My Experience with Polyphasic Sleep

For one month of my junior year in high school, I attempted polyphasic sleep, which is a practice where instead of sleeping in one period every 24 hours, you sleep in a series of naps throughout the day. A good chunk of my attempt at polyphasic sleep—which I broke up into one 3.5-hour nap and three 25-minute naps, or a bit under five hours total—was over winter break, since it was nearly impossible to maintain such a schedule during schooltime (I resorted to taking low-quality naps on library bean bags at lunchtime).

So did it work? Sort of, but I wouldn’t recommend it, even though I do believe the right person can make it work. Rather than sorting polyphasic sleep into pros and cons, I’ll give you my general impressions:

You transcend the concept of time. I’m serious. It’s not even just that time is dilated. Time could have started going backwards and I wouldn’t have noticed. The sunrise seemed to come once a year instead of every morning. I was really great with catching up with overseas friends, because timezones meant nothing. The space between a nap (only a few hours) now felt like a day, and an actual day felt like multiple days. Time meant nothing.

You’re mostly alone. This contributed to my dilated sense of time, because I usually didn’t have someone else to engage me or interact with during much of the time I was awake, so it felt like time was longer. If you’re a highly introverted person like me and you have ways to fill up the empty time, you can be fine with the solitude, but if you need to interact with people a lot, polyphasic sleep isn’t for you. You’ll spend long stretches of time alone with no company but yourself.

Always have food on hand. I had no sense of time, so I didn’t have a sense of breakfast, lunch, or dinner, either. I mostly just snacked nonstop. I made sure to throw in fruit and other healthy snacks so I didn’t die of a ramen overdose.

True inner peace probably feels like week three of polyphasic sleep. But also, true inner peace sucks. I wasn’t tired, exactly, but my brain always felt a little more sluggish and slow than it usually was. Instead of having times when I was energetic and times when I was tired, I was constantly at a level of just being really chill about everything because I couldn’t spare the energy to feel more strongly about things.

You get more done, but it’s probably not proportionate to the amount of time you’re awake. I was almost always awake, but I rarely had the energy to do much more than stay awake. I definitely got more work done than I usually did, but I don’t think it was worth it considering the amount of time I was awake. For example, if you can write three pages in three hours, then mathematically, you’d expect to write eight pages in eight hours. Nope. I’d do more work, but I worked more slowly than usual because of my low energy, so eight pages suddenly became ten hours (although I had the ten hours to spare).

The inconvenience isn’t the sleep schedule itself, it’s that everyone else is on a different one. You can’t meet people, do group work, or even stop by the store for a bag of chips (unless it’s a 24/7 store) most of the time, because everyone’s asleep. I had a friend who successfully pulled off a biphasic sleep schedule—a less extreme version where you break up your sleep into two naps a few hours apart, and get considerably more sleep than you’d get on polyphasic sleep—but said she went back to monophasic sleep because it just didn’t align with anyone else’s schedule.

It was an incredible learning experience, but I quit after a month. I might go back to it if I was much busier than I am now (I don’t have enough things to do to justify being awake 19+ hours per day), but right now, I’m just really grateful for every time I sleep through the night. That being said, watching the sun rise while eating ramen noodles in your bedroom, not having slept since midnight, and crying your eyes out after watching the How to Train Your Dragon movies is an inimitable experience, and the kind of thing that’s fun to try at least once in your life.

Image: X

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