Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, trader, artist, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

[China] Regressing


This is the last post on my first try at polyphasia. For convenience, I've listed all four of my previous polyphasic posts here:

After missing two naps in a single day, I realized that this polyphasic thing wasn't going to work in China.

1. We didn't have breaks at the right times in the day.
2. I was incurring approximately 100% overhead on walking back to my dorm to nap.
3. The utility of my time was extremely phase-sensitive, which is to say that having extra hours during the night didn't help anywhere near as much as extra hours during the day.

So I stopped. Re-transitioning to monophasic wasn't precisely effortless, but it was still pretty easy (after all, I've


[Polyphasic Sleep] Errata, Food, Reductionism


It's become apparent to me in the past few days that, when I wrote last week's post on the theory of sleep, I didn't know what I was talking about. Or rather, I had an incomplete picture of the subject at hand, and oversimplified a system that was more complicated than I was giving it credit for.

A little more digging has revealed that there is, in fact, evidence that SWS may be important for consolidating declarative memory, which breaks down into episodic memory (events) and semantic memory (facts). By contrast, REM consolidates procedural memory and spatial memory (both of which are more or less exactly what they sound like). Previously, I had dismissed it as "useless". Oops.

Of course, that's not the whole story, either: non-REM sleep is split into periods of "light sleep" and periods of SWS. Altogether, an 8-hour monophasic sleep cycle includes something like 1-2 hours of REM, 1-2 hours of SWS, and 4-5 hours of NREM2 light-sleep. The goal of


[Polyphasic Sleep] Tired, Dreams, Sunrise, BSG


After today's core, I feel tired. Not sluggish or droopy (yet), just a vague sense that I might rather be asleep than awake. It probably doesn't help that my naps yesterday were mixed up and haphazard, or that I went to bed with too much on my mind (which likely increased the amount of time it took to fall asleep. Of course, it's entirely possible that the higher-order bit is that I'm tired because I'm still not getting enough SWS.

Though, it's suspicious that I often feel very much better after my 8am nap. Perhaps it's simply circadian.


I've noticed a recent change in the subject matter and timbre of my dreams. Warning: extreme pointless navel-gazing ahead.

Typically, I'm used to abstract, 'feeling-focused' dreams, where real people that I know appear as characters only when my brain needs to put a human face on something -- people I know tend not to appear as reasonable models of themselves. The scenarios, in general, are unrealistic, often


[Polyphasic Sleep] Towards a Theory of Polyphasic Sleep, Reports From the Field

nb:The theory discussed below is updated here, but I've elected to leave its original presentation as-is. If I must have faults, I would rather they be revealed where they'll drive me to do better.


Why should this polyphasic thing work at all? A fair question; I too was once skeptical. Here's a quick explanation, though, to approximately the best of my understanding.

Prevailing neurological understanding of sleep distinguishes between Rapid Eye Movement cycles (REM) and Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS): REM comes in brief bursts, but is crucially important to mental function and consciousness in complicate ways that we don't quite understand. SWS, on the other hand, appears to be a simple 'resting state' that allows the body to recover from the day's stress. Thus the 8-hour monophasic sleep cycle typically breaks down into:

[REM]  [SWS]  [REM]  [SWS]  [REM]  [SWS]  [REM]  [SWS]  [REM]  [SWS]  [REM]

As we subject our bodies today to much less physical stress today than was present in the ancestral environment, I think it's reasonable that modern-day,


[Polyphasic Sleep] Greetings, Polyphasic Sleep, Chives


I'm blogging now? Apparently. Expect a hodgepodge mix of assorted things, roughly corresponding to the set of things I'm interested in, in no discernible order. Maybe at some point, I'll get my act together and start composing sequences of posts, but for the initial brain-dump phase, expect no more than, well, a brain dump.


Today, I begin transitioning to a polyphasic sleep schedule. If it works, I'll develop the ability to REM sleep in naps of twenty minutes, and survive on fewer hours of nighttime sleep by napping during the day. (The particular cycle I'm aiming for is "Everyman-3", three hours of night-sleep and three twenty-minute day-naps.)

Well, perhaps the word 'survive' is misleading. I'd like to do a lot better than 'survive'; I'd like to continue functioning at my present mental capacity, for extra conscious hours. While efficiency-times-duration calculations indicate that I should be willing to accept up to a 20% drop in efficiency along with the 25% increase in waking-hours, I suspect that the

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