Forced Desynchrony Recovery

I like how natural it feels to refer to the world forcing me to be monophasic as "forced desynchrony".  Like, yes, forcing vegetarians to eat burgers is not ok, and neither is forcing me to sleep on your shitty 8-hour schedule.  ::glare::

Anyway, I'm mostly back!  The period of sleep-dep was a day longer than I expected, and nearly everything about coming back from it has been unideal.  Instead of getting at least one nap on the last day of the summit and then being picked up from the airport and driven home to blissfully sleep off the sleep-dep, however long that took, I was kept from napping both at the hotel and the airport, had to endure a long commute home with my luggage, and then arrived to find my partner very ill and requiring pretty intense care through the night.  I hit near-having-a-newborn-levels of sleep dep with that one, and I only got about 4h before I had to literally tear myself out of bed to go to work again.  BUT, I was able to get an afternoon nap, and lay down for an evening one (I was too stressed to sleep, but smart enough to take the break and lay down anyway).  

However, you can imagine my shock when I went to bed that night, setting my alarm for as late as I dared, figuring if I slept the whole 8.5-9h, forget it, I needed it (especially with a germ-infested person in my room!) … and woke up at precisely 4:15am, feeling great.

It took ONE day of Everyman 4.5 to, I'm guessing, recover about 80% from that hellish week of torture.  WHAT.

I'm pretty sure that if I'd gotten that sleep-deprived and had to fix it with monophasic nights-of-sleep, just one 8h night wouldn't have done it.  

But one 4h night with 2 naps did.

I usually try to be at least moderately scientific; or at a bare minimum show actual respect for the real scientific method, if for no other reason than to counteract the antiscience pull of my culture…but today, I give up.  



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Thoughts on using 4am

Some days, it seems, I do all the things that matter before about 7am.

I stretch.  I put on a bouncy song and do silk-reeling, or just dancing, until my body feels fluid and warm.  Since I haven't slept longer than 4-6h max, I'm not horribly stiff or sore anyway, but man it feels really good to move, to loosen up.

I make coffee and drink it while the sun comes up.  Sometimes for half an hour, I just literally sit and stare outside, breathe the air, occasionally sip the coffee, and DO NOTHING.  

That may sound dull, but it feels amazing.  It puts this layer of breathing-room around everything else…the layer doesn't last long; the day uses it up; but no kidding, sitting and appreciating the negative space in your life, the verb-of-being of it, is how you fill up your reservior of chill.  It may be the smartest productivity thing I do.

But you don't need to do nothing, or warm up your body, for very long.  I take my tablet (because you know sometimes in this day and age you can't be bothered to unplug your 11" laptop >,>) and sit somewhere fairly random, and I…

…work on my precious stories.  This isn't always my only time to do this, but it's one fo the few times I know I almost certainly will be able to…without this time, I start to feel like I can't call myself a writer.

…journal-dump or poetry-dump any heavy emotional stuff going on; or read from spiritual books.  Settle the panic, if there is any (there usually is).

…study one of the interesting things I haven't had time for lately, or alternately am super engrossed in lately

…pound out some life-administrative task I haven't been getting to, eliminating *that* stress for today (this sounds stupid, but only if you haven't experienced what getting that nagging question or task off your plate 3h before the workday begins is like!)

…answer messages I've been meaning to get to, or shoot messages at friends that need connecting-with (having friends out there who owe / will probably send you some message back is also known as "buying smiles later")

…jot down cool ideas, or look at the ones already jotted, maybe do some organizing to see if I can plan or fit something in soon…there's space here to think about making a cool idea reality, about "phase 2" instead of just dumping phase 1 — have the idea — somewhere and running off.

Spaaaace.  Before 7 is my space.

I drink a few glasses of water, just to make sure they get in me today.

I do pull-ups, or a hard part of my taiji forms, or squats or kettlebell or some other conditioning, so that my body gets some real attention today even if there isn't time for class or similar.  

I used to try and swim super-early, or have taiji class before 8 nearly every day…I still aim for those things once a week or so, but they involve too much running around; I don't want to spend this time packing bags and navigating traffic.  I like those things, but I can do them later…what I can't do later is be quietly with myself like this.

