sun set, be awake for 1-2 hours, then sleep another 4-5 hours until sunrise. It wasn’t until the arrival of artificial light that people decided they had better things to do at night than be in sleep-mode for around 12 hours, and culture quickly forgot about the old sleeping habits. This, combined with a handful of studies which suggest a number of health problems stemming from 8 hour blocks of sleep, made me research others’ views on the matter. Enter the odd community of polyphasic sleepers.

Many people have tried, and most have failed, to transition, usually due to a lapse in self-discipline. For that reason, I’ve spent the last 4 months doing small things to simultaneously increase my self-discipline and benefit my lifestyle.

The most major change I’ve made is to diet and steadily phase into vegetarianism. I immediately quit eating all fast food and caffeine. I then removed red meat from my diet, and have since eliminated all poultry except for chicken, which I consider myself to have finally quit yesterday. Fish is okay with me since it provides vital nutrients and isn’t nearly as bad as fatty meats. As I restricted my diet, I simultaneously forced myself to go out of my way to eat healthy foods which I had been lacking in, such as salads, fruits, and other veggies. I also focused on eating more often to keep my metabolism high.

This change has 3 benefits: First, I function better when I eat better. I feel much more mentally crisp and less… greasy. Second, my self-discipline was heavily tested. I’m not a big fan of veggies and I love a good steak so being vegetarian was a great way to teach me what it means to persist and resist temptation. Third, a lighter diet makes napping easier, and thus aids polyphasic sleep. Herbivores in the wild are naturally lighter sleepers and tend to take multiple naps throughout the day, whereas carnivores and even omnivores tend to gorge and then crash for hours at a time. I’m hoping that my diet will ease my transition into the new schedule.

Another change was that I began to exercise fairly regularly. I immediately began running for 1.5 hours in the morning. However, this schedule got debunked during some travel, and it was hard to get back on. About 3 weeks before the change to polyphasic sleep, I began biking every other morning, and playing Ultimate Frisbee as often as others would get together. I have left much to be desired in this realm, and plan on using the extra time at night to do light exercise and perhaps flexibility work like yoga.

Other small changes include waking up earlier, getting out of bed quicker after the alarm went off, doing chores earlier and quicker, and generally trying to put my work chronologically before my fun. If anything, failing the experiment will still leave me with a healthier lifestyle.

One of the last things I did to increase my likelihood of successfully transitioning was ensure my closer friends knew that I was going to become polyphasic. This both gave me a pool of people to call on in case I need motivation staying awake, or a place to crash, and also put attention and pressure on me to be successful, since others will know if I succeed or fail. It’s all about the motivation!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I made sure to find a time in my life with no obligations for as long as possible so I don’t have to miss/postpone naps, or do important things while in the sleep-deprived adaptation period. Summer between high school and college is arguably the very best time for this, and I deliberately made no plans for the next 3 weeks which require me to drive (danger! Don’t deprive and drive) or perform well.

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