Introduction: Six Days a Week

About: I run Neal's CNC in Hayward, CA, an expert CNC cutting and fabrication service, easily findable by Google search. I'm a founding member of Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco, and Ace Makerspace (forme…
Last year I tried polyphasic sleeping, with little success. This year, in the continuing effort to find a sleeping schedule that works for me, I am now attempting to sleep as if there were 28 hours in a day. Multiply this out and you find that 28 x 6 = 24 x 7: each week I'll have six sleeps where most people have seven.

The picture below shows the schedule I'll be sleeping and working on. The red is when I'm scheduled to sleep and the green is when I'm scheduled to work. I am starting this on Wednesday, April 1; or arguably Thursday April 2, as the 2AM sleep start is the closest to what passes for normal for me otherwise.

I have earplugs and an eyeshade already. I'll add steps here every day or so to track my progress. We will see how it goes!

Step 1: Why?

For a very long time I've been unable to get to sleep 8 hours before I have to wake up. In other words, if I regularly wake up at 8, I regularly can't get to sleep before 1 or 2. Midnight just doesn't do it. A few times in my life I've had several weeks of leisure to wake up Whenever, and what happens is I go to sleep later and later, until I'm nocturnal, at which point I usually have to start doing something during the day again.

I have heard vaguely of an experiment with people living clocklessly in caves, where the cycle they slept on tended to be 25 hours rather than 24. It's well known that circadian rhythms are 'about' a day long (thus the name). I think that my innate sleep cycle at least is longer than 24, so now I am testing that. No I haven't really done that much research. If you have ideas for stuff I should read, I'd love a comment about it.

Step 2: "Day" One

I went to bed last night, Thursday April 2, at 2:10 AM and was asleep within 15 or 20 minutes. This is pretty normal for me so I figure this Counts as On Schedule. I woke up at 7:30(!) but only had to go to the bathroom, and was able to get back to sleep easily. I woke up one more time around 9, i think, and went back to sleep then too. Woke up for the last time at quarter to 11 and lazily dozed until my alarm went off at 11. I estimate I got about 8 hours of sleep overall.

I felt slightly sleepy all "morning" but that's not unusual for me either. Plus I am not drawing any conclusions yet. The 2AM - 11AM sleep isn't really weird for me either, although I do not usually wake up so many times.

Next sleep: 6AM - 3PM Friday April 3.

Step 3: "Day" Two

Last "night" I went to bed at 6AM. This was Friday, April 3. I stayed up at home, sewing hats (Instructable in another couple days) rather than, say, going clubbing. I was a little tired but no more than any other late night. Got to bed on time and slept right away. I woke up at 1PM to pee, then easily slept the remaining 2 hours, waking up about 5 minutes before the alarm went off.

So far I've had no difficulty getting up at the specified time, which normally is terribly difficult for me. Of course, normally I'm not getting 9 hours of sleep.

Next sleep: 10AM - 7PM Saturday April 4.

Step 4: "Day" Three

Went easily to bed when it was time; woke up at ... not exactly sure, probably noon or 1 to go to the bathroom, then again at 5:30 PM. I thought I was awake for good, then, but did get back to sleep after 15 minutes or so, to wake up a few minutes before the alarm at 7. Again it was easy to get up on schedule (a truly welcome change).

Last night it was somewhat difficult to stay up all the way to 10AM, despite having woken up at 4. I definitely had a sense of should-be-asleep. Now, this could be simply because I've so far just stayed at home working on projects, in a dark quiet house; if I were to bestir myself to go Out this feeling might dissipate. I'll try that tonight, there's an event I have in mind to go to that'll run Late. And an 11AM meeting as well.

Also, I normally drink about one can of coke per day (but never coffee or tea or other caffeinated things), and although I never particularly notice a caffeine rush I'm sure it affects me to some degree. Since Wednesday I haven't had any coke, mostly because my food pattern has changed, and this might be affecting my sleepiness too. I haven't decided whether I'll keep not drinking caffeine, or have some. I'll note that here as it is likely to be related.