For a long while there, I scheduled phone conversations and work-sessions at 5am, figuring it'd help me get moving (it does, especially if you're adapting to a new sleep-schedule — I still highly recommend it for that).  But I've since moved away from that.  If I need to wake up and am worried I might not, I'm fortunate to be able to arrange checking in with people by text; but I don't prefer to be actually social during this time, at least not lately.  Maybe it depends on how much I'm alone during the day?  There are a lot of people around anymore, and while it is a little annoying (for them, I imagine) to have been up and alone for hours when they wake up (OMG HIIIII HOW ARE YOOOOU LET ME TELL YOU THIS–oh.  You've been awake five seconds and don't want to talk, you say?), I've just come to love this chunk of solitude.  Even if I have a ton to do and realistically start working at 5 or 6, getting up early enough to sit with my coffee and type, or think, or slowly bring my body and brain online in some contemplative way…holy crap is that valuable.

I'm a manager, a student, a teacher, a mom, and a big fan of the Internet and the written word.  My life is communication, and that's awesome.  But from about 4-6am, I'm mostly silent; I mostly listen.  

I need that.


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Forced Desynchrony: not just for monophasers anymore

"Forced desynchrony," I've been told many times, "is considered torture" by many authoritative organizations.  Usually phrased as a warning against any mad-scientist tendencies I may have developed, any uncontrollable urge to inflict terrible sleep-dep on other people.

Most people who throw that shit around have no idea what desynchrony and serious sleep-dep are like, I'm sure.  So they can't actually be blamed for not realizing how ridiculously averse to sleep-dep I've become as a result of exposure to them; how, yes, I've deliberately gutsed through terrible sleep-dep, because as someone who never felt rested, I felt I didn't have a choice, and how now that I'm normally not sleep-deprived — hardly if ever — I am a TOTAL WIMP about feeling tired.

Not even sleep-deprived:  just "tired".  On an average day I don't yawn, because before I ever get to the point of yawning, I've felt what to me is a very uncomfortable not-alertness that has prompted me to go nap.  I get at least one nap every day, no matter what's going on; on busy days I get two; when life is good and easy, three or more.  

Furthermore, after years of polyphasic sleep, I now hate sleeping longer than 4h at a time.  Even if I don't nap, I'll often get up after 4h, because I wake up naturally then, and I know that if I sleep longer I'll feel stiff and groggy — sleepy!  upon waking!  the horror.  My body knows now that waking up after 3-4 hours and getting a few naps during the day is much more comfortable.

If I yawn, most days, it's like a four-alarm fire in my head, and I will drop everything to go sleep.

No, man, I'm a wimp about sleep-dep.  Because I've been there, both at low-medium levels for years, and then cranked to eleven for a few short bursts.  Hell god fuck no, save me from that shit.

Sooooo, what happens when *I* get tortured with forced desynchrony?  When the world forces me to stay awake for 12-14 hours, several days in a row, with no opportunity to have a nap no matter how tired I am?



…This is day 3 with no naps.  I couldn't sleep longer than 4h at night the first 2 days (see above), and last night I probably could have, but I could only actually get 5h of sleep due to the schedule, so that's what I got.  

…Did I mention KILL ME NOW?

A work summit has me staying in a hotel and working all day in a tiny one-room office with a bunch of other people and zero place or chance to nap.  The combination of travel and this flagrantly, non-optionally monophasic work-schedule has been — no kidding, I am not abusing the term here — torture.

Here's what it feels like.  

I have a permanent headache.  My entire skull feels wrapped in cotton pain.  

My face is weird and tight.  My jaw keeps clenching whenever I'm not concentrating on relaxing, as though it's taking herculean effort to hold up my own body.

I have to focus on not slurring my words — no-one else seems to have noticed it, but I can; it's like my lips are wearing lead coats.  

Oh yeah, and my skin is so crawly; I'm squeaky clean but I want a shower and I keep thinking there are bugs on me or crumbs in my clothes.  Augh augh augh.

Everything looks shiny, not in a good way.  Like when you're hungover and the lights are too bright.

I'm perpetually hungry, but food isn't making me feel better.

My normally impressive balance is back to low-average levels.  I banged my knee on a thing this morning, for the first time in geez, maybe a year?  I don't do stuff like that anymore thanks to taiji.

I can't really tell from here exactly how, but I know my brain's not doing well either.  I'm working, and nobody's fired me yet, but it's definitely difficult to concentrate.  I like my job, but this reminds me of being stuck in boring classes at school, watching the clock, silently begging for it to be over.  I know I wouldn't feel that way if I wasn't so ugggggh with sleep-dep.

My stomach is unhappy too.

