Sleep – Monophasic, Biphasic, Polyphasic

There will be sleeping enough in the grave. -Benjamin Franklin

Polyphasic Sleep is when sleep occurs at more than one point in the 24-hour cycle. Otherwise known as napping, it is possible to shorten the length of sleep for all sleep periods and end up with less time overall spent sleeping. The reason this is possible, is that the sleep periods (theoretically) become more efficient in delivering the kind of sleep needed for restfulness. Power-napping is another term for this, but the power part comes from a compression of sleep stages.

Oc Ane

Some people are able to supposedly get by on 3 hours of sleep this way, and it has been ascribed to such people as Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill among others.

Benefits of Sleeping Less and More Often

The purported benefits besides an increase in available time (quantity) include as well quality indicators such as increased alertness, creativity and health. However these benefits have been (somewhat) debunked on Supermemo. The main issue that they take with this practice is that sleep deprivation is necessary in order to entrain one's sleep pattern.

Naturally Polyphasic

This is obviously true... Or is it? If my current sleep pattern is not actually natural (quite a bit of historical as well as EEG evidence that humans are naturally diphasic).

Extreme Sleep Conditions

In extreme situations such as battlefields and extreme adventure sports, sleeping less is mandatory for success. Enter the Uberman (aka Superman, Uebermensch).

Uberman Sleep Schedule

The rather heroic Uberman sleep schedule, which is 20-30 minutes of sleep every four hours, is not something I am going to try for. I don't need that much of a change and also, there doesn't seem to be much room for error there regarding the actual function of sleep. Instead, all I need to do as a result is one more hour of productivity without any loss of energy/alertness, etc. I intend to do more reading and more exercise during this time bonus, if and when it arrives.

Five Interval Sleep Phase

My initial experiment (beginning 11-AUG-2012) will be one hour sleep periods five times per day, at approximately:

  • 8am-9am
  • 1pm-2pm
  • 6pm-7pm
  • 11pm-12am
  • 3am-4am

This fits my schedule which is fairly flexible, but needs a 4am wakeup for early morning running, a 10am-12pm classes and 3pm meetings several times per week. This also allows me to have an early dinner (at 5pm) or late dinner (7pm+), and not need to sleep at night until 11pm. Also this would allow me to do a late night dancing from midnight to 3am (which my current monophasic sleep does not allow).

Updates on Sleep Experiment

  • Day 1: Took the naps during the day, and had more energy, but got tired (as always) later in the evening. Slept from 11pm-4am. Which means I had 8 hours of sleep (which is more than I usually do). Therefore slept more, ate more, and had more energy.
  • Day 2: Similar to day 1. Took naps (the 2pm was difficult, only 30 minutes and got back up). Instead of the 6pm nap, went for a two hour Thai massage. Then to bed at 10:30pm. Heard the 1am alarm but ignored it. Heard the 3am alarm (to nap again), thought of getting up, but didn't. Heard the 4am alarm and then stayed in bed. Got up at 5am for the run. This mean 8.5 hours of sleep. Even more!
  • Day 3: ...

Conclusion on Sleep

I've learned this isn't going to work out, I am sleeping more, not less. And there are times I put off the nap, can't get to sleep, can't wake up easily, and also the habit of sleeping through much of the night. However, my awareness of sleep and its effect has dramatically increased. There are some studies which conclude that modern man is basically sleep-deprived and this has disastrous effects regarding accident rates, attention in the workplace, not to mention basic physical well-being.

I've come to realize, especially at my advancing age in the upper 40s, that sleep and naps should be grabbed at every reasonable opportunity.