My journey through sleep deprivation to Polyphasic Sleep
  • As I indicated in my first post over in the "practical methods" forum (in some ways the descriptions and context of each might hint that it might be better to merge both into one forum), I have been exploring (for about 4 months now) Polyphasic Sleep, a journey in significant part influenced by having read Left in the Dark.

    I have found that many may have heard of Polyphasic Sleep, some may even have tried it (many tend to fail), but in general may not know about many of the details outside of the "sleep less" angle (which I feel is more of a byproduct than an aim).

    Many of us likely adhere to the standard "Monophasic" Sleep pattern, which is just sleeping once per day, in one big chunk. This activity consumes varying amounts of time, typically ranging from 6-8.5 hours for "normal" individuals. Aside from the near constant time consumed, it generally is the most FLEXIBLE sleep schedule (ie one can abuse it endlessly with late partying one night, getting up early the next day, etc. provided sleep deprivation isn't reached).

    A common alteration of this is "Biphasic" sleep, where one sleeps in a significant chunk at night, and then has some sort of afternoon sleep (20 min-1.5 hours); many cultures call this a "Siesta".

    Some science has unveiled that, prior to the industrial revolution, we naturally exhibited a different sleeping pattern- what has been termed as "Segmented" sleep, where the nightly core sleep is broken up into two parts, with a period of wakefulness in between.

    What gets interesting is when one starts tinkering with these units of "core" sleep (in current context, any sleep > 45 minutes) and "naps" (15-45 minutes, but typically uniform in length to the practitioner-- seems different people have different ideal nap lengths), while paying attention to normal body rhythms (circadian, ultradian, BRAC).

    The most famous Polyphasic Sleep is likely Uberman, which consists of six 20 minute naps taken 4 hours apart, for a theoretical maximum of only 2 hours a day. This is also one of the hardest schedules to achieve, and has the highest failure rate. It also requires obscene strictness-- missing one of those naps can really throw a person out of whack, to the point of destabilizing and needing to fall back to a different schedule. Not much is known about it scientifically, but upon successful adaptation, one has apparently partitioned/compressed their REM and Deep (SWS) sleep successfully, enabling healthful sleep in such short timespans.

    There's also popular schedules like Everyman (E2, E3, E4), which include a nightly core plus some number of naps (spaced according to the ultradian rhythm settled by the core)... E3 is quite common in many polyphasic circles, and consists of a 3.5 hour core (preferably in the early part of the night so as to get the most deep sleep), and 3 naps, where a bulk of the REM will be achieved.

    I am currently playing with the "Dual Core" schedule, which is an optimization of Segmented Sleep using attributes of Everyman-- currently aiming for the Dual Core 2 (DC2) schedule, which consists of a 2.5-3.5 hour core in the first part of the night (for Deep Sleep), a 1.5-2.5 hour core approximately 4 hours later (for the bulk of REM), and then 2 naps during the day (4, 8 hours away from waking from the second core).

    Achieving Polyphasic Sleep requires going through what is called an "Adaptation", which is basically instigating sleep deprivation, sticking strictly to one's chosen schedule (or a calibrational schedule-- Uberman is popular for this too-- stick with it until you fail--- 2-3 weeks (when Deep Sleep deprivation kicks in) and then fall back to desired schedule), forcing the body to adjust to the new pattern. Adapting to uberman is short and severe, E3/DC1/DC2 is longer but less severe in the deprivation effects.

    At any rate, there's a great site that acts as one of the big focal points of Polyphasic Sleep, called Polyphasic Society (, which I'd highly recommend checking out for more information (note, they tend to be a bit anti-vegan/raw-vegan... they try and encourage the raw paleo, but aren't overly aggressive towards vegans (just be sure to have a slightly thicker skin so as not to be put off by such)).

    ... continued in part 2 ...
  • Ultimately, these schedules aren't what polyphasic sleep are about, but more of "common best practices"... people have achieved success with these, but adhering to them isn't required (it is easy to fall into that trap)... I tend to be part of a new sub-movement in the Polyphasic Sleep community that focuses on optimization (knowing what we know, how can we tweak things in various directions, that may not conform to established schedules).

    From my experience, being on Polyphasic Sleep has offered me a host of benefits, the following what I can think of off-hand:

    - better sleep in shorter time (again, the "less sleep" is happening-- but it happens because I have gotten the needed REM/SWS in the time alotted). It is truly an experience waking from a 2 hour core filled with 90 minutes REM and feeling so amazingly refreshed (same for Deep in the first core).
    - naps are incredible, and I feel deserve more exploration than are typically given. I've had 20 minute naps that have been 100% REM, and being able to lay down and drop into REM, then immediately wake up from- causes lots of vivid dreams to be recalled (some use Polyphasic Sleep as a gateway to lucid dreaming). A part of me feels that any Polyphasic Schedule that doesn't have a heavy reliance on naps isn't truly a Polyphasic schedule, but obviously the definition is broad and inclusive.
    - on the introverted/extroverted spectrum I have always come across as skewing heavily to the introverted end of the scale. Regardless, as I have been on this Polyphasic journey, I have found a further contentful resolve in being and enjoying my alone-time. But, I have also grown less fearful, more willing to engage in more extroverted social affairs. There's apparently some evidence where sleep deprivation in studied subjects rebalanced chemicals and resolved some types of depression (and since most studies never go beyond the deprivation stage...)
    - intellectually, I am sharper. Using the Lumosity inventory, my skills at memory, problem solving, and attention have improved. Speed and flexibility seem less pronounced, but ALL 5 have increased since commencing on this journey. In fact, after experimenting with the occasional "normal" 7-8 hour core, I noticeably take hits in memory and other areas (although speed and flexibility seem to benefit in the short term), and I feel "dulled".
    - as part of my Whole Brain Training (as described by Michael Lavery), I partake daily in what are known as "hammer drills" (bouncing a tennis ball off a rubber mallet-- tallying for left and right hand). Before starting polyphasic sleep, when I would occasionally have an off night and not feel as rested, I noticed my proficiency in this area would improve (especially my left hand). Being into Polyphasic Sleep for 4 months, I have reached some impressive new highs in bounce tally, with both hands (left more frequent). Isn't uniform nor is it daily... I suspect there's another factor I'm not properly addressing to properly unleash this (perhaps a nutritional one).
    - my notion of time and days has changed. I no longer look at days as discrete, separate units, but a bit more as a continuum spotted with sleep events (some more significant than others). I don't lose track of time, but I find I better appreciate and better utilize my time all around (I also find I hate having my time wasted, moreso than before-- having more time has apparently instilled a notion of enjoying it as much as possible. I didn't care much for bureaucratic meetings before- you can imagine how I feel now :)).
    - Although always a calm and laid back person, I feel that trait has increased. Perhaps due to feeling less pressure due to unit-imposed deadlines (end of day, etc.). I feel more relaxed, feel more rested, feel more aware ("awake and aware" as I like to describe it).
    - Although we all can have our lulls where we can sneak in a nap- having a schedule of expected naps changes my perception of being "awake and aware"). I can do some intellectually challenging task, then lay down for a 20 minute nap, have it filled with REM, and wake up fresh and recharged. Once you get in the groove, you'll start growing tired leading up to the expected sleep time (much as one does heading into bed at night). But it actually is rather enjoyable, as I know I'll be better for it on the other side.
    - Sleeping is pleasurable for me. Especially naps. I love when one of my scheduled naps is upon me. I feel these naps have extended me in many positive ways- least of which is being more awake, especially when those around me are tired from a long day.
    - I think my pattern matching skills have increased. Which aids my creativity. I find I am much more willing to look at a thing and imagine other approaches, uses, and solutions.

    As I said, just a few things that come to mind. And to think, having read Left in the Dark was a strong influence in giving me confidence to take this leap (seeing common patterns).

