Polyphasic Sleep: More Time Thanks To A Different Sleep Pattern

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Healthy sleep is essential for each of us to stay fit during the day. It also gives the body the opportunity to recover from exertion, to regenerate and to recharge its batteries.

For this we go through different sleep phases and, according to scientific reports, should find between six and eight hours of sleep during the night.

Within the last few years, more and more reports have appeared in which people complain about sleep disorders. Many lie awake at night for several hours, others cannot fall asleep at all in the evening, or even need medication to help them.

According to statistics, every tenth employee suffers from insomnia. An alternative to treatment is to follow a different sleep pattern. Biphasic and polyphasic sleep serve as examples.

The following guide explains the basics of polyphasic sleep and also takes a closer look at other sleep patterns. At the same time, we would like to summarize how to get started most easily and the advantages of this form of sleep behavior.

The most important facts in brief

  • There are different sleep patterns to perform polyphasic sleep. Depending on the pattern, they contain up to six phases and last between 20 minutes and four and a half hours per phase.
  • Scientifically, there are no studies that classify polyphasic sleep as better or worse. However, many users say that they still stay fit and have more time in the day.
  • For the permanent implementation of polyphasic sleep, it is important to get used to it at the beginning, which should be done gradually.

Definition: What is polyphase sleep?

A person usually sleeps between six and eight hours a night, preferably continuously. From a scientific point of view, this seems to make sense.

The continuous sleep at night is also called monophasic sleep and is completely normal for an adult. If an additional midday sleep is taken, this is called biphasic.

Polyphasic sleep, on the other hand, is a sleep pattern in which daily sleep is divided into three to six units.

This means that the complete sleep time is distributed over several sleep episodes per day, which can last between 20 minutes and four and a half hours.

Within different reports the polyphasic sleep pattern has been described as the optimal sleep rhythm.

This is because it enables the user to sleep several times a day, which means that he or she can stay awake for longer and his or her performance is not reduced.

Depending on the model, a waking time of up to 22 hours per day is thus possible. In the following video you will find a short and concise explanation about polyphasic sleep:

Which different sleep phases are there?

The regular sleep rhythm of a person comprises four different phases, which we will list clearly in a table below and explain in more detail.

As far as the duration of the respective phases is concerned, phases 2 to 4 each last about one and a half hours, usually plus or minus ten minutes.

It is important for the body and its complete recovery that these sleep phases are always followed. Therefore, the sleep pattern usually takes six to eight hours.

If the corresponding phases are not observed and the sleeping person is awakened during the deep sleep phase, for example, this will result in him feeling tired all day long.

Backgrounds: What you should know about polyphase sleep

It is almost a sad fact nowadays that there are many people who consider sleep to be absolutely overrated.

Be it because they have no time for their family, their work, or other projects with which they fill their lives. The lifestyle of many people also formally demands that you change your sleep rhythm.

A big problem with normal sleeping habits is that if they are not followed, you will always feel exhausted the next morning.

As a result, there are absolute lows the following day, during which the body longs for the missing sleep.

Polyphasic sleep, on the other hand, goes one step further: Here, the user has several sleep units per day and does not sleep more than two to four hours overnight.

In this way, he promises to remain efficient throughout the day and instead spend even more hours in a waking state.

The polyphasic one goes back to a completely natural process: the regular sleep rhythm of a newborn child.

However, as far as adherence to the sleep phases listed above is concerned, this sleep pattern does not differ from the typical monophasic sleep rhythm.

Because during the settling-in period, the body is taught to structure both 20-minute power naps and a longer sleep phase after the regular sleep phases.

What is the benefit of a multiphase sleep?

As mentioned above, the users of polyphasic sleep expect this sleep pattern to give them more time during the day.
Depending on the distribution of sleep phases, you have up to 22 hours a day that you can spend in an awake state.
On the other hand, when observing monophasic sleep, a person is awake for up to 16 hours at most before his body demands new sleep.
The difference is that the user can be awake up to six hours longer without noticing a sleep deficit.

What are the disadvantages of polyphasic sleep?

