Wow, now that was a Friday night. I haven’t done one of those properly in a long while!
In brief, I went out with my friend to a coffee-shop, which was cool but overrun by Shirelings* due to some quirk of fate and scheduling. We left, and decided to get good at singing harmonies now that she lives in the same part of the country as me, finally; so we drove all over the place learning gospel tunes together (awesome awesome woot), then came home and drank things (she makes good girly drinks) until three a.m. My boy was feeling lonely then, and I was tired, so there was a bout of reading to each other, which has become one of my favorite benefits of marriage, followed by, uh, some of my other favorite benefits of marriage. ;)
I was up until after four, and hadn’t had a nap since eight p.m., but my nap-fu is really settled in now, and I can compensate for damn near anything — so I slept until nine and am bouncy and right as rain.
Speaking of naps, I’ve been wondering if perhaps I have to concede something to Dr. Wozniak, in the sense that my schedule now might be better called free-running than what most people refer to as polyphasic.
So I’ll talk about that a bit.
First, the usual disclaimer: ADAPTING TO A POLYPHASIC SCHEDULE REQUIRES A LONG PERIOD OF STRICT ADHERENCE TO A REGULAR SCHEDULE (and not just any regular schedule; some do seem to work much better than others). For more details about that, see the rest of this site (“polyphasic” tag and links to the right), my book “Ubersleep”, and what have you. This post contains information that doesn’t really apply until many months of regular polyphasic (or quasi-polyphasic) sleeping have taken place. K? K.
– As others have noted who’ve reached about the six-month mark, by then there’s room to wiggle. Steve Pavlina et al have noted that, after a few months of being pretty strict, there becomes room to “tweak”, to move a nap as necessary, or change some things, as long as it’s not too much.
– This seems to be a process that continues. By one year in, I was noticing that if I had to miss naps, I could compensate by sleeping longer, on roughly the schedule of replacement that’s dictated by the definitions of Uberman & Everyman: Six naps no sleep; 4-5 naps one-point-five hours sleep; 3 naps three hours sleep; 1-2 naps four-point-five hours sleep; one nap six hours sleep. It wasn’t automatic that suddenly I could make these exchanges; rather, I wanted to stay polyphasic and life would make me miss naps, so I would compensate as I needed to, but then get back on my “normal” schedule, which is 3-hour Everyman, as soon as I could, and keep to it whenever I could.
– I had to be pretty strict about that, too, for over a year … but in the last six months (I’m at about 2.5 years polyphasic now, for reference), it’s become more of a I-can-feel-it sort of thing. I think I’ve hit that point in the kungfu** where the forms are transcended, to be honest. I still take naps and I still sleep polyphasically, but what my schedule is differs almost daily, depending on what’s going on. If I can get three naps, I will, and I’ll sleep three hours (-ish). If I can only get two, between four and five hours. Etcetera. If I can’t get any naps for a whole day, I’ll sleep seven hours if I have time, but often I don’t, and then I just sleep what I can afford to, knowing that I’ll wake up a bit tired and need an extra nap sometime the next day. I take naps roughly in the morning, afternoon and evening, and I sleep from roughly 1-4 a.m.; but the times have turned from numbers to gut feelings, and if one gets pushed around a lot, I’ll simply get tired at different times to compensate. I cast an eye to the clock when my schedule has been particularly weird or interrupted (i.e. I got rudely rousted from a nap, or missed more than one that I intended to take, or what have you), and in that case I expect to be yawny for a little while but not go to sleep yet; but for the most part I simply sleep when I’m tired, because I get tired according to a pretty typical polyphasic outline, as I described above.
This all works fine, if you can believe it. I nearly can’t. I’m also not the only person on this schedule, though I don’t keep complete track of who is and who isn’t — polyphasers who go beyond a year or two tend to get sick of blogging about it (admittedly, I’m guilty there too, though I do try to update occasionally a la now, and to keep my list of resources and articles on the site at least somewhat current) — but there were two others last time I checked, who were doing what we jokingly called the “Crazyphasic” schedule. It’s not really crazy, though; more accurately I would say it’s worn-in, like a pair of boots that you no longer have to do any work to make fit perfectly. (Er, “Comfyphasic”? …Hehe, lord, I need to stop with the names already!)
But is “Crazyphasic” the same thing as free-running sleep? …I’m not sure I can answer that in the manner Dr. Wozniak meant it (not sure he can either, since FRS was not exactly well-defined when I read about it, nor were there any real test-cases). It’s certainly not as simple as “sleep when you’re tired”, and there are necessary aspects of the defined forms of polyphasic sleep here, without which I don’t think my schedule would have had a chance in hell of being formed, nor do I think it would work independently of them. I’ve gotten so used to doing the mental math of “two naps today? I’ll need to get in bed by about midnight, since I should be up before five” that it’s automatic; it’s just how I sleep now. And it’s great; overall I sleep lots less than I ever could or have otherwise, and am tired much less often than I was when I was monophasic (plus I have the other benefits of polyphasic sleep that I’ve discussed here often).
If “free-running” sleep is “sleeping when you’re tired”, then no, this definitely isn’t it. I can’t just sleep when I’m tired, or for as long as I want to all the time. I have to make an effort to take my naps whenever I can, even if I don’t feel tired right then (not that that stops me from napping 90% of the time; I have to be really wound up or in a really uncomfortable situation to be unable to nap); and sometimes I have to wake up even though I’m still tired, or do something to shake off the sleepies at a time I shouldn’t be napping. Granted, the times I’m tired are the times when my schedule has gotten “off”, when I couldn’t sleep how I should for some reason. And they’re pretty rare; when you think about it, there’s a lot I can do to compensate for missed or interrupted sleep. So “crazyphasic” has the advantage of being pretty darn flexible in the face of the world’s inconveniences, which does at least something to make up for the fact that it apparently takes over a year to adapt to!
Anyway, I suppose I would say this isn’t the same thing as FRS, though I woulnd’t argue if someone said it was somewhere in-between that and polyphasic.
Whatever it is, I like it!
…As an interesting P.S., there appears to be another article up on Wikipedia on polyphasic sleep. This one is much more detailed than the last, and has some really nifty charts and generally very good information. (I’m a bit miffed that it doesn’t list me as one of the polyphasic bloggers, heh, but what can you do; the ‘Net will e’er be fickle!)
*you know, little people in funny clothes who drink and smoke a lot and don’t know or care about the world outside their borders. ;)
**it really is like kungfu (actually it’s a form of kungfu; the term “kungfu” refers to having perfected something to the point of having transcended the rules; not to a martial art or whatnot specifically. As a point of interest, though, I actually do study kungfu-the-discipline too). I have so far resisted all “sleepfu”-type bastardizations of the language, however, for which I want credit!