My attempt at Uberman's Sleep Schedule

So you've just read the above writeup, and thought to yourself, "Interesting idea, I'd like to try it - but what will my life be like as I try to adjust to this strangely fascinating sleep schedule?" Well, from January 23 to January 30, 2002, I made an effort to live on Uberman's sleep schedule. I also daylogged my progress, in order to leave some documentation of how it went. The following are the daylogs, unchanged from when I posted them. In them, I give a short synopsis of the day's activities as they relate to the schedule (the kitty-saving anecdote being the only deviation, which you'd be wise to just skip over), and a short inventory of what I considered to be the most important facets of my personal well-being.

While reading these, please keep in mind that everyone deals with lack of sleep differently, and my experience may vary widely from others who have gone on this sleep schedule. Some quick math will tell you that I was on the schedule only 7 days, so it was obviously a bit tough on me. Still, the idea is a good one, and I believe that many folks, perhaps hardier than I, could easily put this schedule to good use in their daily lives. Given a less hectic schedule I'd be on it right now, but at as always, YMMV.

New Sleep Schedule: Day 0

I have decided today to implement Uberman's Sleep Schedule in my daily life. Since I live on so little sleep already, suffering exhaustion from waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle, I figure I have little to nothing to lose by trying this out. I plan to daylog my progress, to create a record of my experience, and provide an informal case study for those who may decide to try the sleep schedule.

Time table: I will attempt to sleep for 20 minutes once every four hours, starting at 1 A.M. I will continue for a minimum of three weeks, and see where I am after that.

Safeguards: I have informed my roommates of my decision. They have agreed to stop me if I get delusional.

Schedule: I will be able to go to all of my classes and still take the required naps. I will have to nap before work at 5, but as I live close to work and can sleep in my work clothes (hell, the manager does), I shouldn't have to throw the nap schedule off too far. I will eat once a cycle, dividing meals up into smaller portions, ensuring that I get the nutrition I need. I will design each meal to contain high amounts of energy supplying food.

Supplements: I have begun taking a twice a day vitamin supplement, not specifically to aid this little experiment. I may begin administering small doses of an ephedrine supplement containing caffeine and aspirin later in the week, if I become too exhausted.

New Sleep Schedule: Day 1

For those interested, I changed my first node on this subject to "New Sleep Schedule: Day 0" to reflect the fact that I hadn't actually started yet.

The first day of the schedule has been a bit frustrating, in that instead of napping for 20 minutes at 5 A.M., I managed to sleep until 9. I anticipated such stumbling blocks; I should have myself trained away from such long sleep periods in a few days.

Perhaps one factor in my sleeping so heartily is that I went out for a spot of drinking last night, and got a wee bit drunk. Yeah, that probably did it. I also missed my 1 A.M. nap by over an hour. On the upside, I garnered the attention of a very attractive woman based solely on my wit and personality - a first for me. But hey, that's neither here nor there. I will have to find an appropriate way to deal with extended periods of being out with friends.

Daily Summary
  • Health: Good. Or rather, unchanged. I hope to use this new schedule as a catalyst for personal health improvement.
  • Energy Levels: Good. Quite tired before requiring a nap, quite refreshed afterwards.
  • Daily Functioning: Good. My senses and motor skills have not been impaired in any way.
  • Academic Performance: Surprisingly good. I didn't nod off in a single one of my classes - quite a feat considering that one of them is boring as hell, and the prof teaches from straight out of the book.
  • Social Performance: Good. My interaction with others has not been affected at all.

New Sleep Schedule: Day 2

So far, so good. I'm happy to report that all remains well with the sleep schedule. Every now and then I get drowsy, but I bounce back quickly after a nap. I was quite pleasantly surprised when, after maybe 5 minutes of REM sleep during a nap, I woke up as refreshed as if I had spent a whole day doing nothing but resting. I missed my 9:30 nap (I was doing important things), and I was doing okay, but I get the feeling that tonight will be another 5-9 sleep fest.

