Am I too [X] to try polyphasic sleep?

I get a lot of questions asking if I think someone is too old, too busy, too much of an exercise nut, etc. to try polyphasic sleeping.  The other day I finally answered one of those emails in what I think is a significantly universal fashion to post here:

In my experience (which is, of course, mine, plus the secondhand reports of a few hundred pioneers such as yourself), any reasonably healthy person with a reasonably flexible lifestyle (or I should say, one that can be flexed to include polyphasic sleep; if it’s rigid after that, that’s fine, and in fact probably preferable) can adapt to polyphasic sleep just fine.  Far and away most of the failures I hear about are due to people not having the foresight/planning, discipline, or level of temporary masochism(*) to stick to the schedule; or having an incompatible lifestyle.  Only twice to my knowledge have people quit because of adverse health reactions, and both of them had non-trivial conditions to begin with (diabetes, in one, and an autoimmune disorder in another).

(*) “Temporary masochism” because the adaptation period is simply going to be not fun at all for several hours, and some people simply don’t find they want to put up with that.  I made comparisons in my book to fasting or getting tattooed; it takes the kind of mindset that’s willing to be majorly uncomfortable for a little while in the service of a greater goal.

…And there are a few other disclaimers, that I’ve mentioned elsewhere, but I’ll put them here too in the interest of completeness:

  • No, you shouldn’t try it if you’re not physically an adult yet.  This has nothing to do with polyphasic sleep in general; you shouldn’t be trying weird diets or anything either.  Don’t mess with your growth-cycle!  You only get one shot at getting it right. …On the flipside, being on the old side doesn’t seem by itself to make a difference, other than the usual tendency older adults have to be less friendly towards schedule-changes.  (My personal opinion is that people should all stay friendly with change, and that this is a choice; but that’s just me, and I’m 30 so wtf do I know, right?  ;)
  • Try to stick to one big change at a time — don’t go polyphasic and vegan simultaneously, or go polyphasic the same month you join a new martial arts class.  A new sleep schedule is a big change; give it some room.
  • Yes, you should probably quit drugs first, especially stimulants; but that said, many people have succeeded while still imbibing a moderate amount of caffeine or whatever.
  • If you have any illness, temporary or chronic, you should probably be getting as much sleep as you can to help you heal.  That said, there are people with illnesses that made sleeping for a long period difficult, who’ve benefited from sleeping polyphasically instead.
  • No amount of being healthy and well-prepared will make it so that you don’t experience some exhaustion while you adapt.  It’s true that (very) occasionally someone adapts with hardly any discomfort, but as far as anybody knows there’s no reason for this that can be applied to other people.  Similarly, no amount of being healthy and well-prepared will make the schedule work, or make the exhaustion go away, if you don’t stay disciplined and stick to it for a month *minimum*.

There, once again, I hope this was helpful to some of you.  If you hadn’t noticed, there’s a “polyphasic portal” page over on the right, now, and I’ll be adding this post to that list, so you can find it easily for future reference.  (Because I care about saving you time, heh!)

PD

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 fourth wall).
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13 Responses to Am I too [X] to try polyphasic sleep?

  1. Stine Owesen says:

    Hi!

    So so interesting to read about this schedule, I am just taking in all the knowledge right now and preparing to convert.

    There are 2 things that I am wondering if you have any knowledge on:

    1. I travel around the world quite frequently – do you have any records of how it is to keep this schedule with jet-lag?

    2. I note that you say that you know two people who quit because of health reactions – one with auto immune disease and one with diabetes. Diabetes is also an autoimmune disease – and I was wondering – since I also have an autoimmune disease – if this sleep schedule particularly affects the immune system.

    I would not think it is in a negative way for healthy people, because usually, with an autoimmune disease, you want the immune system to be be less active to keep it from attacking different parts of the body. (I have autoimmune hepatitis, which I don’t have any symptoms from now, but it is recognized by that my immune system is attacking cells it should not be attacking, ie my own body).
    It might be that the immune system is more effective on this cycle, and that’s why they were having problems. (?)

    Thoughts on this? Did you experience getting sick more or less than on a monophasic schedule with the Uberman?

  2. Jerry says:

    Hi, there. I would like to thank you for an absolutely absorbing read.

