Feels like segregation feels like segregation feels like

Pretend you're a dark-skinned person.  One day your friends tell you about a new, tiny, unofficial sports team they're in.  They invite you to come play.  You arrive and nope, there are no other dark-skinned people there, but also nobody mentions it, and they invite you to keep coming back and playing, and you do, because it's a fun sport.  This feels great!  You may be the only one there like you, but you're not excluded or treated differently, and the friendly, this-is-about-a-sport-not-your-race environment is easy, fun, and a welcome relief from your often-fraught daily experiences as a minority.

Then one day, a few more dark-skinned people start coming to practice.  "Hey, that's great!" you think, and your teammates say the same, and things continue as normal.  But…now, as the team gets bigger, and begins to sign up for some local inter-team events and tournaments, people begin to approach you about "playing in the dark-skinned games".  Often these are people you meet who, like you, are dark-skinned and play the sport.  "There's a tournament just for dark-skinned people in California next month," they say; "Will you come?"  Your teammates, who are also your friends, are not invited of course — but they ARE invited to other tournaments and games that you can't play in, because they're — yup — light-skinned-people-only games.  You try speaking up about this, about how it makes you feel excluded and like you're being pushed into a different group because of your skin-color and that's not fair, but your teammates all tell you that you've got nothing to complain about, since all that's happening is that everyone is being offered MORE opportunities to play.  You can still come to the co-ed practices like normal!  It's just that these extra games and tournaments are, well, they've always been done a certain way, and you certainly don't *have* to participate.  

So you mostly don't, because the people who don't do the daily grind of minorityhood don't understand this but man, it just really sucks the fun out of something for you, when someone tells you to go stand with, go play with, go sign up with the other dark-skinned people.  Do you have anything against dark-skinned people?  Of course not — but soon, you get treated as if you do, when you turn down invites to play in the dark-skinned-only tournaments.  Both light and dark-skinned people give you suspicious looks and one even asks if YOU're a racist, because surely if you weren't, you'd be doing your part to support the development of teams and games for dark-skinned people.  You are put on one, then several, mailing lists for dark-skinned people in the sport, and you don't know how to politely get off of them.

How do you explain?  How do you tell them that you felt LESS excluded when you were the only dark-skinned person there?  How can you look at them, including the hopeful faces of the other dark-skinned players, and tell them that in your guts this feels WRONG, this FEELS like racism, like segregation, like being shut out and pushed aside, and the fact that you're being pushed into "separate but equal" games doesn't make it feel any better?  How do you express how hurt you are that your friends, your team, now consists of players who go to light-skinned tournaments and players who go to dark-skinned tournaments, and you don't often get to choose which one you're allowed to attend?  

Your attempts at expression do, in fact, fail; your friends think you're being unnecessarily negative and looking for problems where there aren't any, and they grow away from you all the quicker as more and more "optional" segregated activities come around, providing experiences for them that you can't share, and vice versa.  You are encouraged to choose to participate and make friends and be part of the sport — but only if you choose to participate in the dark-skinned activities.  Your teammates tell you that they could see your trying to force your way into the light-skinned games *if you were really really good*, because that's where most of the exceptional players are, and if you were exceptional they might let you in too — but you're not; you're just okay; and that would make trying to gain access to the light-skinned games really rude.  When you point out that it sounds exactly like you're being told that dark-skinned players are worse players than light-skinned players, people mostly just shrug and say that if enough dark-skinned players were that good, they'd be playing in the light-skinned games, now, wouldn't they?  

You used to have aspirations of learning to play this game really really well — you love it, and you're not bad at it, and with practice you could be really good.  But the bigger games and tournaments are the way to advance, and the more exposure you have to them, the more wearying it becomes.  "One day you too could compete for the world cup," the leaders tell you excitedly.  And this is true — you could even, with some work, get most of the way there playing only in mixed teams, though the higher up you go, the harder it is to avoid being put, at least occasionally, on a dark-skinned-only team.  There are segregated teams at the world-cup — a light-skinned cup and a dark-skinned cup — and only the absolute best players are invited to play in a special game where everyone is together again.  Getting good at this fun sport is starting to sound like a lifelong political battle and a massive undertaking…and not like very much fun.  So you back out of the tournament track and just focus on playing at practices and trying to have fun anyway, because that's what brought you here in the first place.

