December 13, 2005

Polyphasic sleep bandwagon

Posted in: Alternative, Sleep, What am I up to

There's been some buzz recently around modifying one's sleeping pattern away from a single chunk at night to multiple "polyphasic" naps throughout the day. The ultimate form of polyphasic sleeping seems to be called the Uberman Schedule and consists of six twenty-minute sleep periods spaced evenly four hours apart. Thus instead of sleeping in my case around 8hr/night there's the alluring promise of getting away with only 2hr/day, in other words nearly 40% extra time awake, or even more persuasively, double1 your free time. (If you're the type of person that's bored a lot, perhaps that's half as persuasive.) No amount of expensive time management courses is going to double your free time.

So clearly I have to try it.

I've read over the years a few accounts of this sort of sleep pattern including various inventor-types (Edison, Da Vinci, ...) who have supposedly lived like this. As far as I can tell though that's pure copy/paste rumour. My interest was piqued again a month or so back in The Game where Neil Strauss and his housemate tried it. But both failed.

A shift into polysleep, a term I have just coined to save me some typing, requires a transition phases of a few days feeling anywhere from tired to utterly shattered. Anyone's who's undergone sleep or food deprivation (students and dieters) knows how hard it is to fight off nature's pull.

In fact I have never heard of anyone polysleeping beyond a month. Even with "lite" versions that have a few hours of "core" sleep (uninterrupted hours, typically 4am to 7am), and/or with occasional "reboots" (indefinite uninterrupted sleeps taken every fortnight of so), the documented successes are of the order of a handful.

Until now. Nik forwarded me a link to Steve Pavlina's description of a shift to a polyphasic lifestyle. A couple of weeks ago he wrote in his final update,

I consider the experiment a huge success, and I intend to continue with polyphasic sleep indefinitely unless I discover a compelling reason not to.

Now that's interesting. And Steve was on the full Uberman 6x20min schedule.

So naturally also being a curiosity junkie Aries I have to try it... I started out Friday daytime and it's been four days and nights so far. My ability to fall asleep any time and anywhere is developing nicely. Places I've fallen asleep in the last few days include a toilet, a café, a bath, a bedroom floor, and a busy Hoxton bar with a dozen mates around. I haven't yet developed the knack of dropping right into REM sleep, except when I'm in meetings...

Sticking to the twenty minute schedules I've managed with mixed success. The first couple of nights I had three and four hour sleeps in the morning. My discipline about getting out of bed for the first 30years of my life has felt to me particularly poor and polysleeping has shone a glaring spotlight on that. If you even shut your eyes again for a moment after waking you'll find yourself transported in a split second hours forward. The upside of this is that the only way to succeed is to develop that discipline - adapt or die. If I sleep for 1.5hrs, i.e. an hour oversleep, I've gained nothing; compounded over the day that'd be the equivalent of 6 * 1.5 = 9hrs, i.e. more than I would've slept otherwise. Or if I manage 5 * 20mins correctly and then lose it sleeping 4hours that's not much of a gain either.

The unforgiving schedules at least occur at a frequency where the adaption and learning is fast. I'm literally practicing sleeping on cue six times a day. As someone who's spent most of his childhood and early adult years thrashing around for hours at night before Morpheus finally arrived this is incredibly gratifying. You'd be surprised the sense of achievement being able to drop off with your head on a cold sink at four in the afternoon. :-)

Socially it is challenging. Even with a bit of leeway around when the naps happen inevitably one of them is going to land in the middle of an evening activity. Dinner, movie, or any kind of one-on-one is ... well, imagine it. It's bizarre. I suspect this is going to be one of the hardest aspects to work around. Made harder by, at least at the moment, my quality of sleep in random places isn't that great yet so tiredness is added to the sensation of oddness. Fortunately I have no shame explaining any odd nonsense I'm trying out and almost everyone's joined in the curiosity (and taken sneaky pictures; hi Emir!)

What's good so far? Actually a lot. First my sense of time is dilating. I started this on Friday and it feels like nearly a week has passed, and I've got nearly a week's worth of stuff done. Started a new project I'd been putting off for lack of time, read several dozen pages of dense online tech manuals, and written an essay. This is all the while hosting and entertaining three people who visited, going to theatre, a couple of social outings including an excellent big one organised by Dean, oh, and doing a couple of full-time jobs.

