Polyphasic sleep/two stage sleeping?


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So while this isn't strictly food related, it's very much a wellness topic, and I know rest and sleep are active elements of what the Whole30 entails.

 

I've never, even in my life ever been a great sleeper. Undersleeping (7 hours or so, or just shy) produces a much better self during the day than 8 or anything more, which has always made me feel, sluggish, almost drunk. So 8-9 is almost unthinkable. 

 

That said I've never had good sleeping habits. I fought to get even 5 hours of sleep all throughout high school. Just insomnia. I could never figure it out. I ate better (or thought I did at the time, it probably wasn't great, but it was a lot of home cooking of I'd say better than the average SAD sort), got into exercise, was seeing a therapist for other things that might have contributed: no dice. So that's my background. I actually got into smoking pot for a while because it allowed me to get more sleep. When I could get 7 hours, I was golden; on weekends when I slept in like teenagers are "supposed to", I got that sleep-drunk groggy feeling. Maybe it was just contextual to my bad habits.

 

Basically did this through early adulthood except moving to Korea eventually meant no pot, more drinking, but at least, at some point, better exercise and better attention to whole foods.

 

Ok, I'm long-winded. But here we go: have any of you out there tried polyphasic sleep? It's the notion of shorter periods of sleep broken up during the day. I'm not a big Tim Ferriss /lifehacking fan, I appreciate the 'scenic route', so to speak. W30 isn't at all about 'hacking' diet (that would be, I don't know, someone who made a dietary regime all on gel packs or something), but sleep never improved for me in the W30. I fight depression (and am experiencing some life stressors, including undering a marital separation and living on my own for the first time in my life - always had housemates and such before, or was married) so so I sleep more than I want to. I've always been a night owl. It's when I get creative. I take mornings slow when I'm up for them, contrary to the whole 'morning productivity' so many others, both creatives and others alike, seem to report. 

 

So I'm trying to figure out how I can accommodate what is perhaps just part of my natural body chemistry: reduced sleep, a schedule where I can get bits and pieces. A more historically natural alternative is fighting for earlier bed time and going for the two part sleep that seems to be very much a pre-electricity historical norm: sleep soon after dark (hard because I work until 9pm), sleep for roughly two REM cycles), up for a few hours, reading, writing, etc., then back to bed from early morning, say 3-4am until 7am or so for another two REM cycles. 

 

Any Lifehackers out there have some experience to share? I am looking on other websites, but I was hoping to hear about it in the context of the W30 experience. I'm on day 34 (I think) so I'm beginning some reintroductions, which are going well, and which I'm pairing with much greater servings of fresh vegetables, fruits, and animals proteins. I've also starting taking low-dose melatonin again, which sometime late last year a friend introduced to me, to great effect. Lately though (especially now in the second month of my separation and solo living) the melatonin seems to have no effect. I'm trying to approach this like I did the W30, as a new life habit kind of thing because I've had some of the worst insomnia lately that I've ever had in my life, three completely sleepless nights in the past three weeks. As in, zero sleep. Trying, using CBT techniques, breathing exercises, meditation, and hypnosis scripts (which also were effective through last year, but have lost some of their efficacy), no success. 

 

Recent changes I've already included are: not drinking coffee or caffeinated (although the only caffeine I've ever had is coffee) beverages past noon, and drinking only 2 cups max daily, early in the day; no screens after my working hours require (between 9-10:30pm); low lights, warm spectrum lights and a program called f.lux on my computer, which attenuates blue tones (known to damage the melatonin cycle after darkness) based on your location and sunset times. 

 

Anyway. *shrugs*

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I have a personal sleep project also, so I've researched the topic a bit. It looks like you have a handle on most of it. The things I would add are:

 

-consider magnesium supplementation instead of melatonin. Melatonin might be a good short term solution but it interferes with your body's natural production of melatonin. You can encourage natural melatonin production by getting outside with sun direct on your skin and in your eyes (no sunglasses) for a few minutes first thing in the morning. Most people in modern society are deficient in magnesium because of modern farming practices--less magnesium in the soil means less in vegetables and less in humans.

 

-consider the possibility that 7 hours is not actually optimal for you. I'm wondering if that groggy feeling is more from waking up abruptly in the middle of a sleep cycle, not that you didn't need any more sleep. Have you tried letting your body sleep until you wake up naturally? If you life allows such an experiment over several days I think it might give you a better sense. Also, know that your body will need more sleep on some days that others, especially if you do hard exercise (sleep is a really important part of recovery; athletes need more.).

 

-eating your starchy carbs (but no fruit) at meal #3 seems to help a lot of people around these parts, so that might be worth a try too.

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I have a personal sleep project also, so I've researched the topic a bit. It looks like you have a handle on most of it. The things I would add are:

 

-consider magnesium supplementation instead of melatonin. Melatonin might be a good short term solution but it interferes with your body's natural production of melatonin. You can encourage natural melatonin production by getting outside with sun direct on your skin and in your eyes (no sunglasses) for a few minutes first thing in the morning. Most people in modern society are deficient in magnesium because of modern farming practices--less magnesium in the soil means less in vegetables and less in humans.

 

-consider the possibility that 7 hours is not actually optimal for you. I'm wondering if that groggy feeling is more from waking up abruptly in the middle of a sleep cycle, not that you didn't need any more sleep. Have you tried letting your body sleep until you wake up naturally? If you life allows such an experiment over several days I think it might give you a better sense. Also, know that your body will need more sleep on some days that others, especially if you do hard exercise (sleep is a really important part of recovery; athletes need more.).

 

-eating your starchy carbs (but no fruit) at meal #3 seems to help a lot of people around these parts, so that might be worth a try too.

 

Thank you - that's some very valuable advice. I'll certainly look into the magnesium. 

 

As far as natural sleep amounts go, I actually tend to waken feeling very clear and bright on remarkably little sleep, which I've learned to distrust because of what's generally touted as 'ideal' but a great number of communities, scientific and otherwise - I often wake naturally after 2-3 hours in the middle of the night and force myself to go back to sleep, and the longest I can sleep comfortably for at one stretch (factoring in a natural wake up, which I've always fought against), is something on the order of 4-5 hours. So given that I've taught myself to perceive this as a flaw, and yes in sleeping more I only seem to earn fatigue, well, it's a bit confusing sometimes. 

 

Anyway I've found some great articles on varieties of polyphasic sleep, which I'm approaching in the same way I did the W30, albeit I'm slowly stepping into it vis a vis a number of recommended articles on the subject, most of which advise against the cold turkey approach.

 

it wasn't that long ago that I though paleo was simply nuts in terms of a dietary attitude: I came from the perspective that dairy and grains and such were simply part of the equation and not to be questioned, so I'm also trying to treat the notion of alternative sleep practices as viable, if my experience sees a benefit in the practice. I'm also meditating again, which I think will help with sleep and overall restfulness in a variety of ways. I had abandoned a fairly regular practice for far too long (something like 8 years), and I've already (in the past few days of short multiple sessions daily) remembered why it was such a good thing to include in life.

 

Thank you for chiming in.

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You've probably already seen Pavlina's stuff on it, but another anecdotal source is from Neil Strauss in his book The Game -- he experiments with polyphasic sleep and has some good observations.

I haven't read either, but I will look up the first when I get a chance. 

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