Op-ed | Polyphasic sleep cuts shut-eye hours in half
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 08:09
Would you like to live longer? Longer by, say, 25 percent? Since Aug. 17, my life has been 25 percent longer than normal. I’ve experienced in three-and-a-half weeks what normally one would experience in four and a half. Since Aug. 17, I’ve been sleeping four hours every day. Not every night, but, in fact, four hours spread out in small chunks throughout the 24-hour day.
This is known as polyphasic sleep -— as opposed to traditional monophasic sleep. It is predicated on the idea that it is possible to train -- my roommate, also on the schedule, prefers the word “extort” -— one’s body to fall into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep much more quickly than normal. Studies have shown that, while most people tend to sleep upwards of seven hours per night, the body only gets about two hours of REM in that time. Further, REM is thought to be the “key” to sleep — the rest is just a journey to REM.
Thus, by extorting the body into falling into REM, one can achieve a full two hours of REM in a much shorter sleep span.
The “original” schedule, dubbed the “Uberman” by its creator, PureDoxy — a mononym she uses consistently in publication — consists of one 20-minute nap every four hours for a total of two hours of sleep every day. The Uberman, however, is very rigid. Oversleeping, under-sleeping or sleeping at the wrong time by even a margin of a few minutes can cause temporary exhaustion, and missing a nap entirely is virtually out of the question.
It was because of these downsides that PureDoxy created the “Everyman” schedule. It involves more sleep — four hours daily — but is much more forgiving. Oversleeping, under-sleeping and moving naps are much more tolerated. In fact, missing a nap entirely may result in only mild drowsiness until the next nap.
What would you do with four hours of extra awake time per day? I’ve made a significant dent in my movie bucket list, and, once the year gets into full swing, I’ll use it to give myself more free time to work on personal projects. Perhaps the most important improvement — and credit goes to my roommate for being the first to point this out to me — is that my schedule can now consist of a full class workload, time for significantly time-consuming hobby projects and relaxation, all the while leaving me feeling rested and awake.
Mind you, achieving this schedule does not happen overnight. As I mentioned, my roommate refers to the transition process as extortion. In order to convince your body to live with polyphasic sleep, you must first convince it that it can’t live without it. This is done by jumping in cold turkey, which results in immediate and severe sleep deprivation.
Transitioning to the Everyman typically begins with two weeks of complete and total exhaustion punctuated by bouts of microsleep — literally falling asleep standing up. Additionally, negative psychological side effects set in. For me, hours were spent during these first two weeks regretting my decision to go polyphasic and convincing myself that it would never work; brains are useful, powerful organs which can be unfortunately difficult to bend to one’s will. Ultimately, this sleep deprivation convinces the body that if it wants to get its full two hours of REM, it had better use what sleeping time it’s being given. And, in my case, my body begrudgingly learned this lesson.
For those interested in pursuing a polyphasic sleep schedule — and, indeed, Uberman and Everyman are not the only two that exist — feel free to contact me. Additionally, I highly recommend PureDoxy’s authoritative book on the subject, “Ubersleep: Using Polyphasic Sleep Schedules to Cut your Sleep Time by Half (or more!) and Do All Kinds of Interesting Things to your Life.” It’s a short — under 60 pages — and whimsical read, and can be read as a reference rather than a novel.
Please note that none of this is proven, or even studied, science. It is, however, the anecdotal experience of myself, my roommate, PureDoxy and many polyphasic adherents worldwide.