How I Accidentally Induced Polyphasic Sleep

Posted on 25. Jun, 2012 by in uncategorized

Intro to Polyphasic Sleep

Polyphasic sleep is the “practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period – usually more than two.” You don’t sleep in one core chunk, but take regular naps throughout the day. It’s common in the animal kingdom, some believe it was present in human evolution.

At different times I’ve kept irregular sleep due to erratic work schedules and other conditions. Taking lots of naps of all lengths and waking up at all hours isn’t polyphasic sleep, it’s irregular sleep-wake rhythm. That doesn’t warrant a blog article. Nor would insomnia. Polyphasic sleep is different in that the naps are structured and regular. It’s a sleep rhythm built into you biological schedule.

Polyphasic sleepers spend less total time asleep than monophasic or biphasic sleepers. Some sleep as little as 2 hours per day (Uberman). Some productivity gurus (mostly web geeks) advocate it so people attempt to achieve a polyphasic sleep rhythm. This is the context I first learned of polyphasic sleep. I read about people trying to achieve the polyphasic sleep state – trying not to fall asleep at night and waking up after short naps – so they’d be awake 4 – 6 more hours per day. They’d get more things done.

I had ZERO interest in polyphasic sleep. Reading more books and doing more work would be cool, but I highly value sleep. Sleep is when tissue repair (muscle growth) occurs. I’m a recreational athlete, so this bodily function is important to me. If I could have my way, I’d sleep 8 hours every night and take a 1 hour nap after lunch, for a total of 9 hours a day. I’ll never go polyphasic on purpose.

In January 2012 I induced polyphasic sleep on accident.

How I Induced Polyphasic Sleep with Drugs

While pseudo-deported to Peru I went almost 3 months without doing cocaine. When I got back to Bogota, I had a ton of writing and web work to do. I stayed in for a weekend-long writing binge fueled by cocaine. Just like truck drivers who make long hauls fueled by meth, porn actresses who take prolonged poundings on Xanax, or college students who cram all-nighters on Adderall, I can turn out a lot of writing on cocaine. I prefer coffee, but coke works too.

Saturday I started snorting and writing just after lunch. I stopped snorting around midnight. I can’t sleep for hours after being high on cocaine, so I bought Zolpidem (Ambien) pills over the counter at a neighborhood pharmacy. I always wait at least an hour from my last snort to take Ambien, out of fear of going out like Heath Ledger (who actually had no cocaine in his system, but SIX different prescription-strength opiates and benzodiazepines including OxyContin, Vicodin, Ambien, AND Xanax PLUS two others).

I took two 10 mg tablets, which usually knocks me right out. If it doesn’t the Ambien effects are noticeable – you start trippin’. After 30 minutes I wasn’t trippin’ or sleepy. Thinking the super-generic tablets (20 pills for 20,000 pesos) were bunk, I took two more. Another 30 minutes later I still wasn’t sleepy or trippin’. I don’t believe I wasn’t trippin’ because pharmaceutical drugs have that effect. They make you think you haven’t had much. I took 4 more for a total of 8 on the night. My previous one-night max Ambien intake was 3.

I fell asleep around 2 am and slept normally. Sunday I started snorting and writing before lunch. I stopped around 9 pm, hoping to be asleep by midnight. Still thinking the super-generic Zolpidem was bunk, I took 4 pills around 10 pm. Not asleep at 11:30, I took 4 more for a total of 8.

Monday I woke up around 6 am, NOT rested. I couldn’t sleep and had a cocaine hangover – the worst hangover. For all of Monday I only got out of bed to go to the bathroom or eat at a restaurant around the corner. I couldn’t sleep, but I couldn’t do anything either. It was hell.

Feeling like shit, I threw away the leftover cocaine and Zolpidem pills. Monday night I went to sleep around 10 pm. I woke up around 11:15 pm and couldn’t sleep. I read all night. I fell asleep just before 5 am and woke at 6:30. Again, I couldn’t sleep. Tuesday morning I spent a few hours laying around, wondering why I couldn’t sleep. I fell asleep at 10:30 am and woke up at 12:30 pm. This rhythm repeated naturally. I couldn’t sleep normally, and I was awake more than 18 hours a day.