    So while Polyphasic Sleep goes "beyond" sleep deprivation (I like to think of it as what awaits at the other side of sleep deprivation), I can't help but see the potential for right brain benefit here (perhaps less pronounced than with endured sleep deprivation, at least on core-heavy schedules), and hope that others will offer their insights, maybe even check it out if my rambling here has offered any new insight previously unexplored.
  • Thank you wedge1020 I had never heard of the this before much appreciated :)
  • _ts__ts_
    Posts: 50
    Very interesting wedge, thanks for sharing.

    I've definitely noticed some similar benefits from my experiences as the ones you mentioned. Often times i'll wake up from sleep in a state of complete euphoria, which at times can be quite like my ayahuasca experiences in some ways. And, as you noted, its much easier to enter REM. Sometimes I'll just sit for a minute and relax, eyes closed, and find myself drift into a blissful trance/hypnagogic state after a minute or two that at times can be very bewildering and interesting.

    I encountered polyphasic sleep a few few years ago, but because of my daily obligations I never got to tinker around with it at all... One thing i've done thats slightly similar is to just sleep around 0-2 hours each night, for about a week. This definitely produces some interesting experiences for me, but i feel that even this is a far cry from what can happen on prolonged sleep deprivation. Still very intriguing though how people report a lot of benefits from this

    Have you experimented at all with just staying awake for a few days? What has that been like for you?
  • I have not tried any sort of prolonged multi-day awake period in several years. About 10 years ago while in college my procrastination tendencies in an upper-level class with particularly intense projects caused me to stay up 1-, 2- and then 3- days straight (corresponding with both project number and difficulty) through the course of the semester. Needless to say I was a little loopy by day 3... surroundings a little odd feeling- not quite warping but seemingly visible in different ways.

    There's a sense I recall from all 3 encounters (and other longer nights I've pulled), that sort of kicks in after you convince the body you are staying up-- as if initial tiredness (or what we think of tiredness) is really not true tiredness. Much like how many people mistake thirst or even timed eating as hunger. I've played a bit with fasting as well, and find some parallels in sensation to passing on sleep/being tired. Both experiences seem to have given me an increased sensitivity to both (respectively).

    When doing my initial polyphasic adaptation, I had plenty of run-ins with microsleeps (just closing eyes for a few seconds, or being in the middle of some activity while sitting)... pretty much all the times I'd catch myself awake while falling (either in the REM state or physically assuming a more sleepful posture) and somehow didn't suffer the number (or duration) of oversleeps that others commonly report. I've slept for as little as 2.5 hours a night (core sleep, not counting the 4-hour spaced 20 minute naps) a few nights in a row while playing with the Everyman 3 schedule... I was aiming for 3-3.5 (and had alarms set for such), but would occasionally wake up fresh and ready to go after 2.5 hours. I found I had some of my most potent dreams and restfulness during naps in these cases... a far cry from what I've experienced with longer cores.

    As I said, I think the notion of placing reliance on naps to achieve one's sleeping needs still potentially holds some as-yet-untapped potential... I personally feel it is an area worthy of further exploration. Especially for the seemingly longer term viability as compared to just straight up avoiding sleep (people have reportedly done the Uberman for upwards of 8 months, and there are a few people who have been on everyman3 for at least a year, if not multiple years). Might not get some of the effects as potently.. but then again, who knows what other benefits it might offer in these directions...
  • itkermyitkermy
    Posts: 1
    I enjoy randomly finding these websites and discovering people talking about polyphasic. I have been on a near dymaxion schedule for nearly two years with returning back to 6 to 8 hour sleep on weekends. Though after these two years, I think I want to do the strict dymaxion schedule of 4, 30 min naps. Thanks for reading.
  • wedge1020wedge1020
    Posts: 5
    I am curious how you adapted to Dymaxion... all accounts I have read about seem to (like most of Uberman) end in failure... yet, I find myself continually interested in it (the whole Buckminster Fuller angle helps too).

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