Sleep is a great and very pleasant way to spend your time, but perhaps each of us has dreamed of an opportunity to sleep less and have more time for work and family. If you just start to sleep 4 hours per night and drink liters of coffee, it definitely won’t be good for your health. So everyone is trying to find a way how to sleep less and still stay fresh, and one of the most efficacious solutions might be adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule, using which you sleep for short time multiple times over the 24-hour cycle. But is it healthy — and how to adopt it effectively? We’ve prepared answers to the main questions about polyphasic sleep for you.
#1. What is a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?
Short answer: As compared to monophasic and biphasic schedules, a polyphasic schedule is when you get many short naps over 24 hours, thus reducing the overall amount of sleep.
Detailed answer: Overall, sleep is divided into several types, which include monophasic, biphasic, and polyphasic sleep schedule. Your typical 8-hour-or-shorter sleep during the night is defined as monophasic sleep as it consists of one phase only. Biphasic schedule is when you get the needed amount of sleep in two parts, usually during night and taking a long afternoon nap, as they do in Spain, Italy, and other warm countries. Finally, as you might have guessed, polyphasic sleep is when a person gets their sleep using many short naps over 24 hours. While there exist several types of polyphasic schedule, which we will consider in the next question, the general idea is to reduce the amount of night sleep from 6-8 hours to 2-4 hours without a considerable harm for the health. Throughout the history, many prominent thinkers and politicians used polyphasic sleep. Examples include Leonardo da Vinci, who took 20-minute naps every four hours, which is called uberman cycle, and Napoleon, who did not follow any cycle at all and could live with short sporadic naps or even without sleep at all for days.
#2. What Types of Polyphasic Sleep Exist?
Short answer: The most popular types are, from the easiest to the most difficult, everyman cycle, uberman cycle, and dymaxion cycle.
Detailed answer: There is no generally adopted scheme of polyphasic sleep. Although everyone finds the way which suits them best, there are three most popular types of polyphasic sleep: everyman cycle, dymaxion cycle, and uberman cycle. Everyman cycle is the most similar to traditional monophasic sleep and thus the easiest type of polyphasic sleep. When using it, you sleep some 3.5-5 hours during the night (it’s called core sleep) and take 2-3 short 20-minute naps during the day. You can adjust the exact time of this cycle: The less you sleep during the night, the more naps you need during the daytime. The second schedule, uberman cycle, includes only 6-8 short naps with each lasting 20 minutes. Finally, the most difficult sleep cycle to adopt is dymaxion sleep schedule, which includes only 4 naps consisting of 30 minutes. Even though experts warn that uberman and dymaxion sleep suit only certain people, which are “short sleepers genetically”, all of them are gaining popularity steadily over the recent years.
#3. Why Might I Need to Adopt It?
Short answer: Because it will save you a few hours you would otherwise spend sleeping and will give you better flexibility.
Detailed answer: The main answer is simple: If you successfully adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule, you will be able to sleep less. As we’ve just discussed, you will be able to sleep for the time period approximately twice as shorter as you do now. Apart from it, polyphasic cycle can provide you with greater work flexibility, especially if you follow uberman or dymaxion schedules. If you sleep consists of 20 or 30 minutes only, you won’t need to leave your work activity for 6-8 hours. Your clients will certainly be happy if you answer their emails whenever they need with no more than 30-minute delay. Besides, if you have appropriate health and working conditions for it, you might end up getting sleep of higher quality than 7 hours in a row, which are often interrupted and leave you tired after the long sleep.
#4. Is it Convenient? Is it Healthy?
Short answer: You might face the “social problem”, especially if your work conditions don’t allow you to take breaks for naps. Besides, health issues are also possible, but they aren’t universal and fully proved, so you need to consider your personal health condition.
Detailed answer: There are two main problems, which you might consider before you decide to adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule: social adaptation and health risk. The issue with the first one is simple: If you work in the 9-to-5 schedule in the office and you’re not so lucky to work in the company which has arranged napping rooms for its employees, perhaps you should either change your work schedule or abandon an idea to switch to polyphasic sleep. If you are a freelancer, you will have easier times adopting a polyphasic schedule, but you should still be prepared that the world outside you doesn’t live a polyphasic sleep lifestyle.
The second problem you might see is health risks. A fancy title “polyphasic sleep schedule” often means sleep deprivation, and lack of sleep is usually extremely detrimental to the health. It is debatable whether polyphasic sleep equals standard sleep deprivation, and scientists don’t agree on that. For example, scientist and sleep expert Piotr Woźniak warns about sleep disorders and, consequently, weakened health and increased anxiety as a result of adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule. However, many scholars don’t agree that polyphasic sleep is that bad and emphasize that most mammals sleep in a polyphasic manner, and many peoples also had this tradition before the Industrial Era. So an ultimate decision is up to you, your occupation and health condition.
#5. How Do I Adopt a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?
Short answer: Be consistent, don’t sleep more on weekends and don’t skip naps even if you have a lot of work. Switch to your new cycle gradually. Be prepared for difficulties, as well as for stopping this experiment when it’s bad for your health.
Detailed answer: Say, you’ve considered everything and decided to try a polyphasic sleep schedule. First, you need to pick one of the types we’ve told about earlier and be consistent once you fully adopt them. Don’t try to sleep 6 times for 20 minutes on weekdays and compensate it with 10 hours of monophasic sleep on Saturday and Sunday. At the same time, don’t skip your naps, especially if you are on dymaxion or uberman, because your body still needs to get at least some sleep. However, it is essential to change your sleep patterns gradually. For example, you can start with longer naps and then reduce their duration — or with more naps and then reduce their number. The same thing is with the duration of the core sleep segment if you’ve chosen the everyman cycle. Remember that the world is not limited to everyman, uberman, and dymaxion schedules only, you can develop your own cycle if you feel that it works better for you.
And just another important thing. Be prepared to difficulties when adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule. According to the guy who actually lived a polyphasic sleep schedule, it was relatively easy for them to follow it, but it was extremely difficult to adopt it. He “felt like a zombie” during the first week and could barely work. So the first thing you need to do if you want to adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule is to prepare yourself (and, of course, your family) to difficult times. You will get a beneficial reward if you do. But if you do not succeed and you feel that your health, family and/or social life suffer from it, please don’t torture yourself and terminate your experiment.
Anyway, you can try biphasic or any type of polyphasic sleep and choose the one which is the best for your well-being and health. If everything of it influences your physical health and psychological condition negatively, remember that good old monophasic sleep schedule is also not that bad!