Sleep cycles

19 03 2011

Over the past few weeks, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, my sleep schedule got flung so far out of whack that I started to feel like a real overworked college student.

Even when I tried to force myself to sleep, my mind raced until four or five AM; once I finally passed out, I’d only get three or four hours of sleep before class. Then, I’d take an equally long nap later in the day before repeating the vicious cycle.

Why should anyone care about my poor sleeping habits? No idea. But I did happen to stumble on the interesting concept of polyphasic sleep while aimlessly browsing Wikipedia during my mercifully brief tenure as an insomniac.

I’m not sure whether there’s anything to the concept; I managed to adopt a “biphasic” sleep schedule for a little over a week, and honestly, it wasn’t all bad–at first.

Like most Buckminster Fuller inventions, the Dymaxion Sleep Schedule looked cool but was completely impractical

I found that the world started to get a little gray and blurry towards the middle of last week, and last night I completely crashed (for 16 hours or so, I think).  Still, polyphasic sleep enthusiasts (who participate in the dynamic and burgeoning online polyphasic sleep community) actually believe that dividing your sleep up into many short naps may allow you to actually reduce the amount of time sleeping in the long run.

This may work in high-stress, emergency situations. However, it sounds like a recipe for a narcoleptic disaster if sustained for more than a few days. Though I was still getting roughly 6-8 hours of sleep every 24-hour period (the concept of “days” kind of ceases to exist after a while), I could barely stay awake after arising from a 4-hour nap by the end of this past week.

So my completely non-scientific advice to all of contemplating a polyphasic sleep schedule (and I’m sure pretty much everyone out there was ready to give it a try): don’t bother. There’s no real scientific evidence that it works in the long run, and from personal experience, it sets one up for an epic mini-hibernation after a week or two.

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