Quarantine has left me with a completely flexible schedule, and a lot of time on my hands: but what if I could have even more?
Priya Ghose and I are going to be embarking on a polyphasic sleep experiment — we’re transitioning from the typical 8-hour monophasic sleep schedule to the “Everyman-3” schedule, where we get three(.5) hours of core sleep every night, with three 20-minute naps each day.
This type of schedule is (theoretically) great, because it maximizes both deep sleep (SWS) and REM sleep, while saving you 4 hours.
Here’s how we’re doing it:
I want to preface by saying: this is obviously no study worthy of an academic journal — but I think bootstrapped experiments are still worth performing. They help build cultural pressure toward the “real-deal” experiments that answer questions empirically. The goal is to study something just well enough that your published results seem worthy of further investigation.
To build on existing experimental results, we’re going to be replicating a previously performed sleep experiment, documented here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/cMnjqk8iEzycbLBDA/seed-study-polyphasic-sleep-in-ten-steps
The rough question we’re trying to answer with the experiment is: what are the cognitive and behavioral effects of transitioning to an Everyman-3 schedule?
Here are the steps we are taking for adaptation:
1. On April 10th, begin fasting after eating lunch, and do not sleep. No napping, either. This is to reset your circadian rhythm, and to make napping easier on April 11th, the first day of the adaptation.
2. On April 11th, eat breakfast around 0600. This should be the first thing you’ve eaten since lunch on April 10th.
3. On April 11th at 0630, take your first 20-minute nap, and start taking naps once every 2 hours. Congrats, you’ve made it to the Uberman-12 schedule. Make sure you do not oversleep — even if you fail to fall asleep, only spend 20 minutes attempting to nap.
4. Cut your naps down to 6/day (once every 4 hours) as quickly as possible. You have until April 18th to do this, but try to do it sooner. Congrats, if you made it this far, you’re on the Uberman-6 schedule.
5. This last transition is tricky and I’ll quote directly from the above article:
5.1. If you managed to reach the Uberman-6 feeling good, you’ll probably start getting really tired again shortly thereafter. This flavor of tired will be different from what you’ve suffered for the past week, and by that flavor you will know that you have hit SWS deprivation. If this is what happens to you, the new kind of sleepy is your cue to transition straight to the Everyman 3 schedule.
5.2 If you’re unlucky, you’ll not quite have reached Uberman in the space of a week — that is, you’ll still be hanging on to some extra naps on July 30th. Then you’ll be wolloped by a new bout of sleepiness. This flavor of tired will be different from the last. If it’s is tolerable, drop straight to full Uberman and try to hold out for at least 24hrs, then convert to the Everyman 3. If the new flavor of tired is intolerable, convert to E3 as soon as the new tired hits, and expect the next week or so to be tougher on you than on the lucky ones.
6. Remain on the E3 schedule for 3 weeks, until May 10th, and continue to collect data.
- Every day between 1200–1400 after lunch, before and during the experiment, complete this psychomotor vigilance test(PVT). This is the main metric we’re using for cognitive performance — it just measures your response time, but it’s a good indication of sleep deprivation.
- Fill out this survey each day with your data from the completed test, as well as subjective measures of stress, tiredness, etc: https://airtable.com/shrzoN480WnvozYLK
We’re having a few friends fill out the form each day who are not participating in the experiment, as a type of control.
May 10th concludes the experiment, though I’m hoping to feel good enough to remain on the E3 schedule longer. I suppose we’ll see.
A natural question here is: why are you doing this? The answer is two-fold.
First, and most importantly, this:
I want to make that blue slice smaller. None of us want to die, and 4 extra hours each day could extend my waking lifespan by more than 10 years. That’s 10 years that nearly no one else gets to live. Even if I only stick with it for 1 year, that’s still 2 whole months of extra time I get at age 22.
Second, quarantine is the perfect time to experiment with habits like sleep! I’m working fully remote at all times, so it doesn’t matter when I need to take my naps. And I’m relatively bored, so I needed a challenge.
What do I expect?
Honestly, I have no idea. That’s why I’ll be blogging (and definitely tweeting) consistently throughout the experiment. You can follow along here, where I’ll be posting major updates throughout.
Want to join?
If you want to join in the experiment, we’d love to have you. Just follow the instructions in the methodology, and submit data to that same typeform, but adjust the dates to fit your start date.
Feel free to DM me on twitter as well, or otherwise get in touch, and we can keep each other company during the long nights!