Next sleep: 2PM - 11PM Sunday April 5.

Step 5: "Day" Four

Two in the afternoon is a very weird time to go to sleep. It's too early to think of as just going to bed early, and too late to think of as having stayed up really late (ten AM just barely stretches into up-late territory). I didn't sleep that well; I woke up several times and finally at about 10:30, 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, decided I wasn't going to sleep any more and got up.

I think it did not help that I had 2 cokes 'yesterday'. WRT caffeine, I decided that since this experiment is aimed to see if the 28 hour day can be normal for me, I would not have any special rules about non-sleep items. Therefore, if I wanted a coke, I could have one, as usual. I do have a usual rule of one per day, which should apply -- but I broke it. As I occasionally do.

I did finally manage to have regular meals, which I had not done previously. So far I had 'breakfast' of cereal and an orange around midnight, then 'lunch' of eggs & sausage at an all-night restaurant around 5. I'll have 'dinner' at lunchtime today. Not sure yet if I should try to maintain 3 meals daily or move to 4 slightly smaller ones... I will consider this over the next few days.

I am feeling rather tired 'today,' perhaps due to the utter backwardness of the schedule on Sundays, or perhaps due to not having slept as well as previously. I am finding that nighttime hours are longer than daytime hours :)

Next sleep: 6PM Monday April 6 - 3AM Tuesday April 7.

Step 6: "Day" Five: FAIL

Dammit. So during "day" four I was pretty tired, partly I am sure because I didn't sleep all that well the "night" before. I went to bed ten or fifteen minutes early, at about 5:45 PM. I woke up to my alarm for the first time. This was at 3. I dragged my ass out of bed, ate a bowl of cereal, sat down on the couch, and woke up again at 9AM. Drat.

"Yesterday's" scheduled sleep was 10PM to 7AM. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to get to sleep at 10, having had basically 12 hours the night before, and having woken up at 9. I also figured that was a strong sign that 28 hours is too long a day for me. I considered my options. Should I try to get back on it and continue throughout April anyway, assuming it simply will take some time to adjust? Should I give up and go back to struggling through the week on 24 hours? Or should I alter the schedule?

Next sleep: 10PM Tuesday April 7 - 7AM Wednesday April 8

Step 7: "Day" Six: Busted & Adjusted

(Sorry about that title, I couldn't help myself)

As I suspected, I was not able to sleep at 10PM. I went to bed then, and after some upping & downing I got to sleep around midnight. I awoke at 8. This isn't too far off, though; I believe I can still use 10-7 as the schedule. I chose to alter it, and below is the new version. It pushes each night's sleep back by only 2 hours, not 4, and then I get a nap on Sunday morning to tweak it back into night order. I also marked Sunday night as starting at the same time as Monday; I don't know if I'll keep it that way or sleep at 4, according to the strictest interpretation.

Next sleep: 12AM - 9AM Thursday April 9

Step 8: "Days" Seven and Eight... Or, April 9 & 10

Having adjusted the schedule now so that none of the sleep times are ENTIRELY backwards from normal, I can use regular day names and dates, which is clearer.

On the 8th/9th I slept at midnight as planned, or even a little earlier. The 9th was fantastically busy and I did not have a chance to write this up and unfortunately I no longer remember any details of that night, the one before last as I write this. I do remember not particularly wanting to get up in the morning, but made myself do so on time at 9AM. I had a coke at dinner at around 6:30, but no caffeine after that. I got quite tired around 10:30 but got a second wind in an hour or so, such that when 2:00AM rolled around, the next sleep time, I didn't quite make it. I got in bed around 2:20 and had difficulty going to sleep. I probably slept before 3:30, and woke up often during the night. I could have gotten up at 8:30 or at a lot of points afterwards, but I powered through with the sleeping and did not get up until quarter til 11, just short of schedule. Today, the 10th, I've been quite perky so far!