Daily Summary
  • Health: Good. I haven't been eating as well as I ought, but that will most likely take care of itself.
  • Energy Levels: Good. As before, I feel drowsy before a nap, and rested after.
  • Daily Functioning: Good. No changes.
  • Academic Performance: Good. As before, I haven't yet nodded off.
  • Social Performance: Good, though some folks say I was acting a bit out of it earlier today.

New Sleep Schedule: Day 3

Today was rather less than good. Once again, I slept from five to nine, and woke up groggy. My mid day nap yielded no REM sleep. I damn near fell asleep in class. I missed two naps, the result of which left me close to fainting. I have been forgetting to eat. I must stop bitching.

I sort of saw this coming, hitting a sleep wall and such, but was hoping that it wouldn't kick in until the weekend. I should have had some sort of contingency plan in place; of course, that contingency probably would have been sleeping. The big problem with this sleep system is that it makes doing anything greater than four hours in length very difficult - RPGs, concerts, going out in general... Not to mention that any artificially altered states of consciousness severely impact one's ability to go to sleep once every four hours for a mere 20 minutes. I like going out with my friends for a few beers, or many beers and perhaps even a few shots. I'm young. It's fun. However, being even a little inebriated makes it hard to wake up, and I can tell you from experience that not sleeping makes it much tougher to get that alcohol out of your system.

So the question is, how do I keep doing the things I want to do while not losing touch with reality? My current thought is that I'll try to sleep for an hour or two before doing anything long and involved, and making time to sleep afterwards as well.

Daily Summary
  • Health: Satisfactory. I felt queasy for a while before sleeping at 5 P.M., perhaps due mostly to the lack of eating
  • Energy Levels: Low. Low, low, low. I really needed more sleep today. I should have eaten better as well.
  • Daily Functioning: Satisfactory. Everything got done that needed to get done, and was done competently. I did not, however, have time to do much more than the bare minimum.
  • Academic Performance: Satisfactory. I didn't get any homework done, and almost fell asleep in one class. This is directly related to the low energy.
  • Social Performance: Sub par. I almost fell asleep while running a D&D game, and worried a couple friends with how slow I'd been all day in general.

New Sleep Schedule: Day 4

After yesterday's sleep deprivation debacle, I went out dancing with some friends, and slept the whole night. It felt really good; I guess I'm still a slave to sleep. More people in my life have been expressing concern over the new schedule, and I tell them that it's going well, and that I'm not hurting myself, and so on. I must admit, I'm glad today is Saturday, and I can just be lazy - only one week of school, and I'm already stressing out. I'd like to think that the sleep schedule isn't responsible, but I don't know.

I have been thinking about a couple of different methods by which I could spend more than four hours doing any one thing, and suffer from the missed nap. One, I can sleep for an hour instead of twenty minutes. A friend of mine claimed that this will just make me more tired, as I will be waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle; I guess we'll see. Two, I can actually get a full night of sleep every other night. This might dramatically offset the sleep schedule to the point of no return. Third, I can try to plow through whatever I'm doing, keeping myself up with mild, legal stimulants, and then crash afterwards. Again, this might offset the schedule. Fourth, I can sleep for four hours every night, going down around 3 A.M., and waking whenever I wake, no later than 9 A.M. I think that this might be the best solution, although I wouldn't really be trying out Uberman's Sleep Schedule as much as I'd just be sleeping less.

Daily Summary
  • Health: Good. Mild hangover, alleviated by judicious amounts of juice and asprin.
  • Energy Levels: Low, but then again, I didn't do much of anything all day.
  • Daily Functioning: Good. Motor skills improved significantly from yesterday
  • Academic Performance: Satisfactory. Got some studying done, less than I should have.
  • Social Performance: Much improved. I was on the ball and coherent all day.

New Sleep Schedule: Days 5&6

I lump days 5 and 6 together because I have actually managed to stick to the schedule for a full two days. This is rather exciting; I am actually a fully functional human being, even after having spent only 4 of the last 48 hours sleeping. I am slowly getting run down, and with school still kicking my butt pretty hardcore, I have decided to opt for the four hours of sleep a night sleep substitute I presented in the Day 4 node.