Your friends get better more quickly than you, since they go to more tournaments, some of which you could attend if you wanted, and some you couldn't.  It's hard to ignore the pull to get better and go to tournaments yourself, and sometimes you really consider it, but it always winds up unpleasant at some point — someone always at least *asks* if you wouldn't like to play with the dark-skinned players — and you gradually stop responding to requests about tournaments.  This gets you a reputation among the dark-skinned players for being, at best, antisocial and uninvolved.  When you turn down their invitations, you are asked if you hate them, or the sport, or both.  

After long enough, you're tempted to say "both".

And yes, this is about being a woman in #underwaterhockey, and yes, this is what it's felt like for me and yes, I get to say so based on my several years of personal experience, and just because you have your own experiences doesn't mean you get to argue with mine.  If you don't like how this sounds or how it's made you or I feel, maybe there are things you can do about that.

I've been out of my local underwater hockey games for injury and illness and I swam for the first time in months yesterday.  It felt AMAZING; I totally remembered why I was in love with it for so long.  I barely had any breathhold (was coughing my guts out for weeks), but I was instantly happy on the bottom of the pool with my stick and glove and fins and puck; I *love* this sport, as an activity.  And I've made many friends — male and female — while playing it.  And I can't wait to get back to practice.  

But I also got invited to a women's tournament today, by an email (from a women's-only mailing list that I somehow landed on) that told me in no uncertain terms that if I wasn't interested in women's tournaments, I "hated women and/or underwater hockey".  NO, I'M NOT PARAPHRASING.  Wish I was.  

One of the many things I liked about hockey was the travel opportunities, the chances to meet people and go places to play tournaments.  I can't often afford to do this now, but I've long looked forward to being a better player later and doing more of it.  For all of the reasons above, because of all the ways in which guess what, segregation feels like segregation (I know right??), I now have no plans to play in tournaments.  Even playing in the smallest local tournament I know about carries an unspoken automatic sign-up in the "women's game", and last time I did that and tried to back out of the women's game, it was really uncomfortable.  No thanks.  I love hockey but it IS supposed to be fun, and that's just not worth it, sorry.

I feel terrible for excellent players whose enjoyment and progress might be hampered by the gender-segregation in our sport.  Fortunately I'm not excellent, and if what I can have without feeling shitty about it all the time is just practices and pick-up games and nothing fancier than that, well, that'll have to be good enough.  Maybe I'll find another sport I can participate in as an equal, and get good at that instead.

***Someone made a very good point — it behooves me, as a white person, to point out here that while my example works as just that, an example and a thought experiment, it is NOT intended as an equivocation or a claim that racial and sexist problems are the same, or are experienced the same. The point of the example is to show that **segregation is segregation**, and it's no more relevant or less awful to divide people up into "light and dark" (ignoring those in the middle, or arbitrarily assigning them a side) and make them play in separate sports competitions, than it is relevant or unawful to divide people by gender (again, ignoring those who don't identify with or fit in one of our two whopping categories) and force them to compete separately. That's a good and useful point IMO, but since I'm white and this discussion is mostly happening among white people, it's important that we all realize that the useful example before us is more than just an example to other people and in other contexts, and in those contexts, WE are the privileged ones and should shut up and listen.

Posted in better thinking, underwater hockey! | Leave a comment

And now a break for beautiful

These layer-lapse videos are pretty impressive!  I'm so glad that Boston got one early, because…

…HOLY CRAP I live in a beautiful place!  ::so proud::

Now, go find something beautiful in your own town to admire — and leave me a link to it if you can!

Posted in aesthetica, better thinking, technical-ity | Leave a comment

Polyphasick: For all the gods’ sakes, do what I say, not what I did

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?

Regarding eCake

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. >,<

Posted in ditch medicine for suburbia, polyphasic sleep | 1 Comment

Something you can do in your 20’s-30’s to guarantee a not-horrible old age

People find getting old scary — because it is. Especially once you hit full adulthood, and the rollercoaster of youth — from whose dizzying speed and crazy twist-turns the reality of getting old is barely, if at all, comprehensible — begins to end, old age gets frightening to contemplate. Your beauty is going away soon; your sexual desirability and maybe even interest and capability are finite and running out; your health, strength, flexibility, and energy are all going to hit a long downslide from which they will never recover…terrifying. *TERRIFYING*.

What, if anything, can be done about this fear we all feel?

The terror of such huge changes, by the way, is a normal and probably necessary part of the human condition. When you're young, you don't understand what long-term change means, so you don't have time to fear your growth.  But as "long-term" begins to have meaning, and it starts to occur to you that you're going to spend probably 20 or 30 years being grey-haired and winkled and increasingly slow and weak, it's a slap.  But it's a good slap; a useful slap. It's a huge lesson, and one that you can benefit from now in ways that will also let you benefit from it later, and have a less-shitty old age.

Here's the magic: Your 20s and 30s, and even into your 40s, which is the range of time when the lesson starts to slap most of us, are the perfect time to age-proof your future self. Anything you start to learn or build during these years of your life has two important qualities:

  1. You're building it *as an adult*, with full use of your faculties, and without the inevitable shit-I-screwed-up-the-foundation mistakes that happen when you start something in early youth.
  2. You'll have between 20 and 40 years to get good at it before you hit "old age" — your sixties-ish. Past your sixties, you aren't likely to make huge gains in any area, as your body and mind wear out or at least probably plateau in their growth. But two to four decades is enough time to get killer expert in just about anything, no matter how advanced, given dedication and practice.

The trick to having a good old age is to pick one or two skills in your 30's-ish and dedicate yourself to developing them fully.  You can't control what old age will bring you in terms of looks, health, and external circumstances; it's all basically a dice-roll.  You could spend your sunset years alone on a beach, surrounded by family on a moon-base, or as part of a post-apocalyptic anarcho-collective — we're talking ~50 years from now, so it's stupid to try and plan out the details.  Whan you can plan is the canvas, the background, the you who you'll be as you experience whatever-it-is.  Here are some good things to keep in mind as you ponder what you might want to choose:

  • PICK ONE or two major things; no more.  Getting really good at major things takes a lot of work, even over a few decades, and you simply aren't going to be able to handle more than about two.  (And to be honest, I'd discourage more than one if you have to sleep more than about four hours a day!)
  • Identify smaller things that you feel will help with the major ones or complement them — i.e. if kungfu is your major thing, maybe you also want to embark on a general fitness program for a little while; or if you decide to be an incredible electrician by the time you're 60, maybe spending some time cultivating superb memory-skills, or knowledge of machining equipment, could be handy.  The little goals won't take as long to get good at, and they'll help round out your big ones, while also breaking up the monotony of learning a thing for a few decades straight.  
  • TAKE YOUR TIME DECIDING — this is a major life-thing, right?  Major major.  Be as darn sure of your choice in the depths of your soul as you can be, because second-guessing could cost you a ton of work.
  • Make a HELL of a plan.  Five years, each year, goals, options, decision-points.  Drown in details.  Scribble in margins.  Cover a wall.  You cannot overplan something on this scale, so go nuts.

    • Of course, be prepared to switch things up in the middle if it becomes apparent that you need to — life is life, and yours wouldn't be the weirdest if your plan to become a master electrician got derailed by the Universe granting you academic fame or something similarly orbit-deforming.  
    • The takeaway for this one is NEVER ABANDON YOUR PLAN:  Always be prepared to revise it, rework it; accept that it isn't stagnant; but never throw it away. 
  • Similarly, whatever happens, COME BACK to your plan and your life-goal(s).  It's easy to get knocked off-track, to have a bad month or year or five years; but this is definitionally stuff that's always better late than never.  Make a decision now that no matter what happens, you'll find and walk your path.

You know I like "guaranteed wins" — and this method of age-proofing your life is another one.  Here are some reasons why:

  • If you get hit by a bus in a year, you'll have spent some of that year working on centering your life around things you genuinely love.  Win.
  • If you get hit by a bus in ten years, you'll have spent lots of that time improving yourself and taking meaningful steps on a path that you chose.  Win.
  • If you live to be 100, you'll have had sixty years to get good at something you feel is valuable and important, which you can then teach and/or refine to a perfect shine.  Win.
  • If you try to do this and just fail for some reason, then all of the trying was effort you put into knowing and taking care of yourself, and being responsible for your future, which can't help but have done good things for at least your psychology.  Win.