Unfortunately, changing the sleep pattern also has a few disadvantages that should not be ignored.
Therefore we have listed below the difficulties that can occur during the implementation, or at least during the introduction phase:

Drastic loss of performance if a sleep phase is not observed.
Problems in finding undisturbed sleeping places
Often collides with the regular daily routine at work
Waking up without an alarm clock is usually no longer possible
Sleep phases often hinder travel or activities
Strength of symptoms depends on the amount of sleep phases

The typical drop in performance can also occur with a mono- and biphasic sleep rhythm, but is usually not as drastic.

In addition, it often leads to difficulties for the user when he is looking for a place to sleep where he can get the necessary rest.

Working or family people are often more likely to suffer from the new sleep pattern, because you cannot plan everything so that the next sleep phase does not get in your way.

Due to the difficulties listed above, it is therefore advisable to consider in detail, before making a change, to what extent the new sleeping behaviour could affect the rest of your life with family and job and to what extent it is therefore appropriate.

Are there experiences and studies on polyphasic sleep?

In terms of studies, there is relatively little research on polyphasic sleep that has been done so far.
Long-term studies are still not available. However, the Harvard Medical School has found out in a study that the performance can be significantly increased within the scope of a so-called Powernap.
Basically, someone who follows the polyphasic sleep pattern is doing exactly these powernaps.
Translated, this means something like: As much sleep as possible in a relatively short time. Within the study, such a Powernap lasted about 10 minutes.
As a comparison to the study, there are also several internet bloggers who have tested a switch to the polyphasic sleep pattern and reported on it.

Polyphase sleep: Practical application and advantages

If you seriously intend to adapt your sleep pattern to the polyphasic principle, you should first consider the different models.

They already contain suggestions as to how the respective sleep phases should be classified and, above all, how long they should ideally last.

In the following, we will therefore take a look at the possibilities for division and take a closer look at the respective sleep patterns.

How can you divide your own sleep?

Objectively speaking, people change their sleep pattern several times in the course of their lives.

Newborns already practice a form of polyphasic sleep, while a middle-aged adult switches to monophasic sleep.

In certain phases of life, however, it can also be normal to adopt a biphasic lifestyle. For example, older people usually do not mind taking a nap in the afternoon.

Even if two people follow the polyphasic sleep pattern, this does not mean that they also follow the same sleep phases.

Regardless of which model you choose, it is always advisable to allow for a transition period of up to two weeks to get used to the new environment. The body absolutely needs this time to adjust to the new conditions.

In the following we will take a closer look at the individual sleep patterns and consider how far polyphasic sleep fits in.

You can also monitor your sleep with a sleep tracker.

16 hours awake with the monophasic sleep

During monophasic sleep, humans spend up to eight hours in the different sleep phases.

So he only sleeps once a day and goes through the regular stages from the time he falls asleep to REM sleep.
This form of sleep pattern occurs in most adults.

18 hours awake with the biphasic sleep

The biphasic sleep is divided into at least two sleep units and usually includes the nightly sleep and an additional midday sleep.

People who follow this sleep pattern have a total sleep time of about six hours.

It is important to note that the nap can be cancelled for either 20 or 90 minutes. The main sleep phase at night should last four and a half hours if possible, so that a full cycle of the respective sleep phases is guaranteed

In addition to senior citizens, this sleep rhythm is also increasingly being used by young people. For them, the additional afternoon nap is an ideal opportunity to catch up on missed sleep.

20 hours awake with the Everyman sleep cycle

The “Everyman” sleep cycle can be carried out in different forms. It already belongs to the polyphasic sleep habits, but can be adapted to your own needs. These look as follows:

Model I

  • Nightly sleep time: 4.5 hours
  • Additional sleep episodes: 2 times 20 minutes
  • Total sleep time: 5.2 hours

Modell II

  • Nightly sleeping time: 3 hours
  • Additional sleep episodes: 3 times 20 minutes
  • Total sleep time: 4 hours

Model III

  • Nightly sleep time: 1.5 hours
  • Additional sleep episodes: 4 to 5 times 20 minutes
  • Total sleep time: 3 hours

During these sleep cycles it is already important to show a certain stamina.

It is all the more important to adhere to them, especially in the case of units that take place throughout the day, in order to avoid any loss of performance.

22 hours awake with the Dymaxion sleep pattern

Besides the Uberman principle, the Dymaxion sleep pattern is one of the sleep patterns that allow the greatest amount of “waking time”.

