Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Do you know you can sleep for just 2-3 hours a day and still be productive mentally and physically? Well, at least, that is what the polyphasic sleep schedule proposes.
Imagine how much work you can get done in a day if only you could spend fewer hours snoozing. This article will elaborate on the polyphasic sleep schedule and the possible effects of this pattern of sleep on your health.
What is a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?
The polyphasic sleep schedule is not a well-known sleep pattern, unlike the monophasic sleep schedule, which involves sleeping once a day for about 7-9 hours.
The polyphasic sleep pattern involves more than two periods of sleep per day. These periods consist of brief naps throughout the day and night.
Also, many people follow a biphasic sleep pattern that involves splitting one’s sleep time into two halves. Typically, people who follow the biphasic sleep pattern have an afternoon nap and a period of shut-eye at night.
Adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule does not necessarily translate to a reduction in the total number of hours one spends sleeping; instead, the total sleep duration is split into many short periods of sleep throughout the day. However, many individuals adopt this sleep pattern to reduce their sleeping time.
The polyphasic sleep schedule is usually adopted by those whose jobs require them to be awake virtually all day or those who work irregular hours.
Additionally, babies typically have a polyphasic sleep pattern; however, this reverts to a monophasic or biphasic pattern as they grow.
Types of Polyphasic Sleep Schedules
There are many ways one could implement a polyphasic sleep schedule. However, three major polyphasic sleep schedules are recognized.
Very little is known about the efficacy of these sleep patterns, as there is little or no evidence to support that these sleep schedules are more advantageous than monophasic sleep schedules. They include:
- The Uberman Sleep Schedule: Typically, this schedule involves taking a 20-minute nap once every four hours for a total of 2 hours daily. Alternatively, one can take eight naps at various points during the day.
- The Everyman Sleep Schedule: This sleep plan involves one stretch of sleep lasting three hours per night, followed by three shorter naps lasting twenty minutes each, spaced out throughout the day. The total sleep duration for this schedule is 4 hours.
- The Triphasic Sleep Schedule: This sleeping schedule aims to align one’s waking hours with the 24-hour cycle. It involves taking three 90-minute naps throughout the day. The first nap should be taken an hour or two after dusk, the second should be between thirty minutes and an hour before dawn, and the third and final nap should be taken between one and four in the afternoon. This sleep plan provides 4-5 hours of sleep in a day.
Benefits of a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule
There is little or no scientific proof that switching to a polyphasic sleep schedule is better than a monophasic or biphasic one.
Sleep experts suggest no evidence that one’s body would adjust to getting very little sleep. However, in certain circumstances, polyphasic sleep schedules may be beneficial. The proposed benefits of polyphasic sleep patterns include:
- Increased Performance: People who follow the polyphasic sleep schedule claim that it improves their performance at work, attentiveness, and memory. However, there is no reliable evidence to back up these statements. It’s possible that sleeping for fewer hours creates a feeling of increased productivity because one has more time to complete tasks rather than an actual increase in productivity.
- Irregular Work Schedules: For persons with an irregular work schedule, such as shift work or jobs requiring one to stay up all through the night, polyphasic sleep cycles may be more effective than monophasic sleep schedules.
- Vivid Dreams: A study suggests that the polyphasic sleep pattern is associated with increased vivid dreams, making this sleep pattern more helpful if you want more vivid dreams.
Negative Effects of a Polyphasic Sleep Pattern
Typically, the polyphasic sleep schedule decreases the total amount and quality of sleep. Reduced duration and quality of sleep can have many harmful effects on one’s health. Here are some of them:
- Sleep Deprivation: The sleep duration provided by polyphasic sleep schedules does not meet up to the required amount of sleep a person needs to stay healthy. People who follow this sleep pattern may be sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can harm one’s physical and mental health.[8, 9] Additionally, sleep deprivation can lead to slower reaction time and increase the risk of road traffic injuries.
- Altered Circadian Rhythm: The polyphasic sleep schedule alters one’s typical circadian rhythm, which is responsible for one’s sleep-wake cycle. These alterations reduce sleep quality and academic performance, and increase susceptibility for developing health problems.
Should You Adopt a Polyphasic Sleep Pattern?
Adopting a polyphasic sleep schedule may hurt your sleep and health. However, a polyphasic sleep pattern may help you get your required amount of sleep if you work shifts or have an irregular work schedule.
For instance, you can sleep 4 to 5 hours before your shift and take brief naps to get up to the recommended hours of sleep. However, you should not keep this up for an extended period.
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