Does adapting to polyphasic sleep hurt your performance?

I was asked the above question on the new forums at, where I’d dropped in last week to say hi. It looks like a good forum, nice simple design and so far, quite a decent crowd. Check it out if you’re interested in forum-like information on polyphasic sleep, by all means.

The short answer to the question, by the way, is:

1. Adapting to Uberman, if you keep your nap times and lengths *perfect* or damn close to perfect, will utterly zombify you, but only for 2-3 days. You’ll be tired for 2 days, a zombie for 2-3, and then start coming back to normal (and, if you believe all us testimonials, go *past* normal to having some extra energy and concentration). I did it while in work/school, and probably didn’t perform very well for that first week, but made up for it later in spades. ;)

2. Adapting to Uberman, if you screw up, even by 10-15 minutes a day, will do to you what only Voudou bokor are supposed to be able to: Make you a near-constant zombie. After living as a zombie for ten days while trying to adapt to Uberman around a hectic work/kid/school schedule, I can say with authority that this state is NO FUN. (Performance? What’s that??) And because of this, I never recommend that anybody even attempt Uberman who doesn’t have the right lifestyle to be able to take naps *on time* 24/7.

3. Adapting to Everyman is much easier; it makes one tired at night, and steps need to be taken to keep busy and fight off the urge to snoz, but it’s no more than a test of willpower IMO — nothing like Zombification, wherein any illusion that you had willpower has been fried and eaten in front of you. With Uberman, you can get so tired that staying awake is literally almost physically impossible, and doing things like jumping up and down for an hour or two are sometimes necessary to stay conscious. With Everyman, it’s more like pulling an unpleasant all-nighter or two at work, and then after a few days you stop being tired.

4. Sadly, I don’t have information yet on transitioning from Everyman to Uberman. To be honest, I have yet to speak to anyone who’s successfully done it. If you have, feel free to speak up!

…And if you want the long version, here is my original response to the group, after the cut. Have a nice Monday, everybody…-PD

Adapting to Uberman, both times, I was a ZOMBIE. Like, I didn’t *crave* brains, but if someone had suggested that they sounded tasty, things might have gotten ugly. My own brain was somewhere on a lesser moon of Jupiter I think, having a nice vacation. Z-o-m-b-i-e.

Now, when I was able to keep those naps 100% on-time, I got out of zombie-mode in just a couple days. It was about 2 days tired, 3 days zombie, and then back to normal within the next 2 days or so. Really not so bad; I was in school/work while I did it and while both were forgiving, I didn’t screw up too badly. The second time, when I was trying to prove whether people with non-ideal lifestyles (i.e. ones that might screw with naps) could adapt to Uberman — and found out they can’t, nuh-uh, no way — then I was a zombie for 10 days straight before I realized that it wasn’t going to go away, and gave up. Having to shift naps, even by 10-15 minutes, during the adaptation phase of Uberman will kill ya. (And leave you Undead.) My work performance definitely suffered a bit, and I was genuinely scared to drive at times. (“The Scoot”, an adaptation trick for driving that I learned from the venerable Heidi, probably saved my life more than once.) …Which is why I recommend Uberman only to people who really think they can keep the schedule!

Adapting to Everyman is definitely easier, though I don’t have a good “from scratch” experience on that one — the first time I adapted to it, I was coming off my 10-day-zombification (after all that work I wasn’t going to just give up, so I decided to test-drive Everyman instead of returning to monophase). Of course, I started to feel better immediately, and after what I’d been through for the last 2 weeks, adapting to Everyman was a breeze. I did fall off my Everyman schedule twice — once just for two days, over a business trip / vacation, and then it was hard to wake up after my core for a few days, but I wasn’t tired or unproductive during the day at all while readapting. And the second time was recently — I’m still getting over a nearly 3-week bout of illness (just a bad cold, but gah, it’s been nasty) and still working my way back to what’s been my “normal” schedule for the last five months — a three-hour core and three naps. Since I was knocked out of whack longer, it’s been a little harder to readjust, but still not that bad. Again, I’m finding that other than some tiredness after my evening nap and my core (and needing to really set alarms again, like, more than one, and loudly — I’d gotten used to just having one quiet one be enough), it’s pretty easy. You’re usually most alert during the day anyway, and you’re getting a nap every couple hours to keep you going, so even though you’re sleep-deprived, it’s nothing like the Zombification Ritual required to adjust to Uberman.

(That said, just to reiterate, I would go back to Uberman in a heartbeat if I could. What I’ve realized about the two from my experiments this last year is that a) Uberman works fantastically, but requires really strict adherence to nap-times, and b) Everyman cuts your sleep requirements but doesn’t have as cool an effect as Uberman does, but because of the core-nap, you can go longer between naps and have more flexibility about when you take them. So for those of us with jobs and kids, Everyman seems to be the way to go. In the next few months I hope to test out a 90-minute-core version and see how that pans out as well.)


About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the wall).
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8 Responses to Does adapting to polyphasic sleep hurt your performance?

  1. Sandra says:

    I do hope you find a schedule that’s healthy for you, fd, and it seems like you have some good circumstances and motivation going for you.
    My comments were mostly prompted by your statement that “None of the naysayers have ‘tried’ it longer than a month”. But sure, I didn’t blog about it.

  2. future dymaxion says:

    I am not jumping into this unwarned, Sandra. I have read a lot of reports and I am worried to a degree of not adapting in the time I’ve given myself- I have saved up 3½ weeks of time off from work already and plan to use this time for adapting. In addition, I know myself- waking up is my arch nemesis, I suck at it regardless of whether or not I’ve slept 15 or 1.5 hours. For this reason I have not only planned many kinds of wake-up alarms but also my partner will be ensuring I wake up. He is already going through adaptation for everyman and is good at waking up, a feat I admire.
    I figure if I can make it through adaptation I’m set. I don’t have much room for error but I will have a supportive assistant and some hardcore dedication- hopefully that will be enough.