Here's to old age…and to someday having had 30 years to get awesome at kungfu.  :D

Posted in better thinking | 3 Comments

The Group Adaptation is almost over! What happens now? Will there be another one? (Yes!)

TL;DR:  The group adaptation was excellent, and it'd be a shame to let it die or not be there for future people who would benefit from it.  It will cost something (as little as possible) to participate in the future version, which I have a thousand ideas for improving, and I'll continue to build and run it with the goal of providing maximal benefit to everyone interested in learning about and succeeding at sleep-modification.

This iteration of the adaptation group was created in Fall of 2014, with these purposes:

  • Create a community in which people wanting to adapt to polyphasic sleep could work together to help each other through it
  • Develop resources that would be useful to future polyphasers, such as lists of useful stuff and discussions of typical problems and creative resolutions
  • Collect data from adapting (and ideally pre- and post-adapted) polyphasers, with the aim of making it useful-now, and working towards scientific validity later 
  • Advance my own understanding of polyphasic sleep by: trying a new schedule or two; adapting with / alongside some new / cool people; and lending my personal experience and help to people in a more involved setting than just by email

So…​What happened?

Once the first iteration of the group is formally finished (Oct. 1), I’ll pull real numbers so that we can see what’s up, but here’s what’s apparent already:

  • Our adaptation success percentage is higher than I’d expected, for sure! Everyone in the group that I’ve spoken to about it has agreed that adapting with group help is both more enjoyable and more likely to succeed.
  • We gathered a bunch of data! It’s not perfect, but it is exciting to have information on so many people in a relatively homogenous format. Plans are already underway to improve it, visualize it, and share it.
  • Some surprisingly good group resources were developed — the input of everyone involved was incredibly valuable! — and we have, I think, a super useful setup here that other people could definitely benefit from. As we improve it, too, it seems likely to teach us tons of lessons about sleep modification, and how to make this option better and more available to those who want it.

What’s next?

The community and group adaptation resources are, I think, too useful (and potentially-useful) to others to let die. However, I’m not using them for my own adaptation anymore. I’d like to continue to improve and maintain them, but in order to justify the several hours a week this costs me, it will have to provide some compensation. I’ve been working on a tiered structure that I hope will allow everybody to be included while compensating for my time in a sensible way. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

What will it cost to continue?

I envision four tiers of involvement:

  1. Information: FREE. Information about polyphasic sleep and sleep modification should be as available as possible to people who want it. Therefore, read-only access to as many of our records and resources as possible will be made available for free. Some of this will require setup on my part (like searchable, anonymized archives of the chat-channels), but much of it is already available (like our subreddit, which is publicly viewable and has lots of good information).
  2. Participation without obligation: $25 / month or a one-time unlimited fee of $50, for read/write/use access to all of our chat-areas, forums, voice-chat servers, etc. The cheaper unlimited fee is to make things easier for people who are interested in being part of the “adapter’s community” in a longer-term sense, since their presence, advice and help is useful to everyone. For those who just think they’ll need the group for one month, to help themselves adapt, there’s the
  3. Participation squared: A dirt-cheap option for people who really want to throw in and help improve the service for everyone. Costs $10 / month plus a promise that you will:
    1) Track your own data using our Data Form (to be filled out after every nap); and 2) Do something else, according to your skill, to improve the group for everyone. This could be writing a useful alarm-script or other program everyone can use, helping set up, improve, or administer a resource, etc.
  4. Personal help: For people who are really serious about success and want to guarantee high-quality assistance, there’s the option to hire me personally for a month. It costs $500, and includes daily emails, review of your schedule, some number of phone calls (I’ll figure out the details of this one in a separate document), and my personal attention to your specific issues and help implementing fixes. Obviously I can’t guarantee adaptation, but as the reigning long-term expert on polyphasic sleep, I’m confident that I can provide meaningful help; and having done it for quite a few people now, inside and outside this experiment, I can also say that’s it a hell of a lot of work to do so. :) The price is on the low end of what personal consultation with an expert costs in other fields, so I’m comfortable charging it and also with spending the time required to do a good job in exchange for it.
  5. I’m leaving the group resources open to the people who are using them, so there won’t be any service interruption for those who are still adapting or re-adapting after a false start. It may take a few weeks for me to get things organized on the payment side, but in the meantime, if anybody wants in, they can contact me and we’ll figure something out. I’ll make announcements when things are more set up, and in the meantime, I’d love to hear anyone’s comments on this idea and its implementation.