    I have a rather mundane question. What kind of alarm clock do you suggest? It seems to me that continually moving the alarm time up, as you have to do on most clock-radios, would very quickly become too tiresome to endure over a long period of time. Moreover, anything electric might fail in areas, such as mine, that endure frequent black-outs…

    • puredoxyk says:

      I always recommend at least two “portable” alarms: These can be old wind-up ringy-bell clocks, kitchen timers, cell phones, or what have you. But it’s always good to have a few around because they’re easy to set and don’t fail in black-outs. I always set one or two of them as backups to my main “morning” alarm, just in case for some reason it doesn’t go off (and it happens!).

      Thanks!
      PD

  3. emerald wolf says:

    Hi.

    I’m on the 6th day of Every man my self. Do you remember on what day things started to improve ? Right now for me its like a roller-coaster. I have good days and bad days but I’m not really seeing a consistent up trend. There is more Detail in my Log/Blog. If you want to, you can check it out and give me any pointers or tips on things that might help. Thanks

    • puredoxyk says:

      Hi emerald,

      At day six I was about where you were; ups and downs. It didn’t start really getting easier (i.e. the drowsy periods getting shorter and disappearing) until about week two.

      Hope that helps!
      PD

  4. JerryJvL says:

    Polyphasic sleep patterns are sounding like an exciting experiment, but I’m a bit afraid to commit to Uberman in one go. I was wondering if to your knowledge anyone has experimented with climbing up the ladder through (possibly Siesta and) Everyman levels until a suitable level is reached? Would this be significantly more difficult than a straight transition, or are the gradual steps up sufficiently easier to make it worth a try?

    • puredoxyk says:

      Hey Jerry — Several people have done it that way; it has its benefits and detriments. A benefit is that the sleep-dep won’t be as acute as it would be if you jumped straight from monophasic to Uberman…on the other hand, you’ll have to deal with a lot *more* sleep-dep, since every time you change your schedule there will be some. You’ll also spend a lot more time having to be “amazingly omg strict”, since every change in schedule necessitates about a month of being dead-on with your naps to make sure it takes. On the other hand, adjusting to Uberman *requires* commitment, so if you’re not sure, it might very well make sense to try another schedule first…they require commitment too, but the lifestyle change often isn’t as big, so it’s an easier commitment to make.

      Good luck!
      PD

  5. Hada says:

    Hi !
    I’ve been reading your blog and I find it very interesting (besides, it’s funny, which makes it both interesting and nice to read !). I’m thinking about trying polyphasic sleep, but I’ve hesitating between Uberman and Everyman.
    Well, actually, I’m a student (a French one :) and I know that I can’t keep up with the Uberman on the long term because when I have exams, I have 6-hours long tests every day during a week : sleeping in the middle of an exam wouldn’t really be a good idea and shifting/missing naps for a whole week seems to be very tiring (which isn’t suitable when you are taking exams).
    On the other hand, I have now two months of holidays with no obligations at all (no job, no studies…) and I would still like to try the Uberman.
    So, my question is : would it be possible to start with the Uberman schedule for a couple of months and then switch to the Everyman schedule when I start school again ?

    Or more generally, is it easy to switch from the Uberman schedule to an Everyman schedule/monophasic schedule ? And is it possible to “take a break” from an Uberman schedule for something like a week and then go back to it afterwards without too many difficulties ?

    Have a nice day (and nice naps too) !

    • puredoxyk says:

      Hi! Sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment; I really appreciate your taking the time to read my ramblings (it gives me an excuse to keep writing them)!

      To answer your questions, transitioning from a more-restrictive schedule like Uberman to a less-restrictive one like Everyman is usually painless (you’re getting *more* sleep after all); but going the other way can be a little challenging — not as much as doing Uberman from monophasic, but still, you’ll notice some sleep dep. Similarly, if you’re on Uberman and you take a “break”, you’re going to experience some discomfort getting your schedule back — how much depends on what kind of break and for how long you took it, as well as individual factors.

      Hope that helps, and good luck!
      PD

  6. Claudiu says:

    Hey PureDoxyk,

    First-time commenter. Your post came at an auspicious time because I’m trying to adapt to polyphasic sleep as we speak. I’m comparing the effects I’m feeling to the ones I’ve read about elsewhere, such as on the everything2 Uberman Schedule page, and I’m getting different results. Could you help me make sense of them and identify if I’m doing anything wrong? It’d be a great help to me! (And hopefully to other people who are trying to adapt =).

