Can we sleep less?

The quest to build better people.
March 7 2003 5:08 PM

Wake Up, Little Susie

Can we sleep less?

(Continued from Page 1)

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.

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Here is the diary I kept.

Getting by on a little less shut-eye
Getting by on a little less shut-eye

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.