What is Polyphasic Sleep and Should You Try It?

This sleeping trend has created some divisive opinions. Learn about the potential benefits and risks of polyphasic sleeping to decide if this sleep style is right for you.

By Katie Dyal

At some stage in your life, you will probably have trouble sleeping. We all have different reasons for restlessness. Stress, insomnia, your living conditions, or even your partner who uncontrollably snores can be reasons for a poor night’s sleep, and no one wants to suffer from the gruesome effects of sleep deprivation.

When it’s hard for you to fall asleep at night, you may be willing to go to great lengths to find a remedy. Recently, more people have considered turning to an alternative form of sleeping, called polyphasic sleep, as a solution for improving their sleep quality. In fact, it’s even proven to work for some including the famous Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla who both followed this sleeping style.

It’s important to know all the facts before transitioning to a new sleep cycle. Here is everything you need to know about polyphasic sleep.

Painted sleeping eyes and Attractive brunette young woman in the white bed at morning time

What is Polyphasic Sleep?

Polyphasic sleep is a certain type of sleep pattern that is most commonly practiced by animals, as well as in the infancy stage of human life. A polyphasic sleep pattern is a combination of several periods of sleep throughout the entire day.

The type of sleeping most people follow is called monophasic sleeping. This means one, long period of sleep during a 24-hour cycle. Instead of sleeping in one large chunk of time at night to recharge, some people are trying polyphasic sleeping, where you rest during different periods of the day.

How Polyphasic Sleep Works

A polyphasic sleeping schedule is combined of 20-minute naps throughout the day and one longer period of sleeping time. Most polyphasic sleepers will sleep between 2-7 hours total for the entire day.

Some would argue that when you take a short nap, you aren’t able to reach the ideal phase of sleep that you need in order to feel well rested. Although this sleeping style seems unnatural, it has been proven that the body can become familiar with this sleeping habit.

In fact, when your body becomes familiar with this segmented sleep pattern, you will be able to achieve REM deep sleep at a faster rate than other sleeping patterns. Your body knows that you need to experience slow wave sleep in order to feel energized when you awake. Because the body resists sleep deprivation, it will naturally adapt with the time allotted that you give it to rest.

Is Polyphasic Sleep Safe?

As advocates of healthy sleep, we’re going to suggest that you avoid trying a polyphasic sleep schedule. It’s probably best to steer away from polyphasic sleep and here’s why.

Polyphasic sleep is extremely different from the natural sleep pattern that most people follow today, which is monophasic sleep. Monophasic sleepers are sleeping once a day for a long period of time. Sound familiar? It’s the common pattern that most of us do, sleeping through the night from anywhere to six to nine hours and staying awake for the remaining 15-18 hours of the day.

Sleeping girl with alarm clock

Biphasic sleep is another common human sleep pattern. A biphasic sleep pattern is where an individual sleeps twice per day. This is more common for toddlers, as well as people over the age of 60. Most of the time, these sleep periods last from 3-4 hours each. It’s proven that monophasic and biphasic sleep patterns are healthy routines for humans.

For healthy sleep and your best chance at avoiding sleep deprivation, an individual needs between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. The body needs rest in order to function properly, and polyphasic sleep does not have enough evidence to prove that it’s beneficial enough for humans to practice as their regular sleep pattern, so you should proceed with skepticism.

Effects of Polyphasic Sleeping

The benefits of polyphasic sleep are not backed by science, but it has been said that this sleep pattern results in more productivity and allows the body to experience REM sleep at a faster rate.

Unfortunately, the risks outweigh the benefits. Polyphasic sleep isn’t considered a sleep disorder, but it can create problems as if it were one.

If the body isn’t getting enough sleep, then several health problems can occur. You may think skipping right to REM sleep is an advantage, but it’s unnatural and the body experiences certain stages of sleep for a reason.

Preventing the body from experiencing all stages of sleep can result in physiological dysfunctions. It can cause cognitive impairment and affect your circadian rhythm.

Final Thoughts: Should You Try Polyphasic Sleeping?

Core sleep is important but so are all the other stages. The body runs a certain way for a reason and it’s usually best to trust the body’s natural schedules. To maintain proper sleep health, sticking to your seven to nine hours of sleep all in one period of time at night is your safest bet.

If you have tried polyphasic sleeping before and found success, leave us a comment below!


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