There've been some subtler effects too. I have in the past thought, imagine if I didn't sleep. What would that be like metaphysically. One day runs into the next without a break, day follows night follows day follows... inductively compelled and drawn into looking into the future. I've found the idea scary and daunting, unpunctuated, segmented, or contained with rest. I think it's daunting because much of life is like a treadmill, and one of the few remaining excuses to step off is sleep at night. Scary because one's led into confrontation with the possibility of endless existence without purpose, before one's subconcious has a chance to shut down that line of thought with some plausibly deniable distraction.

Right coming up to the tricky 5am slot. Wish me luck ;-)

1 The calculation of double I've come up with by assuming a work day of eight hours is smeared with an hour either side of dead time activity like getting into work, switching on the pc/starting up the chainsaw, shuffling papers/picking stones out of its blade, etc. So with 16 waking hours, 10 is "lost" to work, leaving six. With another 8-2=6 hours wrested from sleep's sophorific clutches, that's double. In fact it's probably better than double given that in the original six there's some non-repeating dead time tasks like brushing your teeth, tidying the house, etc.

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 04:48 | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 13, 2004

EFT on nail biting? And why not.

Posted in: Alternative

There is a bewildering pantheon of therapies around these days, at various points on the continua of alternative/institutional, experimental/established: Brief Strategic, Provocative, NLP, Insight, EMDR, Hypno...

Since doing the Landmark Forum last year I've been studying therapy in various forms very much as a diléttant. One therapy that frequently pops on my radar as well rated but less well known is EFT, Emotional Freedom Therapy.

Created and promoted primarily by one guy, Gary Craig, it's based so far as I understand it as a novice on identifying an unresolved emotional issue, accepting oneself, and tapping points on meridian lines (same as some of those used in acupuncture/acupressure). Administering EFT is remarkably quick: the basic process takes a few minutes for an application.

Initially discouraged by the length of the EFT tutorial I put it aside (being a dilettant you get to pick and choose ;-). Then Dave took me through the whole thing plus some of his refinements, in about ten minutes. (Cheers, mate!)

All that was left was to take this new toy for a spin! Of course, my head's fully straight and there's nothing really left to work on (ha ha). A long standing hassle of mine has been nail biting; 25yrs and counting. I have it mostly cracked so long as the nail is in OK condition (i.e. not bitten), then I leave it alone. If it's been chewed, then it's open season for more. And I have one like that right now.

As I was about to do the EFT procedure on myself my (extremely mild) scalp and elbow eczema went bananas; apprehension. There's a fear in any therapy "heck, I've tried everything else, if this doesn't work, I'm doomed, DOOMED I tell you!". This fear can be so strong people won't enter themselves into a possibly healing opportunity for fear it might not work and that their self-image of being "unfixable" becomes hardened that much more. So they rather continue to suffer than take that chance. Who said the mind operates logically.

Thank goodness I am so logical (ha ha). At the end of the "session" there was almost no discernible desire to bite my nails. Dave suggested testing more so I tried to bite them; nothing. The usual stimulus-response seemed to have been unwired. Bizarre, exciting! I did another round to scoop out the remainder of the itch to nibble: my fingers went faintly numb, and recovered shortly.

A day later, I'm certainly preoccupied by it and I think most of that is fascination. I can put my fingers in my mouth and go through the motions; it's just not hitting the same responses anymore. So, assuming I go to bed shortly, I'll've been 24h without any nailbiting. Not a record by any stretch but a record in terms of not wanting to bite them.

What's particularly impressive about this is that nail-biting is a tricky beast to treat as the triggers to engage in the activity are almost all pre-conscious. I.e. you don't think "ah, gotta bite my nails". It just happens. (That, IMO, is why those nasty-tasting lacquers aren't too effective; they generate a negative-ish stimulus too late in the process.) So the fact that this has had any effect whatsoever I'm stoked about.

Fantastic! A few voluntary $$ will be winging their way to Gary Craig.

Want more? Two options, one that involves quite a lot of time online; the other a much shorter period of time with another person:

1. Check out the EFT newcomers intro. I also enjoyed the non-EFT-specific creative therapeutic advice e.g. on digging through hidden issues (from the EFT FAQ).

2. Better yet, go see someone like Dave who knows what they're doing.

Posted by Paul Makepeace at 23:16 | Comments (4) | TrackBack