Sometimes experiments produce enlightening results that are useful for lots of people and further learning. Other times they just mean that one idiot has gone and done that thing, hopefully saving others from trying it themselves. This is one of the latter.
Years ago, I discovered that polyphasic sleep, possibly in combination with other things, had taught me a degree of self-sensitivity that let me feel when my immune system was working hard. Several days before the sore throat that usually began an illness for me, I'd feel sort of flushed and tingly, with bouts of irrational-seeming weariness. After a while I learned that if I paid attention to that feeling, and on that very first day when it occurred, I drank a lot of water *and slept as much as I desired*, I would wake up feeling better, and avoid getting the illness completely. I would also, I was surprised to find, sleep for an inordinate amount of time — six or eight hours, usually. At this point I'd been polyphasic for years, and normally, even if I missed some sleep due to something, or drank too much, or whatever, I couldn't sleep more than 4.5 hours in a block; I'd automatically wake up then. Unless I had that immune-system thing going, in which case I'd knock out for a whole night and wake up feeling great. I took this as evidence that, sleep being a known excellent state for the immune system to function in, I was in fact responding to the first onset of an infection by spending an extra 50% of my time in a sleep-state, enabling my immune system to overwhelm it before it caught on.
Fast forward a few years without more than a two-day sniffle. (I would get the two-day sniffle if I was exposed to something really horrendous — a couple flus that knocked coworkers down for weeks — sometimes I wouldn't get them at all, and other times I'd just get the mildest of colds instead.) I'm planning to try out running a group sleep adaptation; I've been working on it for months, and preparing to start my own adaptation for the last four weeks, and am both responsible for and relying on some other people's help for this thing that begins on a specific date. I'm also moving house and hosting my family from out of town for a week; it's an extremely stressful time. In the middle of the clouds of dust from packing, I begin to sneeze a lot. Day 1 of my three-day gradual adaptation arrives — in two days I'll drop into ECake and give it a whirl! — and I'm still sneezing. But I'm also unpacking and working on the group and trying to organize a strict new polyphasic schedule into a brand-new place with new roommates and a very different commute and basically I just keep my foot on the gas and don't look up. So I get sick. Duh.
A week or so into the adaptation, I've definitely got a cold…but it isn't *bad*, really; just a cold, and as colds are, kind of livable, especially with decongestants. So I drink tea and take decongestants and spend a lot more time sitting around poking aimlessly at the Internet than I usually do, due to a general lack of energy; but I stick with the schedule. For two more weeks. The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure I was adapting just fine; in fact, if I hadn't been sick, I imagine I would have been fully adapted by then (remember, I've got lots of practice adapting); but as it was I wasn't suffering any sleep-dep at all anymore. My energy was still shit, though, probably because the whole time, my cold had been getting slowly but steadily worse. Finally it started to cost me sleep too regularly — especially after I developed an uncontrollable cough — and I shoved my chair back and folded my cards and dropped out of the game.
But by then it was far, far too late. The "mild cold" had had weeks of my not getting extra sleep or self-care to fight it, and man did it sink its claws in. For a while it became a sinus infection, and then the weeks of coughing pulled a muscle in my ribs, and as I ran lower on energy I started to lose the momentum to do extra to take care of myself, and the stress of all the things I'd taken on assuming I'd have extra time as opposed to less time than in many years built up…
I believe the word for the results of the "can one push through a mild illness and adapt anyway, if one really really wants to and is a badass at sleep-modification?" experiment can be best summed up in the word clusterfuck.
So yeah. For years I've been preaching how awesome it is to be able to spot the need for immune-supporting extra sleep, and how brilliantly that tactic works for fending off infections if done correctly and promptly…and I'm going to stick by that advice, and if you love me we can all just pretend that it was someone else, not me, who decided to go ahead an un-heed this good advice, and got completely flattened by the consequences?
I'm of the opinion that eCake would have worked, but it had already needed one tweak for me, and I suspect it would have needed more eventually, so three weeks isn't enough to say for sure and I plan to try it again. *After* I make sure this illness is *thoroughly* gone. In the meantime, I've been sleeping on E4 / E6, rotating gently and naturally between them depending on how ill I feel, which has been getting slooooowwwwwwly better. I slept for 3 8-hour days once I stopped trying to adapt, and I've had one or two more in the three weeks since, but since this infection really got in there deep and is having to be overcome so slowly, I find that I can't sleep monophasically anymore for the most part (it's no longer my default!), and the lighter Everyman schedules seem to be fine — but I'm having to really suppress my activities and be ready to drop everything and rest extra whenever it's needed.
And yes, this is kind of a perfect recipe for misery for someone like me. THIS IS WHAT I GET for not listening to my body, and for trying to push through something that really should have been given its due and slowed down for. Moral of the story: DO NOT ADAPT WHILE SICK. Sick is bad, but polyphasick is even worse. >,<