Yesterday a good friend of mine brought up the subject of polyphasic sleep (having several periods of activity interrupted by intervening periods of sleep in each 24 hours). The Uberman polyphasic sleep schedule recommends only 2-3 hours of sleep each 24-hour period by suggesting six 20-30 minute “naps” equally spaced every 4 hours. Hmmmm, a theory certainly worthy of a reaction.
Now, I expect that the world is dominated by two beliefs regarding sleep: there are those that feel sleeping 1/3rd of your life away is an unfortunate, though necessary, use of time that could otherwise serve work and play; and those that feel sleep is an absolutely wonderful way to enjoy life and nine-hours/day is hardly enough of an indulgence. I happen to fall into the second category – and the first. Interestingly, this “Uberman schedule” claims to appeal to the best of both worlds.
My mind’s ever-raging quest for nap-time thought little of the possibilitey to mingle the two seemingly incongruous patterns of well restedness vs. sleep deprivation, though polyphasic sleep may do just that. Here’s my understanding of how it works: during a normal eight-hour sleep period our bodies cycle through five documented repeating stages of sleep (the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage and four non-REM stages). The repeated REM sleep stages total about 3 hours within these cycles and are responsible for nearly all of the benefits sleep provides (dreaming, mental re-orientation, body-regeneration, waking up a thinking there are insects overtaking your bed…or whatever I don’t really know); the remaining 5-hours is essentially filler providing plenty of time to snuggle with whomever/whatever is stealing most of the covers; polyphasic sleep aims to eliminate these “filler” sleep stages and focus purely on REM sleep by means of sleeping in 30-minute intervals of pure REM sleep six-times/day to total our required three-hours/day of REM.
Of course the added 5hrs/day of awake time is notable and quite extraordinary depending upon how one decides to spend this extra time. So too are some of the reported side-effects of this sleep pattern including heightened mental capacity and a craving for a healthier diet.
There are a few nasty bits: In during a “normal” eight-hour sleeping session usually it takes time (over 30 – 90 min) to fall in to REM sleep, to adapt to polyphasic sleep patterns our bodies must be trained to immediately begin REM as soon as we hit the pillow to maximize the benefit of the 30 min naps (done through a disorientating process of sleep deprivation); and the biggest downfall is the obviously unusual sleeping schedule that some employers of our modern day may show less than full support for (naps at 8:00a.m.. 12:00p.m., 4:00p.m. under your desk at the office may be frowned upon).
Well it sounds pretty interesting to me so I’ve decided to try it. In fact, I’m on my third day.
I’ll say this:
While napping on demand during the day may be most difficult exercise in the process preventing naps in the wee hours of the morning may be the most miserable.