Next sleep: 4:00AM - 1PM Saturday April 11.

Step 9: Week Two-ish

After changing to 26 hours per "day", I found that I had much less need to pay attention to the sleep schedule (thus the lack of daily posting). I did not keep to it exactly, but it's been fairly close. And in any case, the point of this is not to keep exactly to a schedule, but to feel like I'm sleeping in a way that is natural. I'm not sure this is it, but it's not bad.

The adjustments I made are shown in today's picture, which is not of a PLAN but of the sleep I actually slept. The most difficult bit was Sunday, which as planned and as slept required a short overnight sleep and getting up early, most likely not fully rested. Since this is what I often get during much of the week, if I can get one day of not enough sleep, wonky & tired, down from 4 or 5 days of it, I'll call that a win!

Overall I've felt fine; some days my eyes are tired, some days not. It has been interesting to discover how closely tied my sleep actually is to daylight, which I had not thought to be the case from previous experience. I do find myself waking up after a couple hours of daylight, even on the later days when I ought to sleep more. I've been letting myself go back to sleep, which I rarely or never have trouble doing.

Also I find that my usual resentment of bedtime has reversed. Usually I am annoyed that I ought to go to bed already, and stay up late out of perversity. Last week a couple times I felt annoyed that I had to stay up later, and perversely went to bed early.

Step 10: Week Three-ish

This week was rather messed up in the restart area, which is supposed to be Sunday. As you can see from the image, instead of sleeping all the way through from 6PM on Sunday according to plan, I took a short nap then was up until 12:30. To tell the truth, there was an event I wanted to go to...

Then I kinda swapped Friday and Saturday's schedules, this time due to a friend visiting from out of town. Man, other people, you know?

(But next week is worse, I'm afraid! I don't think I'll be able to draw any real conclusions at the end of April. I will have to keep going through May.)

Step 11: Week Four-ish

This week was really off. I had friends visiting through Wednesday and couldn't reasonably do the early early bedtimes of the first part of the week. Either because of that or for some other reason I was tired more than usual this weekend and slept earlier than normal. And last night instead of the scheduled 3 hour nap I slept a full night, waking up at ten, and am just Not Sleepy now when I ought to have been in bed an hour ago. Yikes!

I was going to keep this schedule through April and then think about whether to try and do it regularly or revert to 24 hours. But I don't feel I have really properly been able to evaluate a 26 hour day. So I'm going to take another month, and with luck I'll have a better sense at the end of May whether this works for me or not.

Of course, even on a 24 hour day one rarely keeps EXACTLY to schedule. There's always something, a book you just need another hour to finish, or some exhausting thing that puts you to sleep earlier than usual, or a party that's too much fun to leave at midnight, or one, or two, or five... So I may go a little easier on the weekends, and allow myself more leeway. We'll see how it goes on!

Step 12: Week Five-ish

Weekends are giving me a lot of trouble, which spills over into Mondays. The rest of the week is working reasonably well but I'm pretty sure at this point that 26 hour days for the full week isn't natural for me. Sleeping at 6PM is just Hard! The last two weeks I napped a bit but then woke up fairly early in the evening and could not sleep any more until I'd gotten up and done stuff for a while. I'm sure this is at least partly because I'm not managing to do the short sleep as scheduled on Saturday night.

I'm going to keep on with the M-F schedule throughout May, but try various changes for the weekends to see if I can improve them.

Step 13: The End

Success! My quest to determine whether a longer sleep cycle works better for me than a messed-up 24 hour cycle is over!

It doesn't work better at all.

Drat. But check out last week, below. It is very clear that keeping to the 26 hour day (not to mention a 28 hour day) is Not Natural for me. It takes a lot of work, and I fail frequently. This is not easier than failing to keep to a 24 hour cycle, which is basically what I've reverted to. So, I'm stopping this experiment. I will probably come up with another one at some point but I don't know what it is yet. Perhaps I will simply try to have no schedule at all!