Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reset Button: Day 1

Starting something new and sticking with it takes a lot of effort. Especially when it involves sleep. The power of the pillow seems to grow stronger each year of my life (having a kid didn't help), but I'm determined to show my pillow who's master. This was a big part of my decision to drastically change to a polyphasic sleep schedule. I just don't want to sleep so much each day, and feel that especially now (young family, healthy, student) is a great time to be super productive. It's probably not far from the truth that what I accomplish in the next two years will determine the trajectory of my entire career (and possibly entire life).

Putting that in perspective provides a lot of motivation. But last night I wasn't thinking of any of that, just how dang tired I was walking up and down the hallway with eyes half shut. So I gave up around 1:30 am and crawled into bed with my wife for the night (she thought she was dreaming). I wish I knew why I never quite woke up from that 1 am nap (it was not refreshing at all). My mom would probably say it's because I'm doing something crazy and unnatural, but I tend to blame it on something more concrete, like possibly my diet or lack of exercise. Anyway, I woke up feeling a bit dejected and guilty, and took some time to think about why I want to do this and how badly I want it. Conclusion: I want it real bad.

So I hit the reset button and am trying to remove all the mental roadblocks that may prevent me from reaching this goal. I all in. I'm trying to brace myself for the sleepless nights so I can handle it better when I hit that wall. Tonight has started out a lot better that I anticipated (my only nap today was at 9 pm) and I got several hours of work done on my current research project. I'm guessing I'll have some nights (and even days) this week that are completely unproductive, but hope I have the fortitude to pay the cost to reach the gold at the end of this rainbow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Little Gem

I couldn't stop laughing when I saw this picture! I am loving the double chin. As you can he know has 5 teeth total! I was feeding him and he kept throwing his head back which makes his helmet scrunch up his face. Anyway.... I think my kid is the funniest around but, I may be biased.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sleep Log Week 2

My life has been quite hectic grading exams, so blogs have taken a back seat. I'm still actively pursuing a polyphasic sleep schedule, with mixed results. March 16 was the last time I went to bed with my wife at night with the intent of sleeping until morning. Over the last 12 days I have had some setbacks, occasionally finding it impossible to stay awake at night and crashing in bed for longer periods of 2-5 hours. These nights typically occurred when my naps during the day were delayed or missed due to various social activities. Given this is an experiment, I have not been harsh on myself at these times but have instead tried to learn more about my body and tried to adapt. I don't think it makes much sense to punish me for trying something so crazy to begin with!

I have also had a couple 2-3 consecutive days/nights of a perfect polyphasic sleep schedule. For instance, last night (Sunday) I awoke from my 9pm, 1am, and 5 am naps alert and ready to grade (which was a common theme last week). Today I functioned quite well on a total of 3 hours of sleep, and while I'm drowsy right now (2:40 am), feel good enough to be reading news articles, blogging, and planning my week. I also took out the trash, organized our storage unit, and cleaned up dinner dishes.

My goal this week is to be much more rigid in my sleep schedule, not drifting much from a scheduled nap every 4 hours. Most of my troubles keeping this schedule seem to stem from waiting too long for a nap during the day, resulting in an uncomfortable and sleepy night. I've decided a 1, 5, 9 schedule fits best with school, church, and family. I hope that after a while I can be more flexible in when I take naps, but I think that adjusting completely to this schedule requires an initial fixed schedule. That's my conclusion anyway.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March Madness

In my life March Madness has nothing to do with basketball ( although I did enjoy watching Jimmer throw those remarkable 3 pointers). In my world March Madness is what occurs to me right about now. March 20th comes and you think "HURRAY SPRING IS HERE!" You have one or two days of nice weather so, you pack up your winter gear. You do this not realizing that Mother Nature has played a cruel joke on you. The two days of nice weather are followed by snow, unrelenting wind and temperatures in the 30's! WHAT?!! By this time I am on the verge of losing my sanity. I have been locked up in my house with my beautiful child for months! We want to go to the park and go on jogs. Another problem that occurs this time of year is the inappropriate dressing, resulted from getting overly anxious for spring. You will often see many dressed like this freezing their butts off envying the wiser and less anxious ones in the second picture.
So what I am trying to say is SPRING PLEASE COME SOON!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Quick update: I just laid down, fell asleep, dreamed about a large white dog, and awoke without an alarm, and did it in under 15 minutes. When I awoke I was actually afraid I'd overslept! I feel remarkably great right now considering I've slept approx. 3 hours in the last 24 hour period.

Sleep Log Day 5

This morning was rough. I think changing my 'nap' times on Sunday is the culprit, but regardless I ended up taking multiple short naps between 4am and 7am, but then managed to hang on until 11. Probably the biggest surprise is how suddenly exhaustion can come: I can be doing just fine one minute, and suddenly (about 4 hours after my last nap) my body starts to ache and mind goes fuzzy. It's pretty much clockwork, so I'm trying to work with the rhythms my body is making and not push too much beyond what it's asking for.

We went out to a Medieval Jousting tournament/dinner tonight. I mention this because it forced me to schedule my naps around the event to accommodate our plans. Barbie wanted to shop at a nearby Ikea, and was kind enough to take JJ with her while I took a 30 minute nap in the parking lot from 7:30-8 pm. I think I'll be napping in a lot of strange places (and times) during this experiment!

My 2am nap this morning went wonderfully. I do use an alarm (right now just my cell phone) and make sure it's across the room. I've heard that eventually the body will automatically wake up after 30 minutes, but that's only happened a couple times for me so far. I went down with a slight headache and sore throat, but awoke feeling quite refreshed and was able to grade a stack of exams. Productivity!

