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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The good news is, we’re all gonna die

::cue Whitey Ford::

Nothing makes you appreciate your financial mortality like a wade through the waters of your health-insurance benefits.

Ironically, this is doubly true because these are the best benefits I've ever had, and I'm currently making some of the best money I've ever made — certainly more than enough to be comfortable by most standards; my salary is higher than the average 2-income salary in some cities…and yet, it doesn't take much calculating to realize that any *real* medical issue would bury me completely.  There'd be nothing I could do, especially if the issue interfered with my ability to make my salary.

But even if I could continue working, these numbers are just, well, sick.  I'm "only" going to pay about $6,000 out of pocket per year before my benefits kick in — that's $500 a month.  Do you have that in extra income?  Because I don't, and like I said, I do pretty well.  Any more than a month or two of an extra $500 in expenses would have me bleeding my savings out, which I'm sure is true for many people.  And that's just the base pay — I'm also responsible for between 20-80% of the cost of everything from hospitalization to chemotherapy, plus all of the cost of any of the zillion things that aren't covered which are incidental to care, healing and recovery.  What's 20% of chemo?  I've got to imagine it's pretty awful.  I was hospitalized for an accidental injury years ago and the bill came to over $80,000 for a week-long stay and emergency surgery…20% of that is $16,000, or $1333 per month if I get lucky and land on a payment plan.  Almost double my rent payment.  HA.

And this isn't even getting into the good bits, like how there are certain "preferred" brands of drugs that are more covered than others, forcing me to give money to companies that my health-insurance (and likely also doctor and hospital) corporations get a kickback for.  I'm sure that, like the other strange little requirements sprinkled all over this policy, is totally there because it's giving me the best care and the best opportunity to heal.  And oh, if I don't heal, if one of these profit-motivated medical decisions keeps or makes me sick, then guess what?  More rent-payment-level bills in my lap.

Once again, what really bothers me is that we allow corporations to do all this (at all, but also) while claiming that their primary goal is the health of citizens.  If only there were regulations requiring them to disclose that their profit margin was their main concern, I could sleep easier.  I'm not sure why, but… Better the devil you know, I guess.

But I suppose the upside is, when you're this screwed, it's hard to really give a shit.  I can feel a little better able to accept the reality now that I know that the deal is:  I eat the $75/mo cost of health insurance (and count myself lucky that my employer pays for the rest, which is substantial — again, rent-level), and I use it for everything I can, but I don't let it make me think for a second that I'm not going utterly broke if I ever get sick or hurt.  If that happens, I'm going to give up hard and quick on ever paying those bills, because screw it, it's not possible; there's nothing to gain there morally by trying my best; instead I'll just try to keep my health and my life as long as possible, and accept that it will destroy my financial life to do so.

I live in a country that has no problem letting corporations take our life savings in exchange for medicine — to the point where our government spends tons MORE on health-care than countries which provide it for free, just to support this system —  and if I need lots of medicine, my country is going to let companies take everything I have or threaten to kill me if I can't pay.

Noted.  Thanks, USofA.  

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Light Exercise FTW

This post by almost-polyphaser Marco Calvo Cruz (I know, somebody won the name lottery, right?) has a bit of information in it that I feel kind of Duh for having never focused on before (at least, I don’t think I have) — and this excellent post over on Minding Your Way fits right into it, too.

The lesson is “light exercise”.

Exercise Lite

Yes, I do mean “light” exercise in the sense of “gentle / not intense” — I feel I should clarify that, because I rarely do anything “light”, at least not on purpose; and I certainly mostly don’t like my exercise that way. But it occurs to me after reading both of those blog-posts that I do get a lot of exercise that way, and it has surprising benefits.

(I’ll never spell it “lite” again — I did that to make a point, but I fucking hate that misspelling, thank you corporate brandvertising, ew.)

(Bill Hicks break to feel better about that for a second…aaaaaah. Okay, moving on.)

What is “light exercise” anyway?

