What is a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?
It is well understood that 7-9 hours of sleep per night is ideal for living a long and healthy life. Anything less or more can hinder your cognitive abilities and be detrimental to your health. In regards to our sleep cycle, we understand it to be monophasic (sleeping once per 24 hours). Some cultures have adopted a biphasic sleep schedule, which incorporates a midday nap or siesta. Both of these sleep schedules are ideally suited to coincide with our natural circadian rhythms, but what happens if they want to adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule?
Polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping more than 2 times during a 24-hour period. Polyphasic sleep does not imply there is a specific sleep schedule or pattern, but there have been schedules designed to best take advantage of this form of sleeping. There are 3 formulations of polyphasic sleep schedules that have been designed to best fit both a person’s sleep needs and schedule. They are the Everyman, Dymaxion and Uberman schedules.
Dymaxion: Consists of four 30 minute naps spread 6 hours apart, again start to start. Ex: 6am, 12pm, 6pm, and 12am.
Everyman: Consists of a core sleep period of about 3 hours and then three naps spread roughly evenly apart throughout the day. Ex: 4-7am, then 12:30pm, 6pm, and 11:30pm.
There have not been many studies and research done on polyphasic sleep schedules, so whether adhering to such a sleep routine has health consequences or benefits, it is fairly uncertain. Most sleep studies are conducted on monophasic or biphasic sleep routines, leading to the understanding that we have 5 stages of sleep which cycle every 90 minutes, and 7-9 hours of sleep is ideal.
When using a polyphasic sleep schedule, it is said your body adapts to a shortened time of rest, allowing your mind to enter into the restorative REM sleep upon falling asleep. You will wake up from your nap feeling refreshed and energized as if you had slept a full 8 hours. Abiding to a polyphasic sleep schedule is said to add roughly 10 waking years to your life. You will only sleep 2-5 hours per 24-hour period.
Although these seemingly unorthodox sleep schedules increase the amount of time you have in your day, there is no conclusive evidence that it is good or bad for your health. Many blogs and reports of individuals who have experimented with these sleep schedules speak of an adjustment period that is for the strong minded and report no negative health effects. These are personal accounts and are not done by professionals in a controlled environment.
We do not condone polyphasic sleep mainly because there is little evidence on the effects of these sleeping patterns. We do not recommend these sleep schedules and urge you to speak to your doctor about possible health effects if you want to try them.