I Tried Polyphasic Sleep and Lost My Mind in the Process

I do not know the place I am. I test my watch. It is 3 in the morning. The final two hours? A clean, unknowable darkness.

I hear noises like a medieval battleground. Swords clashing, horses galloping, males screaming. I stagger ahead, making an attempt to get my bearings. I’m so confused.

I’m in an condominium; my condominium, I assume. Utterly dazed, hallucinating. I wish to vomit. I look down at my cell phone: three missed calls, all from my spouse, asleep in the bed room.

I am exhausted. What the hell is occurring. 


I stumble into the bed room and get up my spouse. 

“Did you name me?”

“I heard you leaving the home. The place have you ever been for the final two hours?”

I pause. Internally, I freak out.

“I don’t know.”

Sleeping like Superman

Alarm clock in red, with bell ringers on top

I set alarms. Plenty of alarms.

Getty Photos

It has been virtually 10 years to the day since I tried polyphasic sleep. It was an unmitigated catastrophe.

Most individuals, myself included lately, sleep in a “monophasic” sample. Regular sleep. Seven- to eight-hour chunks, adopted by 16 hours spent awake. 

Polyphasic sleep is designed to separate that sleep sample into extra manageable chunks, decreasing the period of time spent snoozing. Often it is a productiveness hack: Eight hours is a very long time to place your self out of fee. In the event you can sleep much less and be equally as efficient, why not strive?

There are various kinds of polyphasic sleep schedules.


The “Everyman” schedule is the easiest. It permits for one three-hour interval of sleep, supplemented with three 20-minute naps all through the day — successfully reducing eight hours of sleep to round 4 hours complete.

At the different finish of the spectrum lies the brutal “Uberman” schedule. 

With the Uberman polyphasic sleep schedule, no massive chunks of sleep are allowed — solely 20-minute naps. Days are damaged down into four-hour intervals. You keep awake for 3 hours and 40 minutes, then nap for 20 minutes. Then you definately do this once more… and once more… for so long as you possibly can take it. It equates to 2 hours of sleep complete a day — when you sleep each single second of your naps, which you in all probability will not.

That is the one I tried. My plan: Do the Uberman polyphasic sleep schedule for one month complete.

I lasted one week.

The crude puppeteer

Relating to polyphasic sleep, mileage tends to fluctuate. There are accounts of individuals pulling it off. After a transition interval of round per week, they declare, your physique adapts and you get right into a rhythm. Apparently the 20-minute naps ship you straight into full REM sleep and you awake, reenergized, prepared for 3 hours and 40 minutes of hardcore productiveness. 

That did not occur to me. Not fairly. 

Properly, it did and it did not. 

In the starting, polyphasic sleep was comparatively straightforward. Like making an enormous abroad journey, grabbing small quantities of sleep on the airplane. You already know that spaced-out groggy feeling, stumbling from customs to the baggage declare like a zombie in search of brains? That is how I felt — at the least for the first few days. 

Man walking on a treadmill and looking at a smartphone

I’d repeatedly go to the basement gymnasium and stroll, simply to remain awake.

Mark Serrels

It additionally felt just a bit bit cool. To be awake, enjoying video video games or working away at aspect tasks in the early hours of morning, discovering methods to fend off sleep, like just a little child allowed to remain up previous bedtime. I rapidly developed an obnoxious satisfaction in what I was doing. These normies, useless asleep in their primitive patterns, could not comprehend what it felt prefer to have developed previous the want for normal sleep. 

I was drained, in fact, however the naps appeared to maintain me. I had two little beds. One in the spare bed room of my condominium and a setup in the storage closet at work. I keep in mind co-workers laughing at me as I trudged to my unusual little cabinet, clutching a lived-in brown sleeping bag. The entire manufacturing was a whole lot of enjoyable.

Till it wasn’t.

The primary telltale indicators of wrestle occurred round two days in. I keep in mind strolling alongside the prepare platform en path to work when — out of nowhere — I utterly misplaced my stability. I stumbled and virtually fell onto the prepare line. I left the station shook. How did this occur? I thought I was cruising…

Later that night time, I went on a stroll in the pitch-black darkness, exhausted and damaged. I walked laps round a neighborhood park in the center of a closed-off street, bearing the heaviness of what felt like full-blown despair. It was an odd, oppressive strain I’d by no means felt earlier than or since. 

All the things felt limitless, impossibly large. Insurmountable.

It is robust to elucidate. If you sleep usually, days have endings and beginnings. You probably have a nasty day you climb into mattress, pull the blankets over your head and write it off. “Tomorrow is one other day,” you inform your self. With polyphasic sleep there isn’t a different day. Days are limitless. I dramatically underestimated the impression of that. 

I walked round the park, vacant and empty, a pair of useless eyeballs lodged inside a sunken, lagging mind. I walked with out function in the darkness, making an attempt to cease myself from sobbing.

For days I did not chuckle at jokes. 

