Sleeping Like Superman: Perchance To Dream

Sleeping Like Superman: Perchance To Dream

The train has become my sworn enemy.

The morning air is crisp enough. I open the door of my apartment building and fill my lungs with cold oxygen. On any other day that cool, sharp sensation would be enough to put a spring in my step, or at the very least shock me into action, but today it just reinforces the hard fact that my brain has been dulled. I am exhausted and I feel drunk. Utterly punch drunk.

At this point, 7am on Tuesday morning, I am this close to giving up on polyphasic sleep

To make my sleep schedule work, I have to leave an hour earlier than I normally would. I miss peak train traffic, which means I don’t have to elbow suits and schoolkids for the privilege of placing one single arse cheek on a seat.

This morning there are seats-a-plenty. But my body is completely, completely gone. I have no energy; I barely have a sense of my own physical being. On the platform I wobble as I wait, as if my legs can’t bear the kilograms. My eyes dart in and out of focus, there’s a mild ache of nausea lurking in the pit of my stomach. My back throbs, I feel disconnected from my own body, I make sure to stand far, far away from the edge of the platform. I genuinely worry that I could fall onto the tracks.

By far, this is the absolute worst I’ve felt since embarking on this adventure. This is why everyone who has ever attempted to transition into the Uberman sleeping schedule says that day 3 is the biggest obstacle to pass through.

I wonder if transition is possible. Will I be able to move from light, flaccid napping to the efficient, no-nonsense REM sleep I need? That’s what it’ll take to make this experiment a success. For now I’ve had no problem sleeping, but it’s the quality and type of sleep that counts. M body needs to understand that it must head straight to REM sleep without passing Go.

And at this point I don’t remember dreaming; a surefire sign that I’m moving toward the transition I need.

I sit down on the train. I’ve literally never felt more exhausted in my life. If I were more aware I’d be reflecting on what a stupid set of decisions I’ve made to get to this point, but my sole focus is on survival and nothing else. I must try my best to stay awake.

I pull out my mobile phone, I try to play a little bit of Ziggurat, an intense, fast paced shooter — just the ticket in these circumstances — but my eyes simply can’t hold their focus on the screen. They twitch and blink. Within seconds I’m dead and I realise I can’t play this game.

The rest of the train journey is a drunken blur. I barely remember a second of it. Before I know it, I’ve trudged into the office, and crumpled onto my chair.

And then, I had a dream.

I had a dream.

I can’t remember too much about my dream, but I know that I had one. I think Dr Emmet Brown from Back To The Future featured, but I can’t recall the details. Only that I woke up after my 10am nap feeling a little more refreshed than I expected. For a while, at least, this whole endeavour felt like an achievable goal, instead of something I was lumbering aimlessly towards, four hours at a time.

At the time of writing, it’s 11.13pm. Day three is almost over. I had a dream, and now I’ve had several. I feel like I’ve taken a massive leap forward. I feel like I can do this.

Follow Mark’s adventures over the next month in the Sleeping Like Superman series on Lifehacker.

Picture by Jeremy Keith


  • Maybe standing on the train would help? I’m not sure if there’s room on the Sydney trains by the door but in Brisbane there’s usually always room to position yourself there. The fact you have to hold on and concentrate to stay upright might work in your favour of keeping you awake good and proper?

      • I don’t envy you… I have trouble staying awake on the way home as well (I have a young baby at home). I’ve got a good 50 minutes on a Sydney train, and I get on at a stop where I always get that little single seat at the end. I’ve since decided to just set the alarm on my phone – it’s easier that way…
        Keep at it – I enjoy reading about your pain…

        • Fell asleep on the train after doing an all nighter at Uni a couple of years back, woke up covered in my own drool. Don’t recommend it. Standings the thing to do. 😛

          • I used to catch the train from Wollongong to Newtown and back everyday to go to school, which is 1 1/2 hours each way, in peak hour, most of the time with a guitar and back pack. Needless to say I had many a time when i awoke to find my school shirt a darker shade of blue around my collar due to drool. Not cool.

      • The Sutherland-to-Town Hall run in the wee hours is a challenge to stay awake even when I’ve had 7-8 hours sleep. how the hell you’re managing to stay awake on your sleeping pattern is beyond me.

        …Depending on where you live in Sydney, it may help if you deliberately try and avoid the Tangara and Waratah trains. Those crappy, silver Commeng carriages without air conditioning are like iceboxes at this time of year. At 5am, I’m generally shivering enough that sleep becomes impossible, even went I want to.

        (I actually do the opposite. I’ll be buggered if I’m paying CityRail 38 bucks a week on train fares to sit in an icebox carriage. I generally wait til a more modern train comes along, and aim to be at work a little early accounting for the train-dilation effect.)

  • Sounds rough, but you’ve got lots of people cheering for you so hopefully things start panning out.

    As a side note I barely dream at all. Either that or I don’t remember them. But I can literally only remember a handful of dreams from my entire life and some of those were genuinely scary. I can remember 5000 simpsons quotes, but not dreams. Go figure.

    • Without sounding like a tool, I eat really well because I rock climb and I need to keep my weight down.

      This is one of my real worries. I’ve found myself snacking a lot at night. But I’ve tried to keep it relatively healthy with things like almonds.

  • Mate I feel your pain. Last night I went to bed at 11.30 instead of 10.30 and I’m running on 7 hours sleep – struggling and it’s only 9 in the morning!

  • Really interested in this experiment and think its awesome that you are testing yourself with this. I think it would be something great to achieve, though would be worried about the mental aspect of it all. So i think you are brave to take that on and show us all if it is possible.

    Keep on keepin on Mark!

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