Sleeping like a mortal

After 3 weeks of doing polyphasic sleeping, the experiment is at an end.

It was great to have all that extra time, but I found that it was too difficult to maintain. Perhaps I never “turned the corner” from the adjustment phase, and thus my naps might not have been the all-REM that they needed to be. Whatever the reason, it was just too hard to maintain the schedule. Most of my waking periods were good, even great. But then every once in a while I’d have a time when I was awake that I could hardly keep my eyes open, and the sleep was just dragging me down.

Maybe the worst side-effect of polyphasic sleeping, for me, was being cold. My hypothesis is that my body was trying to go to sleep, so it’d lower its temperature. Whatever the reason, especially at night, I felt extremely cold. I’d sit with a space heater blasting on me and still not feel warm. (that cannot be a good sign!)

It was also socially very hard to maintain the schedule. I had many events over the weekend, none of which I wanted to miss, and couldn’t seem to fit a nap in in the right place. So I missed two naps in a row yesterday and decided to call it quits. I slept a regular night last night (8 hours) and feel perfectly normal today. I didn’t even get tired just before my nap times, as was happening before.

I also realized that the sleep schedule and its side-effects were keeping me from doing things that I really enjoy. This morning, I was able to cuddle in bed with my son for the first time in three weeks. When on polyphasic sleeping, I wouldn’t have dared to lie down in a bed like that because I would surely have fallen asleep. I also felt like I had to be “on” all the time, that there was no rest. Any sort of relaxing time would probably have led to me falling asleep — but I like to relax. And I missed my morning routine. And especially missed green tea.

I wouldn’t rule out trying it again if the need arose. But for now I’m back to my early riser schedule, which seems to suit me just fine.

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World Tai Chi & Qigong day

Saturday, April 29th is World Tai Chi and Qigong day.

These are gentle martial arts designed to get the energy in your body flowing properly. And whether you believe in “chi” or not, mindfully doing these light stretches and exercises produces and undeniable feeling of well being. The daily workout I do is part Qigong.

I’ll share with you one of the most centering Qigong exercises that I’ve encountered. I learned it as “Standing like a mountain.”

  • Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart
  • Bend your knees slightly
  • Straighten your arms so that they are pointing at an angle into the ground
  • Be aware of your breath
  • Visualize yourself as the tip of a great mountain extending downward into the earth. Your head is the tip, and your arms are the sides of the mountain
  • Feel yourself as a part of the great earth. Realize that your body is a part of the whole of the earth. Everything that your body is made up of came from the earth and thus you are the earth.
  • Being the earth, you have a sense of calm solidity.

Check out Ken Cohen’s course on qigong for an introduction:

“The Essential Qigong Training Course: 100 Days to Increase Energy, Physical Health & Spiritual Well-Being” (Ken Cohen)

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Polyphasic sleeping

It seemed inevitable that I would one day try to go polyphasic with my sleeping. After some good-natured badgering from a friend who is on the system, I’m now sleeping only 20 minutes every 4 hours, around the clock. I’ve been on the new paradigm since April 9. For the most part, it has been a good experience, so far.

It’s ironic that I change to this kind of sleeping at about the same time as Steve Pavlina switches back to monophasic sleeping. He had some good reasons for leaving polyphasic sleeping, some of which I also note as downsides, below.

For those not familiar with polyphasic sleeping, the theory is that the body/brain only really need a certain amount of sleep (perhaps mostly REM) and that the body will compensate for lack of sleep by making any sleep you get the proper kind of sleep. And 2 hours (or so) of sleep is apparently enough. So with a schedule of 20 minutes 6 times a day, I get about 2 hours of REM sleep.
Links for more information are at the bottom of this post.

I sleep at around 5:30AM, 9:30AM, 1:30PM, 5:30PM, 9:30PM, 1:30AM. I set my alarm for around 25 minutes. And most of the time I just go right to sleep, have some nice dreams, and get up easily. Most of the time…

Polyphasic sleeping is like treading a very narrow bridge across a deep and swift river. Your goal is to cross the bridge, and if you fall off, you have to swim back upstream and start crossing the bridge again. The path is narrow because this is the bare minimum of sleep you need. If you have one mishap with a nap (any caffeine, kids running around yelling, etc.) then things are going to get screwed up, you fall off, and have to start over again. But it is possible to get across, and when you do, you feel great.


