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.


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.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 7:13 PM Deadly Advice When it comes to Ebola, ignore American public opinion: It’s ignorant and misinformed about the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.