Be careful with zolpidem! If you feel you’ve developed a physical dependence, see inpatient zolpidem rehabs.

A Look at Polyphasic Lifestyle

For the next 5-6 days, this was my nap schedule. I couldn’t sleep any time outside these windows, and my body implored me into sleep exactly at the start times.

1st nap: 5 am – 6:30 am
2nd nap: 11 am – 1 pm
3rd nap: 10 pm – 11 pm

The naps rarely lasted two hours. Some lasted only one. I estimate I averaged 4.5 hours of sleep / day.

Every nap began and ended within fifteen minutes of each start and stop time above. The regularity was like a clock.

Every nap induced REM sleep (dreams), which is crucial for the brain and polyphasic sleep. I’ve always dreamed easily, sometimes while just dozing. Years ago I first realized I was dreaming in a dream, known as lucid dreaming. But realizing I’m in a dream usually wakes me up. Some people try to enhance and prolong lucid dreams for out-of-body experiences. I never took it that far, but I always dreamed easily.

While awake I had little energy. I skipped the gym all week. I wouldn’t even go for a bike ride. You couldn’t maintain a polyphasic sleep lifestyle if your work requires physical exertion, so it’s popular among web entrepreneurs and programmers and other freelance desk jockeys who sit at a computer all day.

Aside from little energy, I could feel a dull, nervous anxiety. Especially in my muscles, when I tried to relax it was like they were shaking. I’d hold my hand in front of my face and it always appeared still, but it felt like it were shaking. The outside muscle tissue just under the skin had this nervous anxiety for the duration of every waking period.

I once read coffee affects the brain’s thinking. You can do more procedural work, but it shuts down creative areas of the brain. I felt my thoughts were affected in a similar way while stuck in the polyphasic sleep schedule. I did a lot of busy work – answering emails, turning out straightforward articles (pictures, research), etc. – but I never wanted to write new, creative content. I think it shut down some creativity in my mind.

How I Broke Drug-Induced Polyphasic Sleep with More Drugs

As soon as I realized I was in a polyphasic sleep rhythm, I considered it my most pressing problem. All the work deadlines, gym priorities, and everything else was put on the back burner. Breaking this God-awful rhythm and returning to normal took priority.

For my first attempt I thought my being sedentary all day Monday contributed to not sleeping that night. I thought if I exerted a lot of energy I’d sleep. After all, I doubt any construction workers induce polyphasic sleep on accident. So one morning I walked 30 blocks to see a friend at his office in the morning. I set the alarm to limit my afternoon nap to one hour (I couldn’t skip it altogether after so much walking and so little sleep at night). After that short nap I stayed busy all night. I went grocery shopping. I cleaned my apartment. I did anything I could think of to stay busy. That night I went to sleep at 10 pm like normal. I hoped to sleep soundly all night after a busy day. I woke up in the middle of the night, a little worried I wouldn’t get back to sleep but not discouraged. I felt well rested, so I assumed it was almost morning. I got up to check the time out of curiosity and my jaw dropped when I saw it was 11:10 pm. I’d barely slept an hour and I was wide awake, again. Physical exertion didn’t work.

With so much time on my hands it was easy to research any and all sleep topics, with a focus on polyphasic sleep. I read productivity blogs and The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.

I learned the most important factor to maintaining polyphasic sleep is keeping the strict nap schedule. That’s why all these people torture themselves to stay awake at certain times. I decided the way out was to break the schedule.

This was easier said than done. Once the schedule’s induced, it’s as natural as normal sleep. The naps are short but when it’s time for one, your body makes an irresistible call for it. You can’t think of anything else but dozing off. After being pseudo-deported I had no kind of job. I’d lost my regular gigs in Bogota and closed the brothel tours. I didn’t have anywhere to go, NOTHING TO DO. Even worse, when at my desk I sit on my bed. So my office chair is literally the bed. It’s too easy to just lay back and …

I pulled my hair out trying to break the schedule. I wish I could say I did it with just guts and grit, but I didn’t have the patience. I wanted out ASAP. Given I didn’t have an office or anywhere I had to be at, I decided against roughing it in favor of breaking the schedule the same way I induced it – with drugs.

