Saturday, September 21, 2013

Polyphasic Sleep: Reprise

(Original post on the polyphasic sleep experiment here.)

Welp, this got a little messy. The main culprit was Burning Man, though there were some other complications with data collection as well. Here are the basics of what went down.

Fourteen people participated in the main experiment. Most of them were from Leverage. There were a few stragglers from a distance, but communication with them was poor. 

We did some cognitive batteries beforehand, mostly through Quantified Mind. A few people had extensive baseline data, partially because many had been using Zeos for months, and partly because a few stuck to the two-week daily survey. Leverage members (not me) are processing the data, and they'll probably have more detailed info for us in three months(ish).

With respect to the adaptation itself, we basically followed the plan outlined in my last post. Day one no sleep, then Uberman-12, then cut back to Uberman-6, then Everyman-3.

Most people ended up switching very quickly to Uberman-6 (within the first two or three days), and most switched to Everyman-3 after about five to seven days on Uberman-6. Three people tried to hold the Uberman schedule indefinitely: One person continued Uberman-6 for two full weeks, and two held out for twenty-one days. Afterwards, all three transitioned to Everyman-3. 

During the originally planned one-month period, five people dropped out. Nine were on some form of polyphasic for the whole month. One returned to monophasic at the end of the official experiment with only partial adaptation achieved. 

Then Burning Man disrupted everybody's sleep schedule. Afterward, one person continued experimenting with less common variations of the Everyman schedule. Three went back to Everyman-3. One switched to Everyman-2. Two people have flexible schedules that include two hours less sleep per day. One person's schedule was disrupted by travel for a while after Burning Man, and they're now re-adapting.

Now that all is said and done, eight of the original fourteen are polyphasic.

I'll hold off on concluding very much from this until I see the results of the cognitive battery and such, plus the number who are still polyphasic after three months. In the mean time, I'll just stick with this: Some people are capable of going polyphasic and staying that way (probably?). Sleep is complicated and confusing. I don't know how it works. I don't think anyone else really does either. More research is desperately needed.

My next post, which will probably happen in the next two weeks, will discuss what I think we did poorly, what I think went really well, and how you and your friends can improve upon our work. In the mean time, here's a video of what zombie-Brienne is like during the really difficult stretches, and here is how she entertained herself when she could manage to do things besides pace. (I was one of the few who bailed out early :-p)