Saturday, December 22, 2007

Can I quit sleeping like I quit coffee and alcohol?

In an ideal world there would be no sleep. Everybody would be awake all of the time - we would be like gods - surely if god knows everything you do then he hasn't got time for sleep, unless his name is also Bruce and he gets a daily summary in his inbox.

All of you people (all maybe 1 or 2 of you) are probably sitting there thinking to yourselves "Hey, I like my sleep. I wouldn't trade it in for anything". But you're missing the point. In the utopia I'm describing, you wouldn't have any of those feelings of emptiness at the loss of something vital - something that you've always had, because it would never have been there to begin with.

I'll give you an example. In 20 years or so your kids won't be able to imagine a time when it wasn't possible to communicate with a friend in under 30 seconds, no matter where in the world that friend is. Your kids will grow up in a world where cellphones and the internet are ubiquitous, and actually probably obsolete.

My mom likes to tell stories about how in those days they used to listen to test match cricket (no Twenty20 back then, or even ODI's) on the radio, while building jigsaw puzzles. There was no television back then. She still remembers the test picture that was broadcast in the months leading up to actual programs being launched. They used to watch the test picture! My gran remembers this too.

For you and I television is a basic human right. It's something that's been there ever since we first started yelling our opinions into this world, and it's not going away any time soon. For the older generations this isn't true, and this difference in opinions is blatantly obvious to me. My gran, for example, cannot bear the thought of the television not being on, regardless of the time of day or the quality of the programming.

I suspect this stems from remembering a worse time - a time when you didn't have a choice as to whether or not you wanted to watch TV. Either there was no TV, or it was prohibitively expensive, and in the latter case you probably buckled down, worked hard and saved up enough money to buy a set and the ridiculous "license" that goes with it, so you could enjoy your basic human rights.

As a quick aside, I wonder if the Americans were to re-examine their constitution and tack on a few more amendments if they majority of them might not choose to scratch out "the right to bear arms" and replace it with "the right to watch TV"? Looking at their average physique I think they might, despite all those NRA crackpots. I wonder what would happen if you asked them to vote on it - if they could only have one of those phrases in their constitution - which one would come out. I guess one of the phrases would end up with more votes and they'd end up putting the other phrase into the amendment.

Now, far be it for me to stand here and point fingers without examining my own tendencies. I'm no different in mechanics when it comes to this sort of behaviour - it's just the details that vary. For me, I personally get a mental equivalent of "the shakes" if I'm away from an internet connection for more than a day or two. It's the same thing. I can remember a time when I didn't have an internet connection. I can also remember a time when I did have one, but it was prohibitively expensive. Finally it's gotten to the point where it's still prohibitively expensive, at least where I live, but I fork out for it anyway, because now I can't imagine living without it.

But anyway, I digress slightly. Back to that ideal world. As always, there's no such thing as Utopia, so I guess we'll just have to find a way to hack what we have got a little bit. In the real world, most people sleep between 6 and 9 hours a day - or rather a night. They do this in one long phase and are therefore said to have a monophasic sleeping pattern. These people are, by and large, content with this status quo - they never question whether there's any other way to structure their sleep.

However, thanks to the glorious age of the internet, a few square-peg-in-a-round-hole kind of people have experimented with other sleeping schedules, including polyphasic sleep. These people have found that it's possible to function normally (or even better than "normally") on as little as 2 or 3 hours of sleep a day, spread out over 20-25 minute naps every four to six hours, depending on the details of the actual schedule.

To cut a long story short, I first discovered this idea over 2 years ago, and decided I'd like to give it a try. Unfortunately, at the time I was less than a year into my first job out of university, and this is the sort of thing that takes a month or so to adjust to, so I haven't had an opportunity to experiment until now. I've saved up basically all my leave over the last 3 years and now, over the December holiday period, I'm going to try and go polyphasic.

I think I'll try and post occasional updates here to journal my progress, but I don't really want to do the whole cliched blog-your-polyphasic-experiment thing. With that out of the way, let me launch straight into a status report (there's nothing like a little hypocrisy on zero sleep) :

  • I'm now starting what I consider to be day 2 - it's almost 8 AM and I haven't been to bed since I woke up almost 24 hours ago. I did have a 20 minute nap around 5:20 this morning, but I don't think it was very restful. Surprisingly, I didn't struggle to wake up after it, but that may partly be down to a cool mp3 I found which I think will help me drop off more easily, and will then also wake me up after the right amount of time.
  • I did sort of ease into the experiment by staying up late (3 AM) the previous 2 days before my all-nighter, and waking up relatively early (9 AM, which is my usual waking time) - so I have been running short on sleep for a couple of days already.

For now, I have nothing more to report, so I'm going to wrap this entry up, because it's time to try and take a nap again. Coincidentally, I think I'm going to try naps at 4, 8 and 12 AM and PM - so feel free to not phone or sms me at these times - at least until I get an alarm mp3 player that isn't my cellphone :). Enjoy hibernating.

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