    I sleepwalk pretty bad and I have trouble sleeping monophasic, I workout regularly and I eat healthy so this is simply an effort to see if it’s a schedule I can handle to help with my sleeping, and the extra time couldn’t hurt. I am willing to give up if I fail, but I have to try first.

  3. Sandra says:

    This was three years ago. It took me a while to get back to fine and I’ve got a lot of problems with hypnagogia. I’ve tried adapting to überman again, several times, but never made it past the first nap those times. I might try everyman.

    During those two months, I would usually go six days without a single oversleep (this week-like cycle happened many times) so you can imagine why I thought my multiple alarm clocks would work even on the sixth day (especially since I was usually the most tired on the third day, not the sixth) but you’re right.

  4. Sandra says:

    I spent two solid months trying to adapt to uberman. Never made more than one crash-free week (I would crash for like about four hours once a week). I missed naps because I could not fall asleep when I was with others, but I did manage to stick to the schedule for days and days in a row. Usually several days, followed by an occasional missed (as in “lying still, eyes shut, earplugs in, but not full sleep”, not goofing about) nap, followed by another day of strict schedule, followed by a short crash (say around four hours, not the 14-hour crashes others reported). During these two months I never gave up and I never voluntarily strayed from schedule. Only “couldn’t fall asleep” and “didn’t wake up”, both despite trying as hard as I could with multiple alarms, and both types of errors—especially the latter—rare.

    During these two months I was a wreck and some of my friends were very relieved when I gave it up. I never really “went gold” for more than a day or so.

    I gave it up after a serious, and dangerous, breakdown after two missed naps.

    Future Dymaxion: Don’t hype it before you’ve tried it. That was the most frustrating thing as I was trying it, reading all the hype blogs.

    • puredoxyk says:

      Yup, Sandra, “trying to adapt” is DEVASTATING on your performance; I’ve been there too. That’s why I always advise people to QUIT TRYING if they can’t adapt after about two weeks; any longer than that and the buildup of sleep-dep can really become harmful. I’m really sorry you went through that, but I’m glad you seem to be okay even after two months (yikes! I went 3 weeks trying to adapt and I thought I might lose my mind!). If you ever decide to experiment again in the future, at least you’ll know that you need to do more to make sure you wake up on time: It’s normal to occasionally not be able to sleep for a nap during adaptation, but oversleeping is a 100% MUST NOT. You may need a person to physically come get you out of bed for a few days, if nothing else works. And of course, you’ll know to quit WAY before two months, if you can’t consistently keep to the schedule.

      The errors don’t have to be frequent, BTW; what you describe is plenty to make an Uberman adaptation impossible — even one a week will drastically slow things down. The brain is under a ton of stress while you’re adapting, I think, and if the schedule isn’t adhered to *perfectly* for a few weeks, it just doesn’t seem to take.

      Lastly, I TOTALLY AGREE about the hype blogs — they drive me crazy, too, for *so* many reasons. Ugh.

  5. future dymaxion says:

    I’ve been really researching polyphasic through online blogs and other first hand accounts for almost a month now. I have not yet tried it but plan to when I move in a few months (as right now my living situation allows me no opportunity to busy myself, a necessity for the transition from what I read). I will definitely keep everyone updated once I start.
    In all my research I’ve been a bit miffed by the naysayers. None of the naysayers have ‘tried’ it longer than a month, which is barely within adaptation, and most didn’t stick to schedules during their trials- and admitted so- so in response I feel “what do they know?!”. Until it is studied, blind and with a control base, we will NEVER know, so they should stop with the adamant naysaying! I am more than willing to hook myself up to an eeg machine if any sleep scientist would cooperate, both now in my current monophasic lifestyle and during my transition and afterward after I adapt. I have pitched this to a few local universities and sleep centers- I have had NO takes on this offer.
    My biggest peeve by naysayers is a small article mentioning that one cannot process deep thought or learn well on polyphasic. This is what I aim to prove wrong. My reason for transitioning is to have MORE time for learning, and I will show that both logical standard activities such as mathematics as well as theory and profound sciences such as high level physics, can and will be understood and processed AND remembered on a polyphasic schedule. I even plan to study a few other languages and further develope within the ones I know, a feat one article said was impossible. From my experience with sleep dep alone I highly doubt my creativity will be LESS than now, as some have alleged. Polyphasic IS my chance to have time to learn things I *want* to learn, not just things I am required to for school or work. I will definitely post on here once I do transition, and especially if any sleep scientists contact me back for the chance to study a mono-to-poly transition and all the in-between.

  6. puredoxyk says:

    You know, I didn’t get sick while I was on Uberman, and I’ve often wondered what one would do about it. I do believe in sleep as a restorative, and I don’t think restricting one’s sleep while ill would be healthy. On my current schedule, I just sleep my butt of if I’m sick, and it’s not hard at all to get my schedule back — then again, this is a relatively flexible schedule and I’m very thoroughly adapted to it. I think if you weren’t totally adapted, it would ruin you. But maybe if you were, it wouldn’t be too hard to get back on it. Just a guess though, I’m afraid.


  7. Adrian says:

    While you were doing uberman, what would you do if you got sick?

    As a monophasic sleeper I would just sleep more each night to ensure my body had enough time to recuperate. I’m currently adjusting (a few days in) to uberman and i’m curious to find out if it will be necessary to perhaps take a day off from the nap cycle (would this even be possible?) if you contracted an illness.

    Could you shed any light on this?

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