Something’s happening. For starters, I’m becoming acutely aware of a very new, very unpleasant headspace that occurs between about 2am and first light.
Of course, I’ve been up late before. I’ve been up at 4am before more times than I can count. Sometimes hurtling hysterically towards a morning deadline I’m not going to hit. Sometimes hanging out with friends doing hang out stuff. Or wallowing in discomfort on a red-eye flight. Or sometimes, just because I feel like being awake. But never have I been up in the witching hours for no other reason than that I’m running some half-baked sleeping experiment. It’s different. It’s weird.
I find myself desperately looking for things to do and coming up empty-handed. No, that list of things I’ve been putting off all day to take advantage of this precise moment doesn’t count. It’s too hard to actually do things. I end up out on the front porch, sipping on ice water and listening to the night sounds of exurban Ohio. They’re not very stimulating. Later, inexplicably, I’m staring at this haggard, ghoulish creature in my bathroom. Oh, that’s me. I traverse hither and yon across the interwebs, looking for something, anything. I laugh out loud at things that aren’t funny in a vain attempt to jolt some vitality into my upstairs enclosure.
And I think about sleeping. A lot. I think about it the way I imagine a shipwreck survivor thinks about putting their feet on dry land. I constantly fight against rationalizations for calling the whole thing off and climbing into bed and waking up feeling refreshed, which is a sensation I haven’t experienced for an entire week. I hold hour-long Socratic discourses in my mind vs. myself about the merits and drawbacks of going to bed, failing again, what is the nature of failure, what is the nature of life…etc.
All this compounded by new developments in interfacing with the alarm. Previously in life, any time an alarm wouldn’t do its job could have been attributed to user error - either I hadn’t actually set it, or I’d set it for the wrong time, or I’d changed the time instead of setting the alarm. Now they just don’t wake me up. So I’ve learned a few tricks. I sleep with the lights on. And on the floor. I set multiple alarms, a few minutes apart, and in different locations. This helps….a little. My friend Megan Loftus suggested making an obstacle course, but I don’t have the capital or manpower.
Another insight after a week - none of the pre-production helped! Foregoing coffee, the all-nighter, the descending quantity of naps — it was all a waste of time and effort. There is no way to ease into polyphasic sleeping that helps the transition or increases your chances of success. Put simply, this is purely a battle of willpower. It’s about having the desire, and more importantly, the discipline. There’s no other way around it. I’m avoiding failure this time by having enough distaste for it to take these extra measures and push through the discomfort. It’s been challenging, but also extremely empowering.
But however this self-induced psychosomatic torture porn flick plays out, I definitely feel like I’ve crossed some kind of threshold. Time is running together. That’s a good sign. I’m actually properly pulling off more naps than not by a large margin at this point, and waking up way less unhappy than I was when I started. Above all, I’m tired in a way that I’ve never been tired before. It’s like a grogginess that doesn’t let up. According to the experts, that means I’m hitting SWS deprivation, and that means it’s time to switch from Uberman to Everyman.
So tonight, for the first night in over a week, I’m going to sleep for an actual period of time. It’s only three hours but right now that seems like a glorious eternity.