Here the user sleeps only two hours a day. During the procedure he takes a nap four times a day for up to 30 minutes.

In between, a break of six hours should always be observed.
The Uberman sleep cycle was invented by some Internet bloggers and has been the subject of much discussion in recent years.

It is the so-called “superhuman sleep cycle”, which also includes only two hours of sleep per day, but which is divided into six sleep units.

These last 20 minutes each and take place every four hours. Strict discipline is particularly important with this model.

Is there a polyphasic sleep calculator?

Unfortunately, there is no sleep calculator that is exclusively geared towards polyphasic sleep. However, the Internet offers dozens of ways to find out how much sleep is generally recommended for yourself.

With such computers, factors such as age, gender and the desired time to get up also play a role.
Once these are entered, the form calculates how long you should miss sleep and, above all, when the right time for sleeping has come. The calculators also take a slightly longer time to fall asleep into account, because everyone is different here.

With regard to polyphasic sleep, however, there is an option that can be taken up at the very beginning. This consists of the question: Am I myself suitable for polyphase sleep at all?
This question can become important, provided you have reached a certain age. Experience has shown, for example, that young or middle-aged people do not necessarily have difficulties with polyphase sleep.

Older people, on the other hand, find it very difficult to cope with this sleep rhythm and the sometimes energy-sapping adaptation.

Resources: The best entry points for polyphasic sleep

A person who has developed in the course of his life in such a way that monophasic sleep is normal for him must first go through an adaptation phase for polyphasic sleep.

For some this step is a little easier, for others it is a little more difficult. This ease depends not only on your age, but also on your condition.

The adaptation phase to polyphasic sleep usually takes about two weeks, but under certain circumstances it can be longer.

During these two weeks, the body learns to recover within 20 minutes while still going through the regular sleep phases.
It is clear that during the adaptation phase you will also have to force yourself to sleep. In many cases, however, the brain quickly gets used to adapting its own sleep behavior to the new conditions.

In order to make the start a little easier, the market offers additional possibilities that can be taken advantage of. Ideally, these consist of books or apps that not only provide tips, but also offer little help.

What known books are there about polyphasic sleep?

The market offers some books for getting used to polyphasic sleep. Here is a small list of books that are suitable for the changeover:

  • Alexander Richter – Better Sleep: More time, health, productivity and energy through restful sleep: A work, which is available in e-book format and reports on why polyphasic sleep can be useful. Tips, techniques and knowledge are imparted to improve the quality of sleep immensely.
  • Tilmann Müller & Beate Paterok – Training sleep successfully: The authors inform about sleep problems and how they can be solved in a meaningful way. Exercises and tips complete the work on sleep compression.
  • PureDoxyk – Ubersleep: An English work, which was created by the creator of the so-called “Uberman” principle. The e-Book gives a deeper insight into various sleep techniques and how to strengthen them permanently.

The books prove to be especially practical, as you can read the knowledge and apply it for yourself.

The authors each report their own experiences and how they dealt with problems during the settling-in period.

Thus, the presented books offer a perfect pool of information to change your own sleep rhythm.

Apps for polyphasic sleep

Especially the market of apps offers so many possibilities to change the sleep rhythm almost effortlessly.

Some contain tips as well as explanations, others are mainly helpful for the classification of the respective Powernaps.

The respective apps are available for both Android and iOS. What should also be mentioned here is the compatibility with fitness wristbands or smart watches.

If the apps are installed on one, they can provide even more precise results in an analysis and thus create the conditions for a successful project.

Conclusion

Polyphasic sleep is only one of several sleep patterns. Basically, it corresponds to the sleep rhythm of a newborn baby that always sleeps when it is tired.
For adults, however, this system is a little more regulated. Experienced users can stay awake up to 22 hours a day with polyphase sleep and experience no loss of performance.

However, strict discipline and adherence to the respective sleep phases are also indispensable for this success.

However, it is important to allow yourself enough time to adjust to the new pattern. Helpful gadgets such as fitness watches or smart watches, together with the right app, help you get started. Books are also a good source of information.

Despite all the positive qualities of polyphasic sleep, it is always important to listen to your own body.

There are certainly people who cannot cope with the episodic sleep behavior despite careful acclimatization and sooner or later the body demands the missing sleep.

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