Wake Up, Little Susie
Can we sleep less?
Tired of merely writing about enhancement (and tired, period), I decided to conduct my own unscientific trial of modafinil. As the father of a 2-year-old, I live in a constant haze of sleep deprivation. I vowed to take modafinil for a week and see what happened. Could it transform a lazy, exhausted hack into a brilliant Jeffrey Goldberg? Or recast a grouchy father into Superdad? I persuaded my doctor—and no, you can't have his number—to prescribe me a week's supply of Provigil, seven 200-milligram pills.
Here is the diary I kept.
Day 1, Monday 6:45 a.m.: Woken up by my daughter after the usual six and a half hours.
7 a.m.: I open the bottle. The pills are monstrous. I start to chicken out. I've never smoked pot, much less taken cocaine or amphetamines. I decide to halve the dosage. When I cut the first pill with my pocketknife, half of it shoots off my bureau, slides across the floor, and disappears under a dresser, no doubt to be discovered and eaten by my daughter someday in the near future. I pop the other 100-milligram half.
10 a.m.: At the office. I've felt no rush, but alertness has snuck up on me. I am incredibly attentive, but not on edge. I really, really feel like working, a rare sensation.
12 p.m.: I reach for my usual lunchtime Coca-Cola, then think better of it. Caffeine plus this sprightliness and I will be ping-ponging off the walls.
2 p.m.: This is when I usually fold. Today I am the picture of vivacity. I am working about twice as fast as usual. I have a desperate urge to write, to make reporting calls, to finish my expense account—activities I religiously avoid. I find myself talking very loudly and quickly. A colleague says I am grinning like a "feral chipmunk."
6 p.m.: Annoyed to have to leave the office when there is all this lovely work to do.
9 p.m.: Home. After dinner, I race upstairs to start working again. This is totally out of character, especially on a Monday Night Football evening.
12 a.m.: I want the day to keep going but force myself to go to bed. I fall asleep easily enough, but it's a weird night. I have lots of dreams, which is unusual. All are about Getting Things Done.
Day 2, Tuesday
6:30 a.m.: I wake up feeling good, cut another pill in two, and pop a half.
David Plotz is the Editor of Slate. He's the author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank and Good Book. He appears on Slate's Political Gabfest.