I was conscious that jokes had been being instructed. I understood the punch strains. However the synapses connecting to the required bodily output had been damaged. I’d inform my spouse I beloved her, out of obligation and intuition, however it could take seconds for these phrases to resonate. I’d look in the mirror and really feel disconnected from my very own options. My physique did not belong to me. I managed it like a crude puppeteer. 

However then, round day 5, I had a breakthrough.

I wakened. I felt… higher. At work that day, I noticed a joke on Twitter and laughed out loud. I went dwelling, I hugged my spouse and felt content material. I was virtually overwhelmed, euphoric to be linked to my physique once more. I began laughing. Tears streamed down my face.

“I really feel regular once more,” I stated. My spouse shook her head.

“You have forgotten what regular is.”

Falling aside

Simply days later, all of it fell aside.

I was having a tough night time. Bodily I was simply very drained. The renewed power I’d felt only a few days in the past had evaporated. I wasn’t essentially combating the psychological ache of all of it, I was simply — on a really primitive degree — discovering it unimaginable to remain awake. 

My outdated condominium constructing had a crummy gymnasium in the basement. Issues obtained so dangerous that I went down there and walked endlessly on the treadmill, making an attempt to attend out the waves of exhaustion. I had only one purpose in thoughts: Make it to the subsequent nap… make it to the subsequent nap… make it to the subsequent nap.

At 2 a.m. — by some means — I made it to the subsequent nap.

I was presupposed to sleep for under 20 minutes, however my subsequent aware thought occurred two hours later, at round 4:30 a.m.

I awoke with the power of somebody who knew — with out even checking a clock — that they had been late for work. Instantly, I stood up, disoriented. I checked out my telephone. Three missed calls and two textual content messages from my spouse: 

“The place are you?” 

“Did you allow the home?”

Each texts had been obtained at a time when I wasn’t consciously awake.

What the hell occurred? Did I go away the home in a fugue state? 

I began hallucinating. I was in a panic, however rapidly calmed myself down. I can get by means of this, I instructed myself. I can reset. I simply must get to my subsequent scheduled nap. To distract myself I tried to document a video log. 

Throughout my polyphasic sleep experiment, I’d been recording a video log every night time, speaking by means of my psychological and bodily state. The video I made that night time is a troublesome watch. I stutter, I am clearly confused. I’m barely lucid, and I can see myself — in actual time — making an attempt to determine what the hell simply occurred.

Throughout the video, an alarm, an alarm I had no recollection of setting, started blaring at full quantity. 

Who set that alarm? Who the hell set that alarm?

I shut off the video log and grabbed my telephone. That is when I noticed it. Somebody — almost definitely myself throughout the final two hours when I wasn’t aware — had gone into my telephone and modified all the alarms I’d painstakingly set in order to maintain monitor of my sleep. The alarms had been all utterly completely different. 

Nearly as if a Tyler Durden-esque secondary self had intentionally tried to sabotage me, Severance-style, in an try to cease this silly sleep experiment in its tracks.

They had been profitable.

At that second — bleary, confused, sobbing — I determined to name it quits. At 5:04 a.m., I stumbled into my bed room, curled up subsequent to my spouse and collapsed into the most profound sleep of my life. I slept for greater than 13 hours. The reduction was like nothing I’ve ever skilled.

My sleep experiment was over.

By no means once more

In the weeks and months that adopted, I usually imagined myself making an attempt polyphasic sleep once more. It felt like unfinished enterprise. 

I’d made a couple of obvious errors that, in hindsight, made it troublesome for me to transition from an everyday sleeping sample to the Uberman schedule. Again then, I used to sink round six cans of Pepsi Max a day. I did not give my physique time to navigate caffeine withdrawals, and that nearly actually made it troublesome for me to nap on command. 

However wanting again, the entire factor appears ridiculous. A pointless problem pushed by male ego bullshit and a pointless must “bodyhack.” Weaponized poisonous masculinity in its purest kind. 

It made for a great story, although.

Round 5 years after my experiment, a TV producer stumbled throughout my liveblogs and invited me on TV to debate my experiences. It was an Australian panel present. They invited folks from all walks of life to debate their unusual experiences of sleep, alongside specialists in the discipline. 

When it was my flip to inform my story, one physician — a 20-year veteran of sleep research — began shaking his head disapprovingly. When I began discussing my hallucinations, he put his head in his arms in full disgust. 

There have been males and ladies with actual, real sleep points on that panel. Folks with insomnia, youngsters who had been dropping out of faculty due to irregular sleep patterns they could not management. There have been of us combating narcolepsy and night time terrors. After which there was me: the LifeHack Bro who screwed round with sleep for laughs. I felt like an fool and a fraud. 

That night time, after the present, I promised myself I’d by no means strive polyphasic sleep once more. 

Fortunately, I suffered no long-term results from making an attempt the Uberman schedule. Inside per week, every part was again to regular. 

However I by no means, ever took sleep without any consideration once more.

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