Sleepless

by Aaron McBride
Copyright 2005
Checkup
I finally went to the doctor today. It's been something like 10 years since I've been just for a checkup and not because I had a cold or a flu. It turns out that I'm healthy, so that's cool. I did mention that I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, and I have a hard time getting back to sleep. I guess it's nothing to worry about, but he set up an appointment for me to get some tests. I'm also going to have my eyes checked, but I don't think I need glasses quite yet.


Who needs sleep?
It's been 74 hours since I last slept, and I feel great. Well, almost great. I do have a slight headache that seems to be coming from my neck, and my head feels stuffy, both in my sinuses and in the way my thoughs don't seem to flow quite as easily as normal. Other than that though, I'm full of energy and looking forward to getting back to work.

Last week I went and had those sleep test. Everything turned out normal as expected, but they did offer me a chance to help test this new no-sleep drug. I signed a bunch of paperwork, so I can't tell you the name of the drug (I don't think it has one yet) and I can't tell you who's developing it, but I can tell you that it works -- either that, or I'm experiencing the strongest placebo effect ever. Some of the tests they ran were fun, like the IQ test and keeping a dream journal. The DNA profile was reletively painless. I wish I could say the same for my fitness exam. It's been way too long since I last did some serious running, and I guess I've sofented up more than I'd like to admit. I ended up over doing the treadmill test trying to show off, and ended up with a bad cramp in my side. Oh well, I guess I did well enough to join the trial.

The pills are pretty cool in that you start off taking them every 4 hours (along with a blood-hormone test), and you slowly decrease the frequency until you don't need them anymore, or so they tell me. I'm down to one pill per day, and it seems to be working. I hardly get sleepy at all before having to take the next pill. The doctors don't know how long I'll need to keep taking the pills to maintain the effects. It sounds like in past trials they were able to get the dosage down to one pill per week. From what I understand (which isn't much), the pills gradually weakens your Circadian rhythm so that your body always thinks it's the middle of the day.

You may be wondering why I'd sign up for a drug trial like this. Well first of all, it sounds really cool. Secondly, it gets me a little more spending cash. It's not enough to buy a condo, or even pay off the car, but hey... every little bit helps. Also, I consider myself to be a Transhumanist. I think humans have it within themselves to rise up above what we are today, and create a better future for ourselves, not just socially, but physiologically too. I figure, what better way to help move humanity forward than to donate (well, not entirely) myself to advancing our understanding of what we can become. Oh, and if you're worried about safety, it's already past phase 1, so it's already been shown to be safe.

Wouldn't it be great to live in a world were we don't waste a third of our lives sleeping? We wouldn't need to work any more than the typical 40 hours per week, but we probably will. Our current level of work is enough to keep up the status quo, but I don't think anyone would complain about working an extra two hours a day when they're getting eight extra for free. Honestly, the boredom is really starting to get to me. I'm going to see if I can swing my schedule around so that I work from midnight until noon (with a break for breakfast), and then get some hiking or biking or something in in the afternoon while it's still light. I think the bosses will go for it. I'll be working a lot of extra hours, and I'll be more lined up with our East Coast partners, so it's really easier for everyone. Hopefully I'll be able to find enough stuff to do to keep myself occupied.

Okay, I'm rambeling now, so I'll stop writing. I'll keep you all posted on how this turns out.


Weird Side Effects
I don't know if this is a side effect of the treatment, or if it's just because I'm spending so much time on it, but I'm making crazy progress at work. We're working on a little project that I thought would take weeks to finish, but we're just about done. I have been working more hours than I expected, but not overkill or anything. The funny thing is that I've been making some of the strangest bugs. It's almost like I'm writing two programs at the same time. For the non-programmers reading: unlike DNA you can't mix two programs together randomly and end up with something that works (usually). Thankfully my co-workers are quick to point out where I've gone wrong. I don't know what I was thinking, but some of that code is downright silly. On the other hand, the code has just been pouring out, so I guess it all balances out.

It seems like everything is getting on my nerves lately. My long distance company keeps calling to try to get me to switch to them for my local service. I'd be happy to switch, but my DSL complicates everything, so I tell them I don't want to do it today. I've asked them if I can just call them back next month when I'm ready to deal with all of this, and they still keep calling. Maybe I'll switch both my local and long distance. That'll show 'em. :-) I've got to get a new keyboard, why do they make keyboards so lound these days? There really should be more 24 hour stores. It's not like we don't have electricity, and we couldn't see to shop once the sun goes down. *sigh* Thank god for Amazon.

Maybe I'm going crazy or something, but I could swear that I keep seeing people from the pharmacutical company around work. I don't get it. The company that is running the tests is in Thousand Oaks. What would people from their be doing in Malibu? I hate to sound paranoid, but I think they might be watching me, and I don't mean reading my blog. Of course, if they are: "Hi guys! Can I help you with something?" Maybe I'll just ask next time I go in for a checkup.

It's probably nothing. I've been having some weirdly vivid daydreams lately too. It's almost like those dreams where you wake up in the morning and you're late, so you rush around trying to get ready, then your alarm goes off and you really wake up. I'll be thinking about doing something like having breakfast, and then all of the suddon realize that I'm not actually eating, and I still have to go make breakfast.