I spoke with ClockworkGrue earlier today about the schedule, and after reading Day 3, pointed out that I had started this schedule to have more time to do the things that I enjoy; things that I enjoy interfere with my sleep schedule; I may have to cut back on things that I enjoy to maintain my sleep schedule. That made me think for a while. If the augmented sleep schedule doesn't work for me, I may drop this all together. It's not worth it to me.

Bit of a tangent: On the night of Day 5, I had to go to Wal-Mart for some random stuff (where else can you shop at 4 in the morning?), when I spied a stray cat that bore an uncanny resemblence to the picture in a number of "Lost Our Cat!" posters. I got out of my car, and the cat came up to me - it was obviously domesticated. I eventually got it in my car, where it rode rather calmly with me to the Wal-Mart, where I got what I needed plus some cat food. I called the number on the poster at 4:30 A.M., which I probably shouldn't have, and left a logical message. I had to leave to do a radio show with one of my roommates, so I put the cat in a mudroom where it would do no damage, not to mention not make my roommates' alergies flare up, and left. We discussed the merits of my cat-saving on the air. Cat Saving Good: 3, Cat Saving Bad: 0. I got a call from the folks from the poster, and they informed me that they found their cat. When we got back to the house, the cat had escaped. I didn't really save anything, but at least it got some food and a nice place to stay for the night.

Daily Summary
  • Health: Good. The cat saving left some scratches on my arm, but they're not so bad.
  • Energy Levels: Pretty good. I took a nap during the radio show when some other people came in to do the news, and was reportedly rather hard to wake. It felt good, though.
  • Daily Functioning: Very good. I was on the ball during the radio show, managed to stop myself from slipping down some stairs, and played a good game of MtG.
  • Academic Performance: I fell asleep a couple of times in physics; the room is warm, with very comfortable seats. I apologized to the professor afterwards; I'd find it rude if someone was sleeping in my class.
  • Social Performance: No problems at all. A friend of mine rather annoyingly commented that I was "grumpy," based on the fact that I was a might irate towards a woman who would not let me merge on the highway, but I'm pretty sure it was just him.

New Sleep Schedule: Day 7

So here it is, a full week of the schedule down. I reverted to the four hours of sleeping last night, and I think it's doing me well. I haven't really felt too many adverse effects today, though my naps haven't yielded much sleep. It's refreshing to just stop whatever you're doing for a bit every day. In retrospect, I will call this last week a learning experience, but also a failure of the sleep schedule: I have only had one night where I followed the schedule. I will have to try a might harder next week.

Daily Summary
  • Health: Good. The cat scratches are healing well with only four hours of sleep a night. The human body is damn impressive.
  • Energy Levels: Okay. It was really hard to get going this morning; I hope this is not a permanent feature of my life.
  • Daily Functioning: Good. I forgot to go to fencing, but then again, I forgot all last semester, too.
  • Academic Performance: I have been almost completely unable to focus on my homework. I doubt that this is just a side effect of less sleeping, and most likely related to the fact that I dislike the classes.
  • Social Performance: Very good. I have noticed no difference in my dealings with people as of late from before the schedule was implemented.

That was the last day I tried to stay on the schedule. For me, the last nail in the coffin was realizing that I simply could not do anything requiring more than four hours of concerted effort all at once. This precluded quite a bit of social interaction, made work and school a bit hard to deal with, and made me feel pretty dumb. "Oh, I'd love to go with you, but I have to go take a nap." Just go through a normal day in your life and try to find a point once every four hours where you can take a nap - bearing in mind that taking a nap involves stopping everything that you're doing, and then finding a place where you can comfortably sleep for 15 minutes, and remembering that those 15 minutes represent fully one eigth of all the sleep you'll be getting in a day.

In retrospect, I do realize that I didn't give the schedule a fair shake. I've been an insomniac for well over a decade, and have been of the opinion that sleep is for the weak, based on the fact that I get an average of four hours of sleep nightly. I entered in to this whole deal running on the assumption that it would just be business as usual, with a bit less sleep. Oh, was I wrong. Your body needs sleep. It enjoys sleep and needs sleep and, when deprived, it gets cranky.

So go out there and try the schedule! Improve your life through lack of sleep! And if you get it to work well for you, let me know how you did it! I'm doing grad school next year, God knows I need more time in my life...