Well guys I can’t put it off any longer so I’ll just come right out and say it. The sleep experiment officially ended on Sunday November 29th – two weeks after it began. I’ve been avoiding this blog post because I am sad about ending the experiment and this seems to put a stamp of finality on the whole thing.
The experiment involved sleeping multiple times during the day – specifically, sleeping for 20 minutes every four hours around the clock. Instead of sleeping during the night and being awake all day I’m basically taking six powernaps (amounting to about two hours of accumulative sleep per 24 hour period).
Ultimately I decided to return to monophasic sleep for social reasons.
I cherish the freedom to be spontaneous – especially when it comes to spending time with friends and family – and I was having to make too many social sacrifices to maintain the strict polyphasic sleep schedule.
My first major social sacrifice came on day five of the experiment when I had to back out of going to an art and hip hop show in Indianapolis with my buddy, Nathan Monk. I wasn’t happy about it but I figured that after the first week or so I could be more flexible with my sleep schedule – delaying or possibly even skipping naps when necessary.
After the first four or five days of the experiment I was feeling great and spending more than 90% of the day awake. I felt more optimistic and creative than I’ve ever felt. I was working more, reading more, skateboarding more, writing more, learning more, taking more photos… It felt as if I was cheating in the game of life. I was hacking time. Not only was I functioning, but I was excited and productive on about two hours of sleep a day! I was optimistic from the start and expected good results but the degree of success was still shocking. Every day I asked myself, ‘How is it possible to feel this good on only two hours of sleep a day?!’ Did I mention it was the most optimistic and creative two weeks I can ever remember?
Now, I do want to clarify that although I was awake for 22 hours a day I was not functioning at 100% at all times. In the same way that most people feel a bit slow during the late afternoon I also experienced times where I felt a little hazy. For me these times typically came between 3am and sunrise. During these times I would focus on less demanding activities such as cleaning, washing dishes, laundry, and reading.
During the second week of the experiment (the week of Thanksgiving) I began pushing the limits of the schedule’s flexibility – sometimes skipping a nap and then taking a longer nap later to “make up for it.” This, however, did not work out so well. It turns out that if I’m going to be getting two hours of sleep every 24 hours my body needs the strict schedule in order to snap into a functioning pattern. My schedule was a 20 minute nap at 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 10pm, 2am, 6am, and repeat.
As the novelty of the experiment wore down I was less willing to make social sacrifices, therefore putting vibrations into my sleep schedule which caused strain in the experiment – sabotaging my optimism and commitment.
The final nail in the coffin happened on Friday November 27th when I stayed awake for over 18 hours. I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon and evening with close friends that I don’t get the chance to see very often – and I couldn’t bring myself to put my own sleep experiment before those relationships. It has become clear to me lately that no relationship lasts forever. Not to be a downer, but all relationships will eventually end. But this is what makes our relationships so valuable and worthy of being cherished. And yes, worthy of sacrificing sleep for.
After the night of the 27th I considered continuing the experiment but after a fierce discussion with myself I decided it would be best to return to monophasic sleep. Yep. Plain old boring monophasic sleep, ugh. The first time I slept for eight hours consecutively after my experiment I felt like a lazy bum. During the sleep experiment eight hours of sleep would have lasted me four days!
The transition back to monophasic sleep was actually a little tough psychologically – and I’m still bummed out about it. The days seem to fly by and I feel relatively unproductive. It’s difficult.
After experiencing the high that comes from “time travel” (essentially having more hours in the day), I think I’ll always feel awkward about monophasic sleep. It’s just not the most effective sleep schedule for me. But unfortunately it’s what we all do thanks to the day/night cycle of the planet.
In the end, even though I prefer the polyphasic sleep schedule for many reasons, I came to the realization that the freedom to spend time with friends and family is far more valuable to me right now. I will always daydream about those two weeks though… and I know I will again return to polyphasic sleep at some point in my life when it makes sense (likely this spring). I lived through a thrilling dream – and I must give it another go at some point. I’m addicted.
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – Day Zero
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – Day One
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – Day Two
- Why Polyphasic sleep? | A simple and compelling answer
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – Day Three
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – Day Four
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – The Epic Napstake (nap + mistake)
- Polyphasic Sleep Experiment – The Success, Conclusion, and Addiction