It may sound crazy, but when you're not sleeping much anyway...why not experiment?
39. The Sleep Experiment
Kate had always been a terrible sleeper. Growing up, she would surreptitiously stash books under her covers to read late into the night during the brightness of the Alaskan summers. She remembered lying awake during her high school years for what seemed like hours in the dark, thinking and wondering why she wasn’t asleep. Even in college, when she got less sleep and was more tired every night, just falling asleep was a chore on par with cleaning the bathroom. And now that she was seven months pregnant and rather rotund, achy, and stiff, her sleeping issues were compounded…often waking up at 5 or earlier, after at best, a few fitful hours of sleep!
This is how Mister convinced her to try a sleep experiment. Poly-phasic sleeping, it was called. Mister had done it for a time in college—thus earning much curiosity, censure, and ultimately lasting fame among some circles. The premise is that the body needs a certain amount of REM sleep to operate properly, so if you can train your body to enter REM sleep instantly, then you only really need 2-3 hours of sleep per every 24 hours, versus the normal 7-9 hours. These 2-3 hours are spread out through the 24 hours as 20-30 minute naps taken every four hours. Kate and Mister had decided to try it together while they were in Alaska, considering that a) they would have few commitments to hinder their 4 hour schedule limits, b) it would be light out at night to help with the general inclination to sleep with the darkness, and c) it would very likely help train Kate’s body to fall asleep more easily—something she might retain even after they were done with the experiment.
The night before they were to leave for
they stayed up all night—very convenient because they would be gone for three
and a half weeks, and Kate had done next to nothing in preparation. So except
for their few 20-30 minute naps, Kate and Mister packed and cleaned and picked
up the house, and took a walk around 3AM down the middle of the road. When a
car approached and zoomed by, Kate had to laugh at how absurd they must have
looked to the driver…taking a stroll in the middle of the night. But she also
had to admit that it was pleasant; cool and quiet, a stark contrast to the
daily “rat race” running around them.
The second night was more difficult, since they were traveling to
Alaska, also staying up all night. And Kate
had especial difficulty with those several naps being in too many noisy, public
places—one in the airport, one on the plane, and another in the car. For each,
she barely dozed. And even so, when they reached the Wills’ house, she was full
awake, smelling the fresh Alaskan air, wanting to run through her parents’
house, investigating and saying hello to each, dear, familiar room.
Over the next few days, Kate enjoyed being awake more hours of the day. Maybe for the first time in her life, she was up when her dad was getting ready to go to work and going for walks or early morning grocery runs with her mother. She started falling asleep more readily, but even so, she didn’t feel like she was getting onto the schedule the way she was supposed to. Mister could fall asleep instantly and wake up feeling refreshed. For Kate, it still took her several minutes to fall asleep, and rousing her was difficult. Every time he woke her, Mister looked as sorrowful as if he had just been forced to kill a bunny.
So the sleep experiment, which they had been hoping to continue through their long stay in
died a natural death after the first five days (feeling much longer because of
the amount of wakeful time). The midnight walks were fun—delightful even. The
extra time together, reading and watching their online labor and delivery class
was certainly useful. But Laurie and Dave Wills had moved an incredible memory
foam bed into their guest room, and Kate couldn’t help but feel that, in light
of her usual sleeping troubles, if she could actually enjoy sleeping all night long, it would surely be an experience
worth having…and it was!