This week I started sleeping polyphasically.
Seeing as I’ve had explained this to a few people lately, here’s a quick FAQ to explain my craziness.
What is polyphasic sleep?
A polyphasic sleep pattern is one where your regular sleep pattern is broken into three or more sessions per day. This is opposed to monophasic (normal, 8 hours straight through the night) sleep.
Why would you do such a thing?
One reason to have a polyphasic sleep pattern is that it can radically reduce the amount of sleep that you need. Another reason is that it means that your energy can be more consistent throughout the day.
How does it work?
The two most popular patterns are:
Uberman: 6 naps of 20 minutes (one every 4 hours exactly) for a total of 2 hours of sleep per day.
On Uberman your brain becomes very sensitive to sleep. If you miss a nap by half an hour, it is supposed to feel like you haven’t slept a night. It also requires you to have a very specific lifestyle, most people can’t find a way to get out of whatever they are doing every 4 hours to nap.
Everyman 3: 3 hours “core” sleep and 3 naps of 20 minutes, for a total of 4 hours of sleep per day. (This is the schedule that I am trying).
The Everyman schedule is much more reasonable than Uberman. You sleep for 3 hours (meaning that you can actually go to bed like normal people) and then just wake up much earlier than most. After the 3 hour sleep, you just need to make sure that you get three 20 minute naps in throughout the day. My schedule is: Sleep from 1AM-4AM, and then 20 min naps at 8AM, 12PM and 6PM.
How is this possible?
The theory on why it works, is that as we sleep we go through 3 basic stages, light, REM, and deep sleep. There are lots of theories on what each one does, but the prevailing (simplified) version is:
REM: Restores cognitive function.
Deep sleep: Restores physical function
Light sleep: (nobody knows for sure)?? safety ?? energy conservation?? ??
Polyphasic sleepers believe that the light sleep is actually just filler sleep, or if it did serve functions (like saving energy so that we don’t have to hunt so much or by making it easier to wake up to danger) it is a function that we don’t need anymore.
My theory is that the brain finds it difficult to sustain REM (maybe we would go insane if our dreams were 4 times longer) or deep sleep, so it needs something to do while it rests.
By getting your REM and deep sleep in different chunks throughout the day, polyphasic sleepers can reduce the amount of light sleep they get, while not being deprived of the very important REM and deep sleep.
Don’t you NEED 8 hours of sleep to be healthy?
My take on this is that if you are not feeling tired, then you are getting enough sleep. If you’re sleeping only 4 hours a day and you have lots of energy and don’t feel tired, then clearly your body is getting enough sleep. Lots of people sleep less than 8 hours naturally, there seems to be a large genetic variation already on how much people sleep, so the 8 hours is really one of those made up numbers (kind of like the 8 glasses of water a day one).
What do the SCIENTISTS have to say?
There was one study, like 25 years ago and although deeply flawed (only one participant, non-optimal polyphasic schedule) had promising results. Then… nothing.
Many sleep scientists think it’s an internet hoax and not worth looking into. I think the problem is that it is just too hard to study.
How am I doing?
I feel fantastic. According to all my reading, I’m supposed to feel a lot more tired at this stage than I do now. Waking up from my naps is super easy. I still have stages where I feel like when I normally had around 6 hours and getting up at 4 AM still feels like getting up at 4 AM but hopefully that goes away when I’m fully adapted.