I, at least, hadn’t pondered this much. But upon doing so:

Light exercise is when you’re moving, but not panting or sweating.
Light exercise is getting a thing done, or practicing a thing, or traveling under your own power.

It’s taking a long walk, or playing ping-pong, or slow-dancing, or balancing on a thing, or re-shelving all your books. It’s doing the stuff that it’s easy to overlook the physical component of (unless or until, gods forbid, something happens that makes doing that physical part difficult — dancing or shelving books is a whole different ball of wax with, say, a broken leg).

But it’s sooooper useful, for many reasons.

Staying awake!

…is a huge reason light exercise is handy. Heavy exercise wears you out and makes you tired, whereas light exercise just keeps your blood moving, your breath bellowsing; light work is moving at cruising speed, and it helps keep you aware and functioning smoothly even when you’re tired. That makes it an awesome way to stay awake when you’re sleep-deprived but don’t want to sleep right now — either because you’re changing sleep-schedules, or simply sleepy at an inconvenient time (hopefully not because you’re on the wrong sleep-schedule for you, because if you are, you’re better off being sleepy because you’re changing schedules!).

For polyphasers developing lists of things to do to stave off tiredness during schedule-adjustments (BFLs as I call them), I’ve been recommending loading those lists with light exercise for years, without quite seeing or calling out the pattern. Some of the best BFL items are things like:

Cleaning the house (mopping, sweeping, sorting, scrubbing, etc)
Doing all the laundry
Re-organizing things like books and tools
Taking long walks, or shorter walks that are difficult in some way (balancing, “silly walking”, etc.)

Health & Fitness

Light exercise is why we need about half of the calories we consume — it may not burn as much per hour as heavy exercise, but most of us do it nearly all day.

Or rather, we should, because our bodies are meant to work that way. Health experts have been saying for some time that being sedentary — being at rest for extended periods, instead of in a state of light exercise — is one of the most damaging possible things for our systems. Healthy people are those who move around in some way pretty much constantly.

A total or near-total lack of light exercise is also a failure to burn 500 or more calories a day, so basically if you’re sitting around instead of moving, you might as well be eating an extra fast-food meal every day, fat-gain-wise. In all seriousness, if most sedentary people got 3 hours more of sustained light exercise per day, and cut out the one junkiest food from their diets (for most people I know, it’s soda), they’d be svelte as deer.

Psychological reprogramming

And let’s not forget that second link I put up above: I adore the point that article is making, that we have this fucked-up tendency to view our lives as being periods of unpleasant work done for the goal-purpose of being able to eventually laze around and do nothing. It’s sick, right? But look at our big life-goals to see this writ large: Take vacations, retire in old age, die and go to a place where everybody just sits around on clouds sipping tea. And we break up our days like this, too, habitually: We pine for “getting enough done” that we can “finally” sit down and put our feet up and watch TV, surf, or play video games until we have to sleep. The goal of all that work was to stop moving.

Except that it isn’t: Work, moving, doing things, IS the goal; it’s the healthy way to be. We intersperse moving with rest as our bodies and minds need it — sleep, sitting down for a minute, reading a book — but this is all part of our natural state of moving with periods of rest. We aren’t being dragged into moving and if things were perfect or “all done”, we’d just lay around — at least, we sure shouldn’t.

Light exercise, seeing it and valuing it, is a great way to re-program this thinking, to, as the article puts it, recognize that “the ground state is in motion”, that being alive should involve being in motion most of the time. Consciously making light exercise the majority of your day — or just realizing that it is, and that that’s awesome and good for you — is reminding yourself that you’re alive and moving, that the work you’re doing is not just some terrible thing you’re getting over-with so that you can lay around, retire, or die; it IS life; it is itself the goal. And that point of view brings with it more present-mindedness, more respect for the task at hand, and more recognition that if you hate what you’re doing right now, you probably ought to change it. Hell yes.

Now go do a thing! I’m gonna. :D

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