Speaking of food. My headaches are getting worse, and I'm having with nose bleeds which could just be the weather. I have a more than decent appitite, but I never seem to have enough physical energy. Coffee seems to help, but a few hours later I'm back to where I started. The doctor suggested that I take some multivitamins. I'll try that out and let you know how that goes. Mentally I can still focus at a respectable level, so that's a good thing. I have aquired an annoying little habit of getting songs stuck in my head. I've resorted to not listening to any music at work, but it's always popping up here and there, and once it's stuck I have the hardest time forgetting it.


More Tests
I went in for some more test, and to talk about the side effects I've been experiencing. They suggested that I try meditation and biofeedback to help clear my head, and gave me a guided meditation CD. We did one session there at the office, and it really seemed to help. We also tried some relaxation techniques to help give my neck a break. They think it's cramping up because of the lack of rest, and that's contributing to my headaches.

The doctors warned me that some of the patients aren't doing so well. Nobody has gotten hurt or at least that's what they tell me. I guess some of the patients are having really bad hallucinations. They're taking precautions by asking anyone who has had problems with hallucinations to not drive, and they ask that I report it right away if I have any problems. The weird thing is that I have been having little hallucinations here and there. Nothing freaky or anything, and I can usually tell that it's not real right away, so I'm not really worried about it. I didn't mention it to the doctors because I'm a little worried about what the other "precautions" might be. If it gets bad, and I'll go ahead and let them know, but not yet. I'm not ready to stop quite yet.


Practice Daydreams
I tried some more of the biofeedback and meditation when I got home from work today. I think I'm really getting the hang of this stuff. With the biofeedback, I'm able to sort of tune my brain to the right frequency to bring out the hallucinations, or daydreams, or whatever you want to call it. It reminded me of the lucid dreaming experiments I did back in college. I was able to use some of the techniques to both amplify the daydream to the point where it was super clear, and at the same time I was able to control the daydream. I just tried some basic visualization tests, but I was able to do some things that I could never have done before. For example, by daydreaming that I was writing on a white board, I was able to do long division in my head, and still keep track of everything. Just to make sure I didn't imagine that I got the right answer, I wrote it down on a piece of paper, and then checked it on a calculator. I'm not sure what else it'll be useful for, but for now it's a fun little trick.

The meditation work is going well too. I can feel my brain working away during the day like a soft buzz in the back of my head. By letting it fade out, I go nearly unconscious for half an hour at a time. I lose track of time when I'm doing it, so I use a timer to let me know when my time is up. It's not quite like sleeping because I don't lose control of my body, and I'm somewhat aware of what's going on around me.

I've also found that by laying down and completely relaxing for an hour or so a couple times a day, I'm able to give my muscles a chance to relax and recuperate. I overlap this time with my meditation time, and I'm feeling much better. I know, it seems like I might as well be sleeping because I can't really get anything done during these rest periods, but it's a lot easier to fit two one hour periods of inactivity into my day than it is to fit eight solid hours. These rest periods are also way more refreshing than a normal nights sleep.


Getting Cut Off
I had some more tests today. I think I aced them all. Memory games, IQ tests, and everything else they could throw at me seemed way too easy now that I have my own little mental whiteboard. It almost feels like cheating. They asked me how I was doing it, and I explained it to them. They just nodded and made some notes. Typical, isn't it?

Apparently I'm not the only one who has figured out how to work the whiteboard. To be honest, I got the impression from the questions they were asking that several others had figured it out a while ago. On the other hand, a few people's daydreams are more than they can handle and are causing serious problems. They think that it's something the psychologists will have to figure out, and that those people probably weren't too happy to begin with.

The bad news is that they're cutting me off. No more little white pills to keep me going. I don't know how long I'll be able to go before I'll start to feel like I need real sleep again. Actually, thinking back, it's been almost two days since I took my last pill and I feel fine. I think I have developed a bit of a caffeine addiction though, but who hasn't?

One last thing. They found my blog and have asked me to stop talking about the study. They even hinted that I should delete a few posts. They admit that I haven't broken any contracts or anything, but they want to make sure that nothing I say about these early studies will have an impact on how the public receives the final product. I guess I understand, but I don't think I'm doing any damage, so I'm going to keep on blogging.


Two Weeks Without Sleep
It's been 14 days without sleep, 5 days since my last dose, and I think I'm cured of this thing called sleep. When I started this little experiment, I doubed it would even work. Now I know that is does.

The product looks like it's going forward. From what I hear, the administrators of the study are eager to start taking their own medication. They've convinced the suits to go ahead with the product launch. It's going to need some more testing to figure out how to evaluate who's right for the pill and who's not. I think that at the current rate though, you'll soon be seeing comercials suggesting that you ask your doctor about a way to free yourself from the bonds of sleep. If you decide to do it, listen to the doctors, get all of the tests, and then prepare for a whole new life.

I have no idea how much the pharma spent developing this drug, and how many they failed at before they got it right, but it couldn't have been more than a billion dollars or so judging by their hoover's report. They could easily charge 10 million Americans $10,000 for the regime and make enough cash to put Microsoft to shame. Of course, once people know this can be done, it won't be long until some compeditor comes out with a similar product, competition kicks in, and treatments are offered everywhere for just a couple hundred dollars. Ten years from now, only the Neo-Luddites will be forced to sleep.

There's more about Sleepless on my blog.
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.