  • Obviously the big reason to do polyphasic sleeping is to have more time. You get 5 or more extra hours per day. Remember, though, you need to do something worthwhile with those hours.
  • Refreshing naps. You feel good and refreshed from each nap. My feeling of alertness is as good or better than monophasic sleeping.
  • More vivid dreams, that you remember. I’ve never really remembered my dreams, now I have a dream six times a day and remember most of them.
  • Excellent, jaw-dropping, thing to talk about at cocktail parties.
  • You feel really great when the system is working.


  • You’ll be very, very tired sometimes. If I get off the schedule, or have any caffeine it takes me over a day to get back in synch. And the nighttime hours of that day are spend being painfully tired.
  • Social awkwardness. You really have to nap within an hour of naptime, If you’re out, or at work, etc. it’s hard to do that. It creates strange situations, but I have usually been able to work something out. (sleep in the car, postpone a nap up to an hour, etc.)
  • You feel awful when the system is not working.


  • Having no long sleep period makes each moment run into the moment before it. There are no defining moments to mark time by. If I continue with the paradigm, I’m going to try to work something in that I do at the same time each day so that I can use that as a reference point. (the naps don’t work because there are too many of them.) The words “Yesterday” or “tomorrow” really don’t mean anything to me without a long sleep period. When I’m doing polyphasic sleeping, it’s hard to know when to use those terms. During my two oversleeps (where I accidentally slept the whole night through), the words made complete sense the next day.
  • My daily routine is nonexistant. I try to do each of the things I like to do somewhere in each day, but the Magic of Every Day has gone away. Making a scheduled time for these things (exercise, meditation, guitar), will be important. But right now, there are times that I’m too tired to do some of those, so can’t necessarily do them when I want to.
  • Caffeine screws everything up. I really miss green tea. Sometimes I think I can have some at the beginning of a waking period, or if I’m tired and need to stay up through a nap. But every time I’ve done this (twice) it as completely derailed me, and I’ve overslept.

Informative Links

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My wife died almost 2 weeks ago, which is why I haven’t written an entry in a while.

Dealing with her long term illness, and ultimately the death of my spouse has bestowed upon me distilled life experience. It has been quite an honor to go through this with her, as I learned so much about life and about myself. But if I had to sum up everything I learned about death, it would be the same advice I’d give about anything else: “Be Present.”

To be present is to fully face what you’re dealing with, to not shy away from it, to not try to lay blame elsewhere, to not regret, or wish, or even hope, but instead to accept what is, to look deeply at it so as to learn what it is and why it might be there.

As the one who is dying, being present is to not “fight” death, but to enjoy life. My wife’s decline was somewhat slow, and her ability to do things left her over some weeks. With each loss of something that was once part of life (walking outside, eating, standing, drinking, etc.) each of the remaining abilities became more precious. As her ability to drink lessened, I remember how each sip of juice or water was ecstasy to her. Perhaps it’s subtle, but she never cursed the fact that she couldn’t drink much anymore, but instead she enjoyed the few sips she could drink. Or when she couldn’t stand on her own anymore, she was filled with pleasure when I would hold her in a standing position. Again, not “I wish I could stand,” but instead, “I’m glad I can be held up.” Instead of regrets for what we should have done differently in our marriage, we looked forward and missed the time we’d not be together.

As the caregiver of a dying person, being present meant to not have anger at death, but to do what I could to assist the life that was left. Hospice facilitated her caregiving at home (which was a blessing!) and their focus is on comfort and reduction of unwanted symptoms. This is being present. They are not trying to cure the disease, but just to remove the pain. Not fighting, but facilitating.

After her death, we did a three day vigil. Friends came to sit with her body. Some read, some meditated, some prayed, everyone said goodbye in his or her own way. It was not a “celebration of life”, which will come at the funeral, but instead it was an acknowledgment of the transformation she underwent, the wishing of “bon voyage,” the celebration of her continuation in other ways. And it was a time to ponder one’s own impending death, and thus how you live your life. It really underscored for me how important it is to live a worthwhile life. I highly recommend having an after-death vigil; it was one of the most moving and spiritually fulfilling events I’ve experienced.

One effect of having the vigil for three days was that by the end, her body had started to change. It was dehydrating, and while not gross, you could very clearly see it was just a shell. A chrysalis. Everyone who visited got to witness, first hand, that the body isn’t the person, but just a place for the person to reside for a time.

So it goes…