    THANK YOU to those involved in this first experiment — I met so many great people, interesting weirdos, and new personal friends doing this that I wouldn’t accept money for the 20+ hours per week I’ve put into it for the last few months if someone was forcibly shoving it into my waistband. Simply having it proven that we can help each other adapt, and that the fascinating and exciting field of individual sleep-modification has such a strong community component, was worth its weight in gold. Bless all of you sunrise-worshippers, and thank you for being part of this awesome exercise in socially-supported self-improvement!

Posted in better thinking | Leave a comment

So how’s the Group Adaptation going?

Hey, world!  The group adaptation project is rolling along now — we're through August and most people have done their prep, and a good chunk of us — including me — have started our adaptations to new schedules (and our testing of Everyman Cake).  Here's how it's going!

  • By all accounts, having access to the group resources, to chat-channels and wake-up buddies and sources of in-the-moment information, is hugely helpful for everyone.  Obviously I'd banked on that, but even I've been surprised at times how useful it is to, say, have a group know to expect you to check back in on the chat-channel, and call you if you don't.  Once, my buddy didn't respond online after a nap, and I couldn't call her phone because mine wouldn't do an international call, and I was able to go to the group for help and get someone else to call her and wake her up — win!
  • Speaking of buddies, several of us have made new friends, and there've been some great conversations on a million topics already.  Even in just a few days, I've gotten on a first-name basis with several people I'm really glad I met, and I can't wait to get to know more of them and even better.  Serious win there.
  • There's a data form set up that everyone is trying to fill out after every nap, tracking how they feel, how they slept, what sleep-dep symptoms they had, and when they last ate and exercised, as well as daily reaction-time and memory tests.  It may not be perfect, but it's data, tracking the same things over multiple people trying different polyphasic schedules, so that's exciting!
  • A stellar amount of information and advice has been collected and shared in our chat and forum areas — not just tips for sleeping and waking, but lists of great movies and uplifting YouTube videos, upbeat music playlists, useful and interesting websites — you name it!  I'm starting to feel like I, um, won't ever have time to check out all the good stuff already.
  • Some of the group are doing really cool things!  Check out these graphics our member Leif (http://leifolsson.tumblr.com/) made to illustrate some of the different schedules!





    Depending on several factors, I'm considering running another group(s) like this sometime . If you might be interested in knowing about future group adaptations, make sure you're on the ubersleep mailing list, as that's where announcements like that tend to go.  :)

For my part, I'm now on day 3/5 of my adaptation to Everyman Cake (I did a short gradual adaptation this time, so I "started" 5 days ago and have been on ECake for three), and it's going really well! Of course I'm a bit zonked — today saw my typing test score dive from 100WPM to 81, as an example — but I feel good overall, adaptation seems to be progressing very similarly to how my other ones have, and I'm starting to feel that crazyawesome sense of having soooo much time to work with–!  (That "time dilation" feeling takes a few days to start to kick in, and can take months to reach full effect, in my experience.)  Today I realized that although it's 9:30 on "Sunday night" and I'm not looking forward to a workday tomorrow, I actually have over eight awake hours before I have to get ready to leave for it!  \o/

I'll try to update you on our progress again soon!  

Posted in polyphasic sleep | Leave a comment

I’m not a mutant

OK, I probably *am* a mutant in some ways.  I like spelling, for one thing?  And I can do that crazy-strong Internal energy/force thing sometimes; that's pretty rare I guess.

But I'm not a mutant because I sleep polyphasically.

I got an email today of a kind I get periodically, asking this question — where are all the other polyphasers?  Am I a freaky freakperson for replacing sleep with naps?

Pssh.  No.

First of all, yes, Virginia, there are other polyphasers.  Not many!  But definitely some, most notably (and provably) Buckminster Fuller (now deceased) and Steve Pavlina (no longer polyphasic); though I've spoken with more than a few other people who got through the adaptation period*, and a solid few who were polyphasic for months, though I'm not sure I know anyone who's been doing it for years other than myself.