I went to the pharmacy for a box of Zolpidem (this time the most expensive generic, as opposed to super-generic). I also got a hold of a small bit of marijuana. The Zolpidem was to knock me out when I couldn’t sleep. The marijuana was to keep me up when the mid-day nap beckoned.

Marijuana makes most people lazy and sleepy. It has the opposite effect on me. My mind races. I can’t sleep. I know it’s weird, and I’m weird, but I’m not alone. I’ve met others who it has the same effect on. We’re a tiny minority, but we’re not alone. I’d used marijuana in the past as a supplement to keep me awake when trying to break irregular sleep-wake rhythms. Once I smoked a blunt while driving a U-Haul truck when I moved from Denver to St. Louis, in order to stay awake through the night and complete the drive in one sprint.

Monday night after my night-time nap I ate 4 of the Zolpidems (one at a time each half hour until I’d fallen asleep). I slept another 5 hours, on top of the nap. I thought I was home free and safe for a nap after lunchtime. Then I thought that’d be a big mistake and not worth the risk. When I started feeling sleepy around 11 am, I smoked a little weed. It woke me right up and I made it through the day with no nap.

I got sleepy around 10 pm as always, happy not to need Zolpidems to sleep. Unfortunately I woke up around 11 per the polyphasic schedule wake time, and I felt fully rested. It took 3 Zolpidems to get back to sleep for the night. I slept over 8 hours that night. Now I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t need weed to stay awake through Tuesday’s nap time. I opted for coffee instead and threw the marijuana away.

That night I could only sleep an hour, again, from 10 – 11 pm. I felt I was out of the polyphasic schedule at this point, but needed to more Ambien. In the two days out of polyphasic sleep, each long sleep had been induced by massive quantites of Ambien. So I decided to wean off. That night I took 2 to get back to sleep.

Wednesday I felt refreshed and actually went to the gym for the first time in two weeks. I felt no lure for a mid-day nap, but that night I woke after sleeping from 10 pm – about 12:30 am. I took the last Zolpidem in the package and knocked right out. The next night I didn’t take any Zolpidem. I’m back to normal sleep with no drugs.

That’s how I broke polyphasic sleep.

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7 Responses to “How I Accidentally Induced Polyphasic Sleep”

  1. Chuck

    25. Jun, 2012

    An unmentioned factor: ol’ girl’s sex/jealousy cycle. You could chart the cosmos with it, no?

  2. Matthew B

    26. Jun, 2012

    Great great article. I’m very interested in this type of stuff. I just had a very vivid, very lucid dream this morning. Then yesterday I literally slept for 18 hours straight and ran out of fake weed. This fake weed is like crack to me, I can’t stop smoking it. The shit makes me paranoid as fuck, to the point where I almost cannot function in public, but I can’t stop smoking it. Sometimes I wonder, am I addicted to paranoia? Wtf??

  3. didz

    27. Jun, 2012

    kinda boring again

  4. Rubio

    09. Jul, 2012

    I don’t use any drugs when on stage, including even the beer I limit it severely, DONT like anything else when on stage, especially not marijuana! Not even caffeine because it dries my throat out when I’m trying to sing.

    But when I’m in the studio, COFFEE all the way. Some people when they mix they swear by smoking a joint. I don’t like it at all, it makes me too unfocuesed. But COFFEE opens up your ears in a nice way and helps you hone in on what you want to do. I’ve never had a problem with caffiene interfering with or limiting my creativity in any way.

  5. Bongle

    11. Jul, 2012

    Can’t believe I read all the way to the end of that. Seven minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

  6. sachi

    22. Jan, 2013

    I can’t believe I’ve started to read a druggie’s blog. and not for the greater good, but like boasting that he can change the way he lives by taking countless pills etc. Disgusting.

  7. Max

    22. Feb, 2014

    @Sachi

    Oh get a life. The man has had an experience, and whether it was good or not is irrelevant. He’s shared the experience and there’s something to learn about it. Its not “disgusting”, you’re just easily offended by the smallest of things.

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