My eyes are burny and gritty.

My fuse is about 1/8" long.  I'm pretty sure that if something made me angry, I'd go right from zero to losing my shit.  (Please lord do not let anything make me angry.)

This evening we might be off "early" (7 or 8 pm — I've been awake since 6am) and I may get an evening nap.  Maybe I'll also pass out until morning; I'm sure I now feel sick enough to sleep more than 4h — but I'm also sure that if I do, I'll wake up feeling like a zombie, and probably be severely sleep-dep'd again by tomorrow afternoon.  (That nighttime wad of sleep gets me through to about 12-1pm, and then it's nosedive time.)

Pray for me.  And don't ever worry that I'd do this to anybody else…believe me, I know better.  The only valid reason for suffering through this crap is (well, apparently for a paycheck? and) in order to eliminate it.

Remind me to tell everyone how many naps it took me to recover, too.  I should start getting them again either tomorrow evening or Thursday morning, depending on how the airline gods are.

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No seriously, do not judge yourself (Editorial license and then some)

A few days ago I wrote this post, wherein I tried my hand at restating the classic Buddhist prescriptions for "right speech".  

The shit I do with my free time.  :D

One thing I was consciously doing was updating the language to make it as clear and relevant in a modern context as possible, knowing that part of the gift of the original is that it was clear and relevant in its time, and I don't think the barrier between that time and ours is so thick that translating the message in a meaningful way is impossible.  On reread, I'm pretty happy with how this effort turned out (though it was a cool exercise, and would have been worth doing however it turned out).

But one thing I didn't do consciously was to change the emphasis of the first few precepts from *Am I* pure of speech to am I *acting* pure of speech here.  But I did it, and did it uniformly, and it felt (and still feels) right — but maybe not because it's accurate.  (Though this is old, much-translated shit; it may be that my translation *is* more accurate compared to the intent of the original…but I, at least, will probably never know for sure.)  

Maybe it works for me because it's better, in a way.  At least how we read it in English, the am I a person who is this thing formulation is a direct demand to judge yourself.  I absolutely am against this, since in my own life I think I can honestly say that no one thing has done me more harm than self-judgment; but there are logical problems with it too.  Some of them I've touched on before, but most recently (I realized just now) those practical reasons for avoiding self-judgment were the topic of my poem-thing one million one, which may not be much aesthetically, but for clarity and earnestness, I really like it.

How we word things can seem like such a small deal, but very often the way you word (frame) the question is such a key element of the response you get.  (Ask any lawyer or therapist or writer; or just believe me, because it's true.)  And that original phrasing was asking for an answer that was a judgment of oneself.  

And I really have a tough time thinking of anything else quite as harmful as the habitual, small, automatic passing of judgements.  

Obviously something so harmful doesn't belong in a beautiful passage about spiritual improvement, which is probably why I tossed it without even consciously deciding to, in spite of having otherwise worked very hard to preserve the meaning of the original.  Go go gadget internal editor!

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Polyphasic Cities: The Bedroom Exodus

I have to say, I think my single favorite thing about polyphasic sleep…is the people I've met because of it.  I won't try to list them all, becase I'd miss some that I talk to less frequently or recently and then feel bad; but man, there are quite a lot who are simply amazing, and of kinds and calibers I'd have a slim chance to ever run into otherwise.  And a really surprising percentage of them have become really close friends of one sort of another, too; friends in many countries with wildly cool experiences, skills and interests. 

I mean…YMMV of course.  :)  But in my case, it's been a pretty spectacular gain.

Anyway, this was a weird lead-in to talking about the Towards A Polyphasic City: Bedroom Exodus project I guess, but it's no lie to say that meeting and talking to these guys reminded me strongly of that point, of how stupidly grateful I am to my lifelong quest for better sleep, of all things, for putting me in touch with such fucking cool people.

So check it out:  these guys, named Jerome, Florian, and Lukas [and BY THE WAY what is it with people I talk to having such ridiculously amazing names] started their architectural work on the effects of sleep on cities (and vice versa) two years ago.  They've since been published, gotten a grant, and done a really impressive amount of thinking about these things from angles that legitimately surprised me at times.  I guess we all knew that how we build our environments has a huge impact on how we live, but take a moment to really think about what would be different if things were nap-friendly — and contemplate the crazy degree to which they're not.  It's a, well, eye-opener.  >,>

One thing I've learned from extensive discussions with another great person I met doing this, an experienced neuro-anthro sleep researcher in Europe, is that although we take the way we sleep for granted, it really wasn't always this way, and therefore other options are possible.  The Bedroom Exodus project is seriously exploring some details about "what options" and "how", and while I think we all agreed that their results are still just scratching the surface of the possible changes, they're incredibly interesting nonetheless.

