In 30 days of night, Sheriff of Barrow, Alaska, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnet) leads a party of survivors into the attic of an old house. Outside, the awful sounds of opportunistic vampires set loose on Barrow’s prolonged darkness have the survivors resigned to their fate. “We’ll sleep in shifts,” Oleson says, “We’ll ration our food, and then we’ll figure out the next step.”
It’s such a cliche in survival fiction–we’ll sleep in shifts. In quotes, “we’ll sleep in shifts” yields 32,400 google results. “Don’t you die on me!” only yields 14,000!!
In 1990, the fifteenth episode of Married with Children’s fourth season (A Taxing Problem) aired on Fox. Al was facing an IRS audit and wanted to sell Peggy’s hair for $5,000. Afraid that her husband will cut her hair while she’s sleeping, Peggy enlists the girls to form a perimeter, “sleeping in shifts” to protect those red locks.
And it shows up it popular media and, uh, well, unpopular alike. In apckrfan’s Firefly fanfiction episode entitled, “Positive Affirmation,” and sandwiched between such literary gems as “Her body was still virginal. Contrary to her mind, it was untainted. The one thing she thought they’d been unable to take from her. A lone tear fell, cascading a path over her cheek, down her face, and dropping to the examining table she sat on. They’d even taken that from her it seemed.” and “His lips quivered into the hint of a smile like they so often did.” is a suggestion by the team’s leader to “sleep in shifts” so that the pregnant woman can have the bed for a couple hours. A considerate bunch.
But I digress. I’ve decided to pick up where the clicheists and sleep scientists left off. Starting in three hours and forty-five minutes, I’ll be experimenting with polyphasic sleep. If you don’t know what polyphasic sleep is, check out Dustin Curtis’s blog. Dustin’s blog is glossy (if electrons can be glossy) and professionally packaged. And his article on sleep is very interesting. He explores various strategies for sleeping from Monophasic (what most of us do anyway) to the Uberman sleep cycle, which, if you ever followed Seinfeld, is the DaVinci sleep that Kramer became infatuated with in episode 128, The Friar’s Club.
I won’t be experimenting with the Uberman. Like most people, I do not have a schedule that would permit me six naps every day (though 22 hours of waking time sounds pretty good). I will be following the “Everyman” sleep cycle: 3 hours of core sleep each night and three 20 minute naps throughout the day. And my goal is that this space be a place to catch my random thoughts and musings both about polyphasic sleep and not (did you see that the Democrats just got 60 members in the caucus? They’d better not blow it).
Can I succeed? Will 4 hours of sleep a day be adequate? Well, unfortunately for Sherrif Oleson, Peggy Bundy and Cosmo Kramer, one of them was forced to inject himself with vamp-blood only to die a horrible cinder-faced death once the sun finally came up, another ended up thrown into a river by mobsters and, well, Peggy just fell asleep–and Al couldn’t bring himself to cut her hair. What a sweetie.
Lo ho ho, but there is still hope for me. Because in apckrfan’s fanfiction I’m pretty sure the sleeping in shifts thing worked. I didn’t read it.
With a mountain of scientific and anectodal evidence suggesting that polyphasic sleeping is a panacea (or may kill you) I now march forward. There is baseball on TV, the Daily Show awaits and I have to get my homemade pasta making tools out so I have something to do at three in the morning when I so desperately want to go back to sleep. Until then, good luck to me and I’ll see you in a few hours.