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What Is A Polyphasic Sleep Schedule? Pros And Cons To Be Aware Of

Blog Sleep & Wellness
What Is A Polyphasic Sleep Schedule? Pros And Cons To Be Aware Of

Polyphasic sleep schedules involve snoozing in shorter intervals throughout the day, instead of trying to sleep uninterrupted through the night. With nearly a third of Americans today struggling with some form of sleep deprivation, it can be tempting to experiment with your sleep schedule and ‘hack’ your sleep cycle.

The truth is, good sleep is actually a lot simpler and more straightforward than that.

If you are thinking of experimenting with a polyphasic sleep schedule, it’s important to know both the pros and cons of this change in lifestyle. Here’s everything you need to know:

What Are Sleep Schedules?

Before we get into what polyphasic sleep involves, it can be useful to have an understanding of what sleep schedules are in the first place, and how they differ from sleep cycles. Our sleep schedules refer to the amount of time we might put aside to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep cycles, on the other hand, refer to the body’s internal clock, which dictates when you feel either tired or wakeful, as well as how you flow from the different stages of sleep while you’re in bed at night.

Not all sleep cycles are the same, and it’s normal for yours to change and adapt the deeper you’re resting. You might go through about four to six sleep cycles in a single night. These are composed of the different stages of sleep, including the three stages of NREM sleep, and REM sleep.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Sleep Schedules?

Different Kinds Of Sleep Schedules?

To decide on a sleep schedule that works best for you, it’s good to factor in your lifestyle, personal circadian rhythm, as well as your established sleep cycle.

While you might be familiar with one or two already, here’s a breakdown of the different types of sleep schedules people tend to adapt for their rest:

Monophasic Sleep

The most common of all sleeping patterns, this refers to sleeping for a long period of time, usually through the night, while staying up for a longer period through the day.

Biphasic Sleep

This sleep schedule is useful for those who find it hard to get long, uninterrupted sleep at night, such as new parents. It involves one longer block of sleep through the night, and a shorter nap or siesta sometime during the day.

Polyphasic sleep

As the name suggests, polyphasic sleep refers to sleepers who rest anywhere from four to six times a day. These sleep cycles might be most commonly present in shift workers, who do not have the time to sleep for extended periods of time.

There are a few different kinds of polyphasic sleep schedules:

  • Everyman: A main block of sleep of three hours or more (usually between 1:00 am to 4:00 am), followed by around three 20-minute nap breaks through the day.
  • Uberman: A main block of sleep that is three hours at most, followed by six 30-minute naps throughout the day - this variation was the brainchild of Marie Staver, a scientist and IT professional who claims increased energy levels and quicker REM sleep.
  • Dymaxion: The dymaxion schedule is the most popular form of the polyphasic sleep schedule, and also the most extreme. It was developed in the 1920s by American futurist and architect Buckminster Fuller. It requires four 30-minute naps every six hours, and only two hours of uninterrupted, ‘longer’ sleep.

Who Might Benefit From A Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?

Benefit From A Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?

The monophasic sleep schedule gained popularity only after the industrial revolution, when the 9-5 job arose and established itself as the norm. Historically, however, our hunter-gatherer cycles are actually used to more interruptive sleep cycles, and in some societies, polyphasic sleep schedules are still prevalent.

If you struggle with sleep deprivation, or find it hard to get uninterrupted sleep at night, you might benefit from a polyphasic sleep schedule. Some of the pros of adapting to this new kind of sleep schedule include:

  • Potentially increased productivity: polyphasic sleep schedules allow you many different pockets of the day within which to work. Many proponents of this way of sleeping suggest they experience more energy to get their work done.
  • Accommodating shift work: one of the most advantageous aspects of a polyphasic sleep schedule is how it can be adapted to the needs of someone employed in shift work. Whether you’re in healthcare or have to drive long distances for your work, this might work better for your lifestyle.
  • Potentially helps train your brain: Human beings are extremely adaptable creatures. Your sleep cycle can change and adapt to the different schedules, and for some, polyphasic sleep helps to train the brain into entering short-wave sleep faster.

What Are The Disadvantages Of A Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?

It’s important to be careful if you’re planning to adapt to a polyphasic sleep schedule. Not only is this form of sleeping deeply counter-intuitive to your body’s natural sleep cycle, it is also not very accommodating of most normal 9-5 schedules.

Here are some of the dangers of adapting to this style of sleep:

  • Causes sleep deprivation: If you’re finding yourself more tired, prone to headaches, and experiencing increased irritability after adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule, you’re likely sleep deprived. Uninterrupted sleep is useful when you’re allowing your body to go through the different cycles of sleep, so it’s important to try and accomplish this.
  • Might impact your hormones: Certain types of hormone production rely on day-night patterns, and can be disrupted if you experience interruptive sleep. This can include your thyroid hormones.
  • Difficult to sustain for long periods: Most people struggle to adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule, since it can accommodate periods of the day you need to be at work, or spend time with friends and family. If you’re in a relationship, changing your sleep schedule to one that’s different from your partner’s can be additionally challenging.

How To Sleep Better Without Disrupting Your Sleep Schedule?

How To Sleep Better Without Disrupting Your Sleep Schedule

Thankfully, good sleep doesn’t have to come with totally changing the way you rest. There are a few changes you can make almost immediately that can make a positive difference to the quality and quantity of your sleep.

These include:

  • Finding the best mattress for a good night’s sleep. Better sleep starts with the bed you lay on. Whether it’s a memory foam or hybrid mattress, finding the best mattress for your sleep can change the way you approach and experience sleep.
  • Create a calming bedtime routine. If you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep, it might help to create a bedtime routine that primes your body for deep rest. You can do this in many ways - taking a warm shower before you go to bed, having a warm cup of calming tea, or listening to your favorite sleep podcast as you wind down.
  • Avoid caffeine and overly fatty foods. Coffee and even certain kinds of tea can contain high amounts of caffeine, which disrupt the natural sleep cycle. The caffeine in your body can stay in your system for as long as eight hours afterwards, so try having your last cup of coffee at noon to avoid it disrupting your sleep.
  • Stay away from blue light. The blue light present in your phones and other devices can be disruptive to your circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. That’s because blue light disrupts melatonin production in the body, a hormone that primes the body for deep sleep.

It can be useful to understand how much your sleep schedule impacts your well-being. Making time for proper, deep rest can transform your mood, energy levels, and general productivity.

You might want to try and use a sleep calculator to determine the schedule that’s going to work best for you. Ultimately, everyone’s sleep schedules are different, and if you find a polyphasic sleep schedule works for you, then it’s important to listen to your body.

Whether it’s by switching to a new sleep schedule, or simply investing in a hybrid mattress that supports your body adequately, deep sleep is just a few changes away!

Your Turn...

Do you experiment with your sleep schedule? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.

Certified Sleep Science Coach

Written by Teresa Francis, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Teresa Francis is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and full-time writer focused on well-being and sleep health. She’s written on a variety of topics, from what’s trending in bedroom decor to the way lifestyle influences sleep. Some of the subject areas she covers for Puffy include the best foods for better sleep, how new parents can catch up on rest, and the best way to become a morning person. Teresa has a Master’s Degree in Literature, and has always believed in the power of a good bedtime story.

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