Polyphasic Sleeping

Polyphasic (Poly meaning "multiple", phasic meaning "distinguished parts") sleep is the practice of sleeping multiple times during a "day". Most humans are monophasic sleepers, who rest in a single, 8 hour block. Polyphasic sleep tends to yeild a lower amount of time spent sleeping throughout the day, but can plausibly supply the necessary components of sleep to avoid unhealthy sleep deprivation.

The idea behind polyphasic sleep is two-fold: first, while the benefits of sleep are necessary for health, there are shorter and more efficient ways to access them than to sleep for 8 hours straight, and second, the body can eventually adapt to persistence in a different sleep schedule.

The process of adaptation comes about when one simply chooses to stop sleeping as they have been, and start sleeping on a new schedule. At first, the new schedule will not give the body enough sleep, and chances are that it will bring about (sometimes extreme) sleep deprivation. However, if the individual has enough self-discipline to stick to the new schedule, then the body will begin to figure out ways to get the necessary parts of sleep within the shortened naps. Usually this involves falling asleep faster, going more quickly into the more valuable stages of sleep (such as "deep sleep" and the invaluable Rapid Eye Movement sleep), and a shift in the timing of sleep-inducing hormones released by the body.

There are multiple types of polyphasic sleep schedules, with varying amounts of sleep in varying intervals. The most common non-monophasic sleep pattern is biphasic sleep, which involves a long rest of about 4.5 hours at night, and an afternoon nap or siesta of up to 1.5 hours. A "core sleep" and a single nap seems to be the most natural form of polyphasic sleep; while citizens of the world don't necessarily aim to minimize their time spent sleeping, siesta-like naps (usually with a longer core sleep) are regularly practiced in Spain, South American Latin countries, South and Southeast Asia, Greece, Serbia, and Slovenia. Adapting to biphasic sleep has the advantage of requiring a fairly mild adaptation period, which as been described as having jet-lag for a week.

Sleep Schedules
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This diagrams some of the more well known sleep schedules. Mine is diagrammed in the bottom-right corner.

The next most common is the "Everyman" sleep schedule, which is much less prevalent since it requires a longer and more difficult adaptation than biphasic sleep. The Everyman involves a core sleep of 3-4.5 hours, and between two and five 20 minute naps throughout the day. This schedule has the advantage of drastically increasing the amount of time spent awake, while also remaining fairly flexible in the timing and frequency of the naps. This also seems to be plausible as a long-term schedule, as there are multiple individuals who have kept this pattern for years on end. One such anecdote can be found at http://www.puredoxyk.com/; this woman spent years on several polyphasic sleep schedules.

The "Dymaxion" schedule has only been claimed to have been successful by it's founder, Buckminister Fuller, and thus has yet to be confirmed as plausible.

The last widespread schedule, and by far the most extreme, is called the "Uberman" sleep schedule. This consists of 6 equidistantly-timed naps of 20 minutes, each 4 hours apart. This results in being asleep for 2 hours per each 24 hour period. Although this has the advantage of being the most time-efficient schedule, it is also the most rigid - delaying and postponing naps even by an hour is detrimental - and requires the most difficult adaptation period. Despite its difficulty, individuals such as Steve Pavlina and puredoxyk have spent months at a time on it with little or no apparent health drawbacks, and almost all of those who successfully transition swear by it.

There are many other acclaimed sleep schedules which don't yet have the popularity of the aforementioned ones (including the triphasic pattern I've decided to implement), but it's still an open question as to what is plausible and what perhaps is the "best". There is also a schism between scientists, coupled with a lack of professional studies, on the potential long-term effects of polyphasic sleep, so experiment at your own risk!

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