How is my wife handling this? Right now she mostly feels it's a nuisance I think. I admit it is quite annoying when I come home from school and instead of spending time with her have to head to bed for a nap. But it's only 30 minutes, so we're managing it right now. Her sleep schedule is quite messed up and she's having to adjust to sleeping without me in the bed (I take my night naps on the couch to avoid awaking her). The second day she crashed at 8pm, and the next she was up until 4am with me grading (I had taken plenty of naps, she hadn't). It's convenient to already by up when JJ cries (which isn't very often now) and I can see this schedule being great with a new baby.

How long will she let me do this? I like to think it helps that she awakes to a much cleaner house every day. I love getting so much more done. I hope this means I get to spend more time with her in the evenings. My intention is to do this for 6 months, but that could easily change either direction.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sleep Log Week 1

To understand this blog, you really need to read the previous one first: Sleep Experiment.

Everything I read indicated the transition into polyphasic sleep is not enjoyable or easy. You have to essentially sleep deprive yourself until your body recognizes that you're still getting adequate sleep, just at a different rhythm. I decided to make this leap during spring break when there would be far fewer things going on, but started the transition even before the break by getting in the habit of taking daily naps. I'm not sure why nappers are thought to be lazy, but I figured if I was doing this I couldn't let myself be concerned with what others think. I found a couple couches at school, brought a pillow to campus, and began taking a nap or two a few weeks ago.

During finals week I pushed myself farther by staying up later and only getting ~5 hours of sleep at night and relying more on my naps to get through the day. I was pleasantly surprised how well I felt, and found midnight-2 A.M. to be a very productive period. I considered just staying with that schedule, but curiosity really did kill the cat.

Thursday I gave my last review session, had no more tests to take myself, and made the plunge with my wife's modest support. This is now my 4th night, and I'd have to conclude the experiment is working! My weekend sleep hours looked about like this:

Saturday: 3-3:30 am, 6-6:45 a.m., 8-8:45 am, 11-11:30 am, 5:45-6:30 pm, 10:30-11:45 pm
Sunday: 3-3:30 am, 6-6:30 am, 8-8:45 am, 1-1:30 pm, 4-5:30pm, 11-11:45 pm
Monday: 2-2:30 am

It's now 4 am on Monday, and I'll be going down for another nap in a little bit. Crazy! As you can see, I haven't been exact at the timing between naps and have occasionally over slept. Sunday night in particular I hit a wall while playing games at a friends due to the large gap between naps. The 11 pm nap wasn't great, but I'm keeping with the program. I physically feel a lot better when I keep the schedule regular, but it seems there is some flexibility in the exact timing of the naps. My 1pm nap on Sunday afternoon was one of the best I've had: I woke completely refreshed and felt as if I'd been sleeping a long time. Right now I'll admit my head is a bit foggy and I'm not doing great. My worst time of day is the 6-10 am block, but even that will hopefully become productive and enjoyable time soon.

Sleep Experiment

What would you do with an extra 30+ hours each week? Have you ever wondered why we need so much sleep and wished you could do so much more with less sleep? In the past I've tried getting by on less than 7-8 hours of sleep at night, but never found it sustainable. Sure there were crazy all-nighters during finals week, but these were indefinitely followed by crashes and 10+ hours of sleep. I think I finally found a plausible alternative, and am in the midst of a freakin' crazy experiment.

I'm not doing anything illegal. In fact, no outside substance is involved at all. The experiment involves training my body to immediately go into REM sleep (considered the most important of the 5 sleep phases) and bypass the other phases. This results in drastically shorter but more frequent sleep periods. How drastic? I'm currently sleeping for 30 minutes every 4 hours, or about 3 hours of total sleep in a 24 hour period.

I didn't come up with this on my own, but learned of it from a friend here in Chicago. Scientifically it's called polyphasic sleep and this particular version is know as the Uberman Sleep Schedule (USS). Check out this blog for a detailed log of one man's experiment. In a similar spirit, and at my wife's request, I'm going to track my own experience here.

Why am I doing this? Partly because it sounds like a fun experiment. Can I really survive on only 3 hours of daily sleep? How functional will I be? The main reason though is school. My school/personal/family balance has shortchanged the school part lately, and I'd really like to finish my degree on time and get a job sooner rather than later. I anticipate doing a lot of studying, academic reading and research, and data analysis with this extra time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

JJ's 3rd Quarter

If JJ were a company, he'd now be heading into the 4th quarter of his fiscal year. That's how a nerdy accountant sees it anyway. So how was JJ's 3rd quarter performance? Months 7-9 were wonderful, with so many new skills:
  • Crawling
  • Three teeth
  • Pulling himself up on EVERYTHING
  • Walking along couches, cabinets, and while holding onto fingers
  • Transitioning from 3 naps to 2
  • Adding a few pounds a few inches: now 21 pounds (55th percentile) and 30 inches (97th percentile)
  • Getting his first toothbrush
  • Moving into lots of fun solids (bananas, pretzels, cheerios, avocado, rice cakes, sliced meats, etc.)
  • Emerging personality--he has quite the personality!
  • Excellent bathtub splashing skills
  • Lowering his crib...
  • First haircut
We love our little Munch' so much. I love hearing him just babble in the mornings, and that excited look he gets when we come in to get him from his crib. There are so many precious moments that we just don't want to forget.