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Sleep Avoidance for Life(or Contesting)

The subject of sleep schedules comes up often in contest circles. Conventional wisdom says that sleep should be taken in 90 minute chunks. Most sleep research I’ve read seems to corroborate conventional wisdom. The Jan. 2008 issue of “Wired” magazine sent me off again on a bit of digging on the subject, specifically on “Polyphasic Sleep”.

Interesting idea. Basically, the standard routine of 7 to 9 hours a night is “monophasic sleep”. Adding in the “afternoon siesta” puts you into the realm of “polyphasic sleep”. The deep end is a rigidly regimented schedule of six 20 minute naps every four hours, known as the “ݢerman schedule”. I have my doubts about a schedule that is quite this radical, as that adds up to only two hours sleep a day.

I have not found any information on the long term health risks of a drastic polyphasic schedule, at least not from a reputable source. The initial knee jerk reaction I have is that it probably isn’t very good for anyone who is very active physically. I’m doubtful one’s body will be able to repair muscle tissue if the body is give only 20 minute chunks to fix itself. But that aspect apparently has never been studied rigorously.

But there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that seems to indicate the radical schedule can be adjusted to in about one weeks time, and that it can be continued for long periods of time after the new regimen is established.

There is also a less radical sleep schedule called the “Everyman” schedule that I found particularly interesting. It calls for three hours of core sleep a night, and three 20 minute maps during the day.

There is a reason I find this a bit more compelling. This is very similar to the sleep schedule I followed in the early 1980’s when I had a full time night job and carried a full daytime course load at college. My own variation was either three or four-and-a-half hours of core sleep(4:30am to about 7:30AM), and two naps, the first one just before noon and the second between 3:00pm to 5:00pm. The naps were either 30 minutes or 90 minutes, depending on that days’ class schedule.

I did that for five years, and I found that keeping to the schedule during semester breaks was worthwhile. I was a lot less rigid with the scheduling than most of the references describe, but I always felt rested enough to fit everything in. I find it interesting that I was sleeping mostly in 90 minute increments. I recall finding that out by trial and error. A 60 minute nap always left me feeling crappy.

The first thing everyone agrees on is that none of these alternative sleep patterns fit into a ‘normal’ lifestyle. Picture explaining to the boss, or the job-site foreman, or the passengers on your bus that you are going to ‘go take your nap’. Yeah– right! Try getting the rest of your family to go to a ‘strange’ sleep schedule. Yeah–right!

But I notice as time goes by my natural sleep pattern wants to fall back to the old college five year regimen. I find 10:00am and 3:00pm both to be very compelling sleep times, and I also find myself sleeping about four and a half hours at night before waking. Hmmm.

Maybe I’ll experiment for one of the contests I like better.

Food for thought:

One Guy’s story

Wiki-Everyman Sleep schedule

Wiki-ݢerman sleep schedule

Wiki-Polyphasic sleep

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