A few days ago I came across a blog talking about Polyphasic sleep, the name already interested me as I have never heard of it and then a question got me even more curious: Could we manage sleeping only 2-3 hours a day?
But, then I remembered something I read a few weeks ago about how important sleep is to us, a human can basically go a whole week without food before starving, but a week without sleep would kill you. So sleep was important, making my all-nighter choices sound even more stupid. But, how much sleep do we really need? It gets confusing for me, on one news article I read that people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. No more, no less. But what about the naps? I still remember the naps I used to take as a child in Bolivia ranging from 45 min to an hour in the afternoon before going swimming – also known as a siesta. This nap powered me up for my training and I was then a bi-phasic sleeper. Others say naps should be forbidden – they mess up your whole system. Of course sleep is crucial for our brains to work as best as they can and I have always gotten the advice to be rested and if possible ‘just have woken up’ before and exam. Which, I must admit, do help.
And, according to the Polyphasic Sleep you have quite a few moments in the day to wake up. Polyphasic sleep consists of taking multiple ‘naps’ throughout a 24-hour time period instead of having the usual 7-8-9-10 hour sleep at night, known as monophasic sleep where you sleep in one time (another neat word). Another, more extremer form is the Uberman sleep schedule (which some claim is used by the military), where you sleep for 20-30 minutes six times on a 24-hour time period. The schedule followed by Steve Pavlina (the blogger I found who tried Polyphasic Sleep) was being awake for 3.5 hours and sleeping for 20-30 minutes throughout a 24-hour time period.
Pros & Cons
Being awake for 3.5 hours meant you had little time to do large projects or chores. You could extend the 3.5 hours of waking time, otherwise you would experience a big crash in your routine, kind of like doing an all-nighter and having to stay up late the following night as well. When you’re awake in the ‘night hours’ with monophasic sleepers around you…well… you’ll be pretty alone. I was thinking I could maybe walk my dog during those night hours, but he’s more of a bi-phasic sleeper I think. Reading and doing something on your laptop (you may have thought of catching up on work) was not thought of as a good idea, because you would only get yourself more tired, you needed to do something engaging – at midnight, while everyone is sleeping.
Also, think about your life style, if you work at a 9-5 job, I don’t think they have beds available for the few that may be Polyphasic sleepers. Same goes for schools. And, if your hanging out with friends, you would have to ‘leave’ them every 3.5 hours to go take your nap.
Ok, at this point I think the option of being a Polyphasic sleeper is off the table. Too complicated. Too much work. But, studies – or people who tried it – have seen many benefits that one should keep in mind. More free time. More productivity. How many times have we (especially me) wished that a day had more hours (although I also wished that for mornings so I could sleep more). Also, giving your brain regular ‘breaks’ in between a 24 hour time period is also good, most of us say we take a break, but really, our brains just keep on thinking or stressing about the last meeting, conversation, deadline – you name it. Once your brain is able to re-charge for quite a few time throughout the day it will be able to work at its optimum during those 3.5 hour periods (now we’re talking). People who have tried to adjust to a Polyphasic sleep have said to feel great and more energetic. Which I can believe.
Adjusting your sleep schedule
Adjusting to another sleep schedule can take up to a month and according to people who have already tried adjusting you are definitely a walking zombie for the first 1-2 weeks. And, like every new thing, it’s a question of not stopping and to keep on trying. So, you also have to be very disciplined. This Polyphasic sleep has definitely gotten my attention. My sleep schedules have probably changed a hundred times and I have suffered from the occasional counting sheep until 1000 nights already. Falling asleep is sometimes an issue, but that is mainly due to me thinking too much about something. Then again, a Polyphasic sleep also proves that you learn to fall asleep immediately. Steve Pavlina has claimed that he could fall asleep within a second if he was in bed and thought ‘time to sleep.’ That itself is also a benefit. Could Monophasic sleep be one of the causes of insomnia?
For me, trying Polyphasic slep is also part of my curiosity, does it work? Do the claimed benefits really come with adjusting your sleep schedule?