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What Have You Got Against Sleep?

Fnord12 is an insomniac, so i am familiar with the vicious circle of not being able to fall asleep and then being stressed about not being able to fall asleep which leads to really not being able to fall asleep. I understand the desperation an insomniac might feel to try anything at all to get some sleep. But this 2 hours/day thing is just crazy.

Marie Staver couldn't sleep. Always plagued by insomnia and other sleep disorders, in college she was struggling to get enough rest to keep up with her heavy workload. So in 1998 she made a drastic decision: she would stop trying. Instead of lying in bed all night, she would get her rest in catnaps evenly spaced throughout the day. Out of every 24 hours, she would sleep for only two.

Staver began the radical experiment with a friend, Psuke, and soon the pair felt superhuman. They named their schedule "Uberman" in honor of Nietzsche's Übermensch idea, because they were both philosophy majors--but also because they were accomplishing so much in a day that they were freaking people out. Their schoolwork was done, their dorms were clean, they held down jobs, they made appearances at social events.


They coordinated their schedules to make it easier, Staver says. They would wake each other up at 4 in the morning and drive to the all-night Denny's to study. Before their morning classes they'd take a nap. At lunch they'd meet up for another nap. So it went, napping for 20 minutes every four hours around the clock--for more than six months.

Adjusting to the Uberman schedule takes about two weeks of hell, Staver says. Writing in 2006, she called the adjustment period an "absolute unholy monstrous biyotch." But eventually the fog cleared for the college students. What remained was, according to Staver, "miraculous."

"It was the most amazing thing I had ever discovered and I felt the best I've ever felt in my life," Staver says today. Her sleep disorders seemed to be gone. She wasn't tired anymore. And although she had only intended to fix her sleep, not shorten it, she found herself with an incredible 22 hours every day to spend how she liked.


No one gets there easily, though. The Polyphasic Society's website warns of side effects people may experience while they're adapting. There's "metabolic panic," meaning either constant hunger or a total loss of appetite. There may be chills, moodiness, constipation, and eye strain from keeping your eyes open all the time. The ominous-sounding "zombie mode" is also a concern.

No shit. I'm all for not forcing yourself to sleep if your body just won't do it and then taking naps to make up for that, but only taking 20 minute naps for a total of 2 hours/day? No way. Your brain seems to use the downtime when you're asleep to flush out toxins, so i think getting that 7-8 hours/day is pretty important.

Washington State University psychologist Hans Van Dongen, who studies the effects of sleep loss on the mind, agrees. In a 2008 paper, he and coauthors studied a variety of split-sleep schedules. Subjects spent 10 days on some combination of a nighttime sleep and daytime nap adding up to between four and eight hours, while researchers gave them frequent cognitive tests.

They found that sleep-deprived subjects did worse and worse as the days went on. But the results were similar however their sleep was broken up. In other words, Van Dongen says, "an hour is an hour is an hour."

In other studies, he's found that there are individual differences in how much sleep people need, and how they respond to sleep deprivation. It's true that some of us just don't need as much shuteye. But that variance only goes down to about six hours a night, Van Dongen says. Below six hours, "virtually everybody starts to see significant decrements."

One thing that happens when your brain is starved of sleep is it begins to blink in and out of attention. Maybe you lose your train of thought mid-sentence, or suddenly realize you've missed your exit on the highway. There's another interesting phenomenon in the very sleep-deprived brain, Van Dongen says: it stops feeling tired.

Yup. When you don't listen to your body, it eventually gives up and stops telling you when something's wrong. It thinks you're a jerk, and until you apologize, it wants nothing to do with you.

Ofc, i am firmly on the pro-sleep side, in general. I think we should hibernate in the winter. I have naps scheduled into my weekly routine and that's on top of my regular 7-8 hours/night. So, yeah, mebbe i'm biased. But sleep is delicious and everybody should do it.

Also don't need no crazy sleep schedule to know when i'm dreaming.

Other possible benefits of polysleeping, according to the Polyphasic Society, include improved decision making and lucid dreaming (the awareness that you're in a dream).

Pshaw. I know when i'm dreaming, i can replay parts of my dreams like a video, i can rewrite scenes if i don't like how they turned out, and i can "direct" the "camera" so it pans around as a scene unfolds (hated Inception and their portrayal of dreaming), so :P.

By min | January 25, 2016, 11:50 AM | Science