Why so few?  Well, if you like to jump to conclusions, it's because it's NEW AND SCARY AND DOESN'T WORK, but how about considering these factors instead:

  1. It's hard!  These two major difficulties alone knock about 90% of the people who try to adapt out of the running inside of a week:

    1. It's physically and mentally demanding to grab the helm of involuntary processes and wrench them into a deliberate, hand-rolled schedule.  This is also a relatively unknown type of change to make to yourself — unlike, say, losing weight or going vegan — so those who do it are tackling some pretty tough stuff, and doing it mostly blind.  To the people who point out that I'm on the high end of intelligent, healthy, hardy, and gutsy, I say well yeah; in the beginning, that's what's required for any advancement:  A batshit vanguard that can take a beating and still pull through.  But those skills aren't as needed once things get ironed out more fully.
    2. It's ALSO hard because our civilization is monophasic.  Being vegetarian was hard as hell for the first people to do it in a meat-eating world, too.  So yeah, not many people are motivated to do that much work for it, and you can't blame them; or they do try, but things like "needing to have a job that your employer does not give a shit about your sleep-schedule at" stops them.
  2. It's boring!  I mean, not at first, and polyphasic sleep is exciting as an idea, but YOU try writing about your freaking sleep every day for a few months or a year and see how excited you are to continue.  Please remember that I wrote this website, and then the book, specifically because I'd hoped they'd give me something to point to so I could stop answering all those boring emails.  …This was a majorly flawed plan, obviously, and I've come to terms with that.  But that was still the idea originally, and for good reason.  Out of the few people who are willing and able to become polyphasic, very very few of them also want a serious side-hobby writing about their frakking naps.
  3. Signal to noise ratio!  Out of the people who want to be polyphasic, a good chunk of them will annouce it, start a blog or video feed, etc.  And the ones who are really into talking about themselves will continue that blog or feed, until they get bored or fail or both.  This is why about 90% of the blogs and vlogs and such that you see on polyphasic sleep are really just hymns to iconoclasm, and they range from bouncing off the walls at first, to giddy and heady when the adaptation gets hard, to some variation on disillusionment, when it gets really hard and they fail.  Meanwhile, the very small percentage of people who succeed are less likely to be heavily involved in their own documentation — because that's not the point for them, and also keeping up on those things is hard even when you aren't also juggling a somewhat superhuman selfhack.  So while it is possible to find material on or by successful polyphasers, it's really likely to be buried in piles of failwankery.  :P

My answer to the "mutant accusation" goes even further than "they're out there if you look," though, because many people I talk to are also forgetting a crucial fact:  human beings are born polyphasic.  In order to be a "mutant", I'd kind of have to be doing something new, instead of simply reverting to the type of sleep-schedule that defined humanity for the vast majority of its history!

This isn't a cute language-trick where we point to babies' weird little developing brains and go "see, it's natural!" — rather, it's a stone solid fact: we work very hard to train our infant children out of polyphasic sleep; and moreover, over 90% of other mammals, including the vast majority of primates, are also polyphasic — have been forever, and still are now.  Monophasic sleep is the outlier here, and it's something we did to ourselves.

Naps are the norm.  Remember that.  Mankind made a decision, not too many decades past, to trade in polyphasic sleep for a longer monophasic sleep that lets us stay awake for 14+ hours without a break, something very few other animals can do.  Then we built a civilization around it, making it so normal that many people find the mere idea of doing things differently intimidating or likely to be impossible.  

But I'm hardly a mutant, except perhaps in that I'm one of few (few, not zero) humans to decide that a deliberate schedule change was worth the effort for me.  But even when I did it, back when absolutely nothing about polyphasic sleep was online and I hadn't even heard the word before, I still knew that changing one's sleep schedule wasn't impossible, because I'd seen babies and adults go through it, and I knew people who chose to be vegan or vegetarian.  

The assumption that our sleep schedules can't be changed on an individual level is just that: an assumption.  And a hilariously poorly-supported one at that.


A Mutant For Other Reasons, Possibly

*you are not polyphasic, nor have ever been, if you didn't get through adaptation — one month minimum; more like two for core-nap schedules.  Adaptation is massively and qualitatively different than post-adaptation polyphasic sleep!

Posted in polyphasic sleep | Leave a comment