Polyphasic Sleep: What Is It And Is It Healthy?


Sleep is an integral part of the lifestyle that influences quality of life and overall health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of seven hours of sleep to adults. Nonetheless, the challenges of balancing time with today’s hectic pace of living make it impossible to get the required amount of sleep. Unsurprisingly, 70 million people in the U.S. have reported chronic sleep problems and one-third of all adults have inadequate sleep every day.

Studies suggest that there is link between quality of sleep and the levels of anxiety.

The toll lack of sleep takes on health is heavy. Sleep disorders can cause chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, mental health problems and decline in productivity. And not to mention the rise in healthcare costs. On account of this epidemic of sleeplessness, researchers have studied various sleep patterns, including those of our ancestors who did not sleep continuously through the night.

There are three main types of sleeping patterns in terms of the hours spent each day in slumber. First is the monophasic sleep pattern. Monophasic sleeper is someone who sleeps through the night for about six to nine hours. Second is the biphasic sleep pattern. Biphasic sleepers are people who sleep in two phases within 24 hours, each period amounting to three to four hours.

Lastly, the polyphasic sleep pattern, which is the most sporadic, spanning twenty to thirty minutes of multiple power naps, taken in five to six intervals in a 24-hour time period. In total, the naps would amount to about three to four hours of sleep. Leonard Da Vinci is a famous person in the past who adhered to this sleeping pattern.

Polyphasic Sleep

This pattern can be adopted according to preferences. For instance, three power naps can be followed with uninterrupted sleep for a few hours. Dividing the segments is up to each individual’s needs. Proponents believe that the polyphasic sleep can help people go into the REM phase of sleep quicker because of the intermittent resting period that is making them sleepier.

There are more sub-classifications of the polyphasic sleeping pattern. They are the uberman, everyman and dymaxion.

The uberman schedule is consists of only three hours of sleep spread across the day, by taking six 30-minute-long naps as many times as one wishes. Everyman is the schedule consisting of a three-hour long uninterrupted sleep, following multiple 20-minute power naps during the day. Lastly, there is the dymaxion schedule, which is consisted of 30-minute-long power naps for every six hours in a day. Therefore, surviving with only two hours of sleep.

The Risks

Lack of sleep is linked to lowering immunity as well as life expectancy. According to the National Sleep Foundation, short naps cannot substitute a full night’s sleep, though it can improve alertness and moods temporarily.

Importantly, intermittent sleeping patterns disrupt the body clock and natural circadian rhythms. There is no long-term research on the subject till date and much of the positive outcomes have been anecdotal. Some of the side effects of sleep deprivation and polyphasic sleeping habits are lower cognitive function, memory loss, unpredictable blood sugar rise and falls, hormonal imbalances and changes with regards to appetite or hunger.

Furthermore, teenagers and children need eight to 10 hours of sleep daily. Polyphasic sleeping can affect the release of the growth hormone, which is essential to young children. Likewise, in case you do miss an entire night’s sleep, just take one power nap during the day. There is no need to become a full-blown polyphasic sleeper to cope with sleep deprivation.

(Provided by Real Simple)

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