    Background: I decided to do 20 minutes every 4 hours at 3,7,11 am and pm. Day 1 was last Friday. I decided to do it only at 11:30, so I didn’t try to nap at 3am or 7am on Day 1.

    So far I’ve managed to try to sleep at every nap time. Day 1 I didn’t sleep at all. All the other days, I _think_ I am sleeping, but I can’t be sure. Most recently, I get into bed / on the floor at say 6:58am, and wake up to my alarm at 7:22am. I don’t fall asleep immediately, so I can’t say for sure how long I’m sleeping for during each nap.

    Results: Today would be Day 5 for me. I heard that Day 1 and 2 are easy, and that days 3-10 would be quite hellish. I haven’t found that to be the case, though. The worst time is after the 3am nap until about 8-9am. I’m very tired and just want to find a soft flat space to lie down and pass out on. I cope by playing video games or something until 7am, and after the nap I take a shower. By the time I get out, I’m pretty OK.

    All the other times, I just feel mildly sleepy, like I haven’t slept in 18-20 hours or so. Nothing at all out of the ordinary (where ordinary is a regular college student’s monophasic schedule). I’m comparing this to the everywhere2 page where it says that by the end of the first week I’d be high as f**k from the lack of sleep.

    So I pretty much expected it to be a lot worse. Am I doing something wrong (maybe because I’m not sure that I’m sleeping 20 minutes during each nap)? Is this a normal way of adapting? I know I’m only on Day 5, and I’ll definitely continue doing what I’ve been doing. The way it is now it’s pretty great that I can function more or less normally for the whole day on so little sleep, but I fear that if I keep going, I’ll just get stuck in this cycle, where I’ll be really tired from 3-10am and not very tired the rest of the time. This is pretty different from what the successful uberman schedule sounded like!

    Anyway, any advice / words of en/discouragement would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance, and thanks for coming up with this schedule and letting the internet know about it, too =).

    • puredoxyk says:

      Well helloooo, Uberperson! It’s always nice to talk to people who are going full-out; I MISS Uberman, so I love being voyeuristic about it. ;)

      Adaptation is somewhat different for everybody. There are certain things that should worry you (none of which are in the account you describe): 1) it’s been more than 2 weeks and you’re not feeling less tired; 2) you don’t make any mistakes, but unexpectedly begin to feel MORE tired; and 3) it’s been more than a month and you still have periods of OMG-tiredness.

      To the best of my knowledge, anything that doesn’t include those things counts as a normal, progressing-well adaptation. When I did it, I was in hell from days 3-5, and almost perfectly fine by day 8. I’ve talked to other people who were zombies from days 1-3, and then slowly got better until day 10, when they felt perfect. And I’ve even talked to some unlucky folks who couldn’t kick the augh-shoot-me-now tiredness at night for over a week, but eventually they did. As I mentioned in this post, I’ve even heard of people who did it with very little discomfort at all. It’s all about how your body reacts to changes to something as fundamental as your sleep schedule.

      You may also consider getting my book, and/or reading more around here, since there’s more updated information in both of those places than on Everything2, which I wrote back in 2000 when the only experience I’d ever seen or heard of with Uberman was my own (and my friend’s, but we did it at the same time and with the same results, pretty much).

      But yes, to my “ears” you sound fine — just keep it up, don’t slack and don’t let anything get in the way of your schedule, and in another couple days you should see more progress. As long as you’re progressing and not making mistakes, don’t stress it; just keep chugging…and by all means keep us updated!

      Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Hiya, I’ve been following this blog for a while (I’m not sure if I’ve commented before or not), as someone who’s been interested in polyphasic sleeping for a few years now.
    I’d just like to thank you for setting all this information up and making it available to the public, it’s quite helpful and inspiring.
    I guess if I managed one big change before (going vegan), this should be within my grasp. Maybe when my schedule is more flexible.
    Thanks again. :]

    • puredoxyk says:

      You are very welcome, as is everyone, and thanks very much for the appreciation! The site doesn’t cost me *too* much in terms of time or money to operate, but it does cost something on both fronts, and it’s nice to have people appreciate what I’m giving them. I get especially gooshy when people drop comments *just* to say thanks — you’re awesome! Thank you right back!!

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