Polyphasic Sleep - What's That?

Monday, 05. December 2016

Polyphasic Sleep - What's That?

Imagine that you only need to sleep two hours a night, but you'd wake up feeling fit as if those two hours were eight. What would you do with all that extra time?

Recently so-called polyphasic sleep cycles studies have been popping up on the Internet. In extreme cases, as the theory goes, you only need to sleep for a total of 2 hours per day, divided into several short naps.  It is even said that you could have much more energy by dividing up your sleep like this. But is that even possible?

The fact is, our sleep patterns change several times over the course of our lives. Babies sleep several times a day for a short time, grown people usually need one long sleep phase. At old age this may change again. Older people sleep less during the night but like a nap during the day. 

What sleep patterns are there?

Monophasic sleep

This kind of sleep is the most common worldwide today for adults. The day is divided here into a waking period of around 16 hours and a sleep period of 8 hours.

Biphasic sleep patterns

This pattern is widespread especially in southern countries and in the elderly. One nighttime sleep phase of about six hours is supplemented with a nap of about 20 minutes. There is also the schema of a nighttime sleep of 4.5 hours and a 1.5 hours nap.

Everyman sleeping patterns

Now it's getting interesting. This sleep pattern has a short night sleep phase (min 1.5 - max. 4.5 hours.) It is complemented by two to five naps of 20 minutes, which are spread throughout the day. The sleep time can be shortened in extreme cases to three hours per day.

Dymaxion

This term is an acronym that means "dynamic maximum tension". As you can see from the graph, you sleep four times a day for 30 minutes, for a total of two hours. The naps have to be taken strictly every six hours.

Uberman

This is similar to the sleep patterns when you sleep for only two hours a day, but in this case you sleep once every four hours for 20 minutes, for six very short sleep phases.

In Theory..

After a transition period of two to three weeks, the body comes should fall immediately into REM sleep. Since this sleep phase is considered to be important for regeneration, polyphasic sleepers assume that extreme models like the Dymaxion are sufficient for the mind and the body to recover properly. Achieving the maximum number of REM sleep cycles in as little total sleep time as possible can be achieved using this model but experts agree that the sleep cannot only be made up of REM cycles. Since there are not long term studies available, no-one knows for sure. 

Is two hours of sleep still healthy?

Two hours of sleep sound very unhealthy at first. Everyone knows that too little sleep is bad for your health. Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies to support polyphasischem sleep. The subject is simply too new, which is why science is not interested in it. On the Internet you can find many self-reported observations discussing many side effects. Missing one nap could be a really big deal.

In addition, the transitional period in which one starts the new sleeping pattern is extremely difficult. You feel constantly tired, and cranky and your performance drops off dramatically, not allowing you to concentrate. If you have survived these two to three weeks, you may feel a change in self-perception. In addition, many people report alternating phases between euphoria and extreme fatigue.

Are extreme sleep patterns sustainable?

Again and again there are reports in which individuals claim to have slept in a polyphasic cycle for months. Eventually people give up when the cycle gets too tiring. This is a clear sign that these people are not getting enough sleep. 

In the world of sports, you can find such extreme models more frequently. For example, athletes who participate in multi-day bicycle races or marathons often use polyphasic sleep patterns. This keeps their performance stable even with drastically reduced sleep. However, the periods where they sleep like this are relatively short. Almost no professional athletes would maintain this sleep pattern for months.

So the monophasic sleep model is the best?

Before the invention of the light bulb, the biphasic sleep or sometimes a triphasic sleep cycle were most common.

Conclusion

Most reports of polyphasic sleeping end with the termination of the experiment. The most common reason, besides lack of sleep, is that the model simply is not practical. Very few of us can balance this schedule with work or our social lives. 

Basically it also comes down to the question:

What would you do with yourself in the middle of the night when all the shops are closed, all the other people are sleeping, and you're bored? Sleeping would be a idea ;)