So, first off – what do we mean by the term “Polyphasic Sleep”? Well, we can say that ‘poly’ is ‘multiple’, and ‘phasic’ is descriptive of *phases*; therefore, we are talking about sleeping in “multiple phases”.
Still a tad obscure? Let’s think of the Siesta (like we discussed in Inemuri & Siesta – Method Behind the Madness)… Normally, with siestas we’re taking a long nap in the middle of the day, but then still getting the majority of our sleep/rest in at night.
Typically, you’d sleep about 90mins (to get in a real siesta, which also reaps one full Circadian Cycle), then you might also go to bed later and get 6 hours sleep throughout the night. You’re total sleep time for a given 24hr period would then be 7.5 hours of sleep, just split between two bouts / rounds / *phases*.
This method is very common around the world, and is what is referred to as ‘Biphasic’ (“Bi-” meaning ‘Two’, hence two phases of sleep). In many Mediterranean countries this is simply custom that is woven into the proverbial fabric of their culture.
Now, of course, most of the English-speaking world adheres to a ‘Monophasic’ sleep pattern – we go to bed for one large bout of sleep per day. Some of us get in 6 hours per night, others swear they need no less than eight or nine…
Fact is, as long as you are getting in *complete* Circadian rhythms, there’s nothing to show that 9hrs is better than 6hrs or vice versa – it all comes down to allowing your body to complete its 90min cycle so you don’t wake up in the middle of Deep Sleep (the point at which your sleep-inducing hormones are at their highest levels, and so, waking up at this time is rendered the most difficult!).
But let’s deep-dive a little more here, because Monophasic & Biphasic are very simple, and there are other [more interesting] Sleep Patterns/Phases that we can analyze!
We’re going to explore three more, and they’re referred to as:
Let’s start at the end there – with Dymaxion. This schedule was the brainchild of a man named Buckminster Fuller. Now the notion here may sound totally foreign to most of us, but bear with me. So, with the Dymaxion model, we’re sleeping in four [micro?] phases. The idea is to take four 30min naps throughout the day, with 5.5hrs of “awake time” in between each.
This is can be relatively hard to adhere to for a number of reasons – the two most obvious being: a) having a total of 2hrs sleep per day surely cannot be sufficient for Rest & Recovery; and b) the model is completely devoid of any Deep Sleep – as 30mins is only enough time to reap the benefits of a brief nap, but not enough to elevate our sleep hormones to a level high enough for Deep Sleep.
Now, I experimented with this model a number of years ago… granted, in the eyes of purists, I probably bastardized it… but the results worked [for ME]. I simply maintained what is essentially a ‘Quadriphasic’ template (so, consisting of four phases), but introduced full Circadian rhythms. That is to say, that instead of four bouts of 30min naps, I slept for four 1.5hr rounds.
This allowed me to reach a state of Deep Sleep each time. It was a little strange at first, but worked nicely when my body adapted (which took about a week). I did this for about three weeks, but then returned to a Biphasic pattern – I was living in Spain at the time, so the 90min Siesta I mention above along with 6hrs sleep at night (2am to 8am) worked better with my schedule.
The next one I want to take a look at here is the Uberman schedule, as this is – again – a simple model. It involves SIX phases (‘Hexaphasic’? Not a real word, but you get the idea)… So, this takes Dymaxion a little further in terms of adding in more naps, but actually now we’re reducing the nap time!
Again, if I refer back to my Inemuri article for a moment – 20min naps are a thing! Remember – in Japanese culture it is quite acceptable to simply take a quick twenty minute nap right in the middle of your shift (though there are social paradigms that dictate how and when this is appropriate!). And again, look at companies like Google and Apple – who are taking a leaf out of our Far Eastern brethren’s book by allowing employees to do the same with Sleep Pods.
Anyhow, let’s get back to Uberman! So, the increased frequency of naps could make this a more doable sleep schedule for anyone interested in trying Polyphasic Sleep, however, a lot of this comes down to one’s ability to *feel* adequately rested with just a 20min nap (albeit it multiple throughout the day).
Not gonna lie, although I CAN feel the benefits of an Inemuri-style nap, this is usually on a once-in-the-day basis. I don’t believe I could personally adhere to the Uberman schedule as it simply involves breaking up the day into too many segments (taking a nap every four hours); unless you work from home, it isn’t the most practical.
Clearly, I’m playing Devil’s Advocate with these Polyphasic models as I want you to know that they exist, and how you can implement them, but not necessarily say that you should be doing one version or another.
The last one I want to take a look at here today is the Everyman schedule. This is another Quadriphasic sleep pattern, but this time with some *complete* Circadian rhythms being achieved.
This is probably the best place to start (beyond the simple Biphasic model of “Sleep & Siesta”), as it incorporates THREE Inemuri-style naps and ONE decent sized bout of sleep (for three hours). Best thing is to literally illustrate this one for you, so if you look at the graphic below, you’ll see it is the one in the middle:
What I like about the Everyman schedule is that you have these briefer naps that prevent the likelihood of “accidently” slipping into Deep Sleep, but then you’re also getting a real bout of sleep/rest/recovery in there with that three-hour round; this is two full cycles of the Circadian rhythm, and that in and of itself makes the schedule more adherable.
These ‘5 standards’ are the most commonly used sleep schedules that people around the world use – regardless of cultural customs or whatnot. There are other models/patterns/schedules that you can find (some that have *8* phases, there are other variations of Biphasic, and so on), but if you’re new to this concept, then the ones I have gone into here today are the best ones to experiment with.
NB: If you have any sleep-related health issues (insomnia, for example), or take any medication that makes sleep somewhat difficult, then be sure to consult your Doctor or Physician before making any amendments to your sleeping habits. Polyphasic Sleep may be a solution for you, or it may have negative effects, so be prudent and get the green light from your Doctor first!
That’s all for today’s post – I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and if you do decide to try Polyphasic Sleep, then I hope that it works well for you and your Rest & Recovery!
I’ll catch you in the next post, but in the meantime, remember: Love life, and love yourself!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO