The Accidental Polyphasic Sleeper

This week, I’ve experienced pretty much a destabilization of my Circadian rhythm. Although this sounds [really] bad, it really is quite a cool experience. I’m not sure how it all happened, but over the weekend, I got way too much sleep, followed by way too little sleep at unusual times, and now I’m pretty much getting around 4 hours of sleep a day. I’ve known about the concept of polyphasic sleep for a while, and always wanted to try it out to squeeze more time out of the day. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern where instead of sleeping once a day for a long period of time, you sleep multiple shorter times throughout the day. This results in an overall reduction in the amount of time spent sleeping per day. The short scientific explanation for why this works is that the restorative part of sleep is in the REM stage. By limiting the amount of time spent in sleep, the body axes big chunks of the other sleep phases and jumps into the restorative part of sleep without wasting any time in the other stages. There are multiple schools of ‘the right way’ of doing this, with the most extreme being called ‘Ubermann sleep’ where you sleep for 30 minutes 6 times a day. Read up more on polyphasic sleep on on wikipedia. I am more or less just sleeping when I’m tired (and have the chance to sleep), and waking up when I feel like it. This translates into me sleeping at about 8pm for an hour and a half and then at about 4am until 7am. The only method to this madness is that I try to sleep in 90 minute increments, as from personal life experience, I find that sleep in 90 minute increments results in better sleep for me at least. My unscientific theory on this is that ‘one sleep cycle’ takes 90 minutes, and you’re happier if a cycle isn’t interrupted. As far as how I’m feeling, I’m feeling great. I truly am not feeling all that tired normally, save for the hour or so before a sleep period occurs. I feel as mentally acute as I always have, and actually am on top of my homework assignments. Late night is a great time to concentrate on schoolwork, reading, and open source endeavours. There’s no one to bother you, and the world feels like your sandbox. An odd, unexpected side effect of all this is that my sense of time is so off-kilter right now. Time passes in a continuous flow, there is no real barrier between days. Its really quite a cool realization to come to. And, as icing on the cake, I am getting so much work done, and learning so much. This week I have:

  • I read half of a really good book on General Relativity, including learning about tensors and the Einstein field equations. I hope to move onto gravity waves and black holes and neat stuff like that next week
  • I finished my book on the Linux Kernel. A great read, this book has taught me what I need to know to get started hacking on the kernel!
  • I began researching multimedia codecs in the hope that I can help out the FFMPEG project in the Google Summer of Code. This deserves an entire post all by itself, so look for that in the future!
  • I vastly improved my GIMP skills. I’ve had ideas for a comic strip floating around in my head for a while, and this week, I’ve finally been able to refine my skills enough to make a comic strip that doesn’t look horrible. I even know how to do inking, coloring, and cell shading now! I’m still up-in-the-air about starting the strip, so we’ll see.
  • I continued my Compiz Fusion Hacking. I’m tinkering with some new plugin ideas, more on that later. I also found that my new animations won’t get committed, on the basis that there are already 19 animations, and the organization of them is beginning to feel bloated.
  • I finished setting up my Gentoo system on my desktop. This was a task in itself, as I needed to learn all about emerge/portage! I still really like the control Gentoo gives me over the computer. Along with my new kernel knowledge, I’m ready to start kernel hacking!! 😀 😀 😀
  • I also seriously confused my roommate with how late I’ve been staying up.
  • Finally, Ive gotten started on writing an M95 video decoder for the FFMPEG project in as a qualification project for the Google Summer of Code!

This sleep pattern isn’t all sunshine though. Naturally, I am more tired than normal, although its not too bad. I also caught a cold. I can’t say whether the cold is more than a fluke, but I thought I’d mention it. I don’t know if I want to keep up this pattern indefinitely, but it sure is a way to squeeze more time into your day!

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