I've always had a love/hate relationship with sleep. Good sleep feels great. I like dreams and have for a long time been able to dream lucidly. I still think that the magic of going to bed unhappy, sad or sick and waking up better is awesome!
On the other hand, I used to hate having to go to sleep. I never wanted to miss anything. Even as a young kid, putting me to bed was a nightmare for my parents. My Grandmother used to drive us around the country showing horses, and it became a family joke how I was always hanging with her at 2-3am while everyone else was sleeping.
In Highschool I had this great plan (sarcasm). It involved staying up until 2am every night and then waking up at 6am. At the time it worked for me. I generally felt good on only 4 hours sleep even as I was on Swim Team. After High School my college life required less hours and I ran a computer business which was sporatic with work. My normal sleep schedule shifted to between 4-6 hours a day on average. At that time day was the key word. I would normally stay up until about 6am and sleep until 11.
After college I ended up supplementing my computer business as a security guard. My security posts would come at different times of the day and night until they learned that they could trust me to stay awake. After that point I was constantly receiving night posts. From 3pm-9am was the range the job might cover. I'd often get off shift, go change clothes and go fix someone's computer. My sleep became more confusing. Some days I would get as little as 1-2 hours but if I had no obligations I would sleep 6+ hours.
In 2003 I learned I was going to be a Dad and all of a sudden my free spirited “do whatever I wanted” behavior had to stop. I started taking my computer business more seriously and worked really hard to grow it. I decided I had to listen to my dad's advice: “The business world has all the money and like it or not real business happens from 8am-4pm. If you start work at 2pm you have missed out on 75% of the money you can earn.” I pushed myself to get up at 7am to start work and get business.
Over the next 5 years I became more and more boring about my sleep. I'd go to bed around midnight and get up about 7am. Sure I missed my 3am walks or staying up until dawn with friends, but I had responsibilities.
In 2008 I heard about polyphasic sleep from Steve Pavlina and got excited. I decided to try to do the Uberman schedule and during the peak of the banking crisis I was incoherently tired for about 3 weeks as I tried and failed to maintain the schedule. Without discipline the effort was doomed from the beginning, but it had a nifty side effect. I gained the ability to do the restorative 20 minute naps. I could dream, lose time and more during those 20 minutes. It wasn't universal, but it happened and stayed with me even after I quit.
For the next few years I returned to my “normal” sleep schedule. My need to sleep kept increasing as I aged and gained weight. I could make do with 4 hours once in a while, but I needed at least 6 hours a night and preferred 7-8.
Recently the issue came to a head for me though. I experienced the benefit of “The Miracle Morning” and I wanted that regularly! However, my wife is a night owl. For a couple years now I've been getting up as she goes to bed. It has been VERY hard on our relationship. If that weren't enough I own a store Reno Magick and we regularly do events at night. Lately I'd become more and more tired during these events.
Which brings us to my “why.” I had already started needing naps before late events if I wanted to be semi-coherent and now I wanted to start getting up 2 hours earlier! I decided to schedule naps. I figured out the hardest ones... during my busy times. I ended up with a schedule of 4 hours apart.
Immediately after I'd done that scheduling I noticed that it would be easy for me to schedule 2 naps around that 4 hours apart.... and the last two would be cake. However, I remembered the pain and the failure of the last time I had tried polyphasic sleep. I ended up chuckling at how nice it would be but dropped the issue. A day later I was going through my computer and I found an old e-book. I collect e-books like some women collect shoes; they're a nice idea, but almost never used.
The book I found was called: Ubersleep by PureDoxyk. This book is EXCELLENT. While I very much enjoyed reading Steve Pavlina's stories, and because of him I tried polyphasic, I was only able to get a “how I did it” from his posts. PureDoxyk put together a how-to in her book and answered a ton of questions that I didn't even know to ask!
In her book she introduced the idea of following an Everyman Schedule (core sleep + naps) in the first way that made sense to me. She had started doing Uberman (Six 20 minute naps only), but because of jobs she could never keep it. She joyfully explored Everyman which allows more space between naps and then shared what she'd learned about the process the whole way.
Steve Pavlina correlated veganism, utter body purity and insane levels of discipline with his polyphasic experience. PureDoxyk brought the topic down to the realm of mere-mortals. In her book she noted that caffeine shouldn't be overused, but small amounts were ok. She noted that Veganism doesn't seem to matter (no matter what else others say) and she put together tools for helping people keep with it.
One of the most important of these to me was an idea she had of assigning a “watcher with veto rights.” This is was to take the responsibility of quitting out of your hands... which I can promise is important because after sleeping 3 hours, second-guessing your decision to get up at 5 am is going to seem like a great idea. By assigning that trust to someone else I found that it was MUCH easier to commit.
Remember how I said that I had kept the ability to take a 20? THAT has come in handy. When I started this I hadn't intended to really start yet. I assumed that I would need a week to cleanse my system, but 4 hours in I was 100% dedicated. I assigned my girlfriend to be my “watcher with veto rights” and set down the road to regular naps and scheduled core sleep.
There are two common schedules: Uberman (only 20 minutes every 4 hours) and Everyman (variations of 1.5-6 hours of core sleep and scheduled 20 minute naps). Transitioning to a modified Everyman was surprisingly easy and went against most everything I've experienced with polyphasic sleep in the past. The day I decided to start I began taking sleeping in the following schedule:
10am: 20 minute nap
2pm: 20 minute nap
6pm: 20 minute nap
10pm: 20 minute nap
2am: 3 hour core sleep
optional 6:30am 20 minute nap
Initially the naps were hit and miss. About 50% of the time I would lay there wondering if I was going to sleep, but as I got more tired I easily transitioned to napping on the schedule.
I experienced 2 days of moderate sleepiness during the day and extreme sleepiness from about 12am to 7am, but each day thereafter days became consistently high energy, and the duration and intensity of night exhaustion shrunk until a minimum of heavy sleepiness from about 1:30-5:30 (The time crawling by of extreme exhaustion went away).
And then life stepped in...
Future Polyphasic Sleep Articles:
The cough that wouldn't end
A 6 hour mistake
Finding a New Balance
Conscious Delta Sleep
Asking for my Dreams
A Darn Good Excuse and Getting back up
Flashback: The Initial Transition