You can check them out at (yup, their project wins the Cool Name Award, too).  

[ADDENDUM:  I went on a trip this last weekend, and got a big fat reminder of how hard it can be to nap in middle America in the modern age — living in a rather bustling city, I think, shelters me from some of that.  But out in Midgard, man, things close at five sharp and people frown hard at a person napping on a bench, especially indoors.  (Did I miss something?  Is sleeping filthy?  I digress, but this is a point that bothers me a lot sometimes…people stick their noses up at me like I'm showering in their water-fountain.)  I also had a hair-raising time trying to leave a campground at 6am (I'd been awake almost two hours!) to get started on the trip home:  the staff were straight-up mad at me for violating their "obvious", unspoken rule that I would leave after they had arrived at 7am, so they could check me out.  Their response to the idea that I'd want to be up and doing anything earlier was the kind of "but that's common sense, so you're just crazy" that I haven't come up face-first against in Boston in a while.  Huh.]

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Buddha teaches the Internet: How to correct someone and not be an asshole

Questions I must answer before speaking up / correcting someone:
1. Do I thoroughly practice what I’m about to preach?
2. Do I even preach what I’m about to preach?
3. Am I speaking up because I really want to help, or is it because I’m angry, or because I want to be on record as being right?
4. Do I actually know what I’m talking about here, or is this a situation where I and others would both be better served if I listened and learned?
5. Am I skilled enough in the means and methods of conducting this particular type of discussion to correct someone without being misunderstood?

Things I must do to properly speak up / correct someone:
1. Speak at the right time
2. Speak using facts, not opinions or assumptions, to support my point
3. Speak as gently as possible
4. Make sure that the words I’m speaking will actually help the situation
5. Make sure that my inward motivation for speaking is kind, never malicious.

[Courtesy of the Buddhist “Eightfold Path” of Being Awesome / Seeking Enlightenment, one -fold of which is “right speech”, contained in which are these lessons for when it is OK for someone attempting to not be a shithead to correct someone else (direct quote follows):

[1] “Am I one who practices purity in bodily action, flawless and untainted…?
[2] “Am I one who practices purity in speech, flawless and untainted…?
[3] “Is the heart of goodwill, free from malice, established in me towards fellow-farers in the holy life…?
[4] “Am I or am I not one who has heard much, who bears in mind what he has heard, who stores up what he has heard? Those teachings which are good alike in their beginning, middle, and ending, proclaiming perfectly the spirit and the letter of the utterly purified holy life — have such teachings been much heard by me, borne in mind, practiced in speech, pondered in the heart and rightly penetrated by insight…?
[5] “Are the Patimokkhas [rules of conduct for monks and nuns] in full thoroughly learned by heart, well-analyzed with thorough knowledge of their meanings, clearly divided sutta by sutta and known in minute detail by me…?
“These five conditions must be investigated in himself.”

“And what other five conditions must be established in himself?
[1] “Do I speak at the right time, or not?
[2] “Do I speak of facts, or not?
[3] “Do I speak gently or harshly?
[4] “Do I speak profitable words or not?
[5] “Do I speak with a kindly heart, or inwardly malicious?
“O bhikkhus, these five conditions are to be investigated in himself and the latter five established in himself by a bhikkhu who desires to admonish another.”]

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Sometimes all you can do is draw a line around the blank space

When I hit a block and find myself staring at a million things to do or think or figure out, sometimes it helps to just try and encapsulate the things I can't do in some meaningful category.  Then, if they sit there a bit, often one or more of them will sheepishly present a useful next step or next piece to be done.  It's like, they love being all huge and unbounded — writing-projects especially — and therefore don't want to let me actually write words, because that will limit them.  But then I put them down in just the few words that they are — the title, the synopsis — and stick all of that in a sad little shoebox, and when they realize I'm serious, one or more of them will say "Wait!  We're also these paragraphs!  And this character!  Seriously, you can write this bit down too now…"

I find things like XMind(.net) helpful for this.  I can poke at and stare at things like this one when I need to, and think saucily to myself, SEE?  YOU STAY IN THE BOX UNTIL THERE ARE WORDS.


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