Sunday, September 5, 2010

Polyphasic Sleep/A Sleep bLog

What is polyphasic sleep? Polyphasic sleep involves taking several shorter sleep periods throughout the day instead of monophasic sleep which is getting your 7-8 hours of sleep in one block of time. A type of polyphasic sleep is the Uberman Sleep Schedule; it suggests that you sleep 20-30 minutes, six times a day, with equally spaced naps every 4 hours. What this means is, you only will get a total of 2-3 hours per day. Under this schedule your sleep times could be 2am, 6am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm and 10pm. The best thing is the times are the same in the AM or PM and repeated day to day so you can keep a regular daily schedule even though it is a very different.

How can this sleep schedule work? A normal sleep cycle is 90 minutes and REM sleep occurs in the latter part of this cycle. REM is where we experience dreams and when we don’t get enough REM it can cause negative side effects. Polyphasic sleep conditions our body to enter REM sleep immediately verses later in your sleep cycle. It may take a week of adjustment and initially you may experience sleep deprivation, but it has been noted that after the adaptation phase you will feel fine, maybe better than before. It appears that polyphasic sleep encounters the exact problems as seen in jet lag or shift-work. The body’s clock is not adapted to sleeping in patterns other than monophasic or biphasic sleep. In other words, the only known healthy alternatives are: (1) a single 7-8 hours sleep block in the night, or (2) a night sleep of 5-7 hours combined with a 15-90 minute nap. Those numbers differ substantially with each individual as there is no single recommended dose of sleep for everyone. You’ll need a flexible work schedule and commitment to fully transition into this cycle as it is very important to get your sleep at the required times and not misses your daily naps.

Some people who have tried this sleep cycle have kept a Polyphasic Sleep bLog (a sleep log on their blog). They have reported more energy, more vivid or lucid dreams and naturally how they have more free time. They also reported their failures, how they weren’t strict about their nap schedules and over slept from time to time. Since you have additional waking hours it appears that you need to eat more since you are burning more calories. You might want to adjust your diet as some recommend eating less animal products due to how their hormones negatively affect sleep patterns.

The disadvantage to this sleep schedule is that it can be inflexible. You can delay naps by an hour if needed, but missing a nap can cause you to undergo a period of restlessness and irritability that takes a while to recover from. This means you have less hours of waking time between sleeping periods, but you gain many extra hours per day, every day.

One blogger wrote in his Polyphasic Sleep bLog that he had a flexible enough work schedule to try polyphasic sleep as he fell asleep easy and often would have a dream during a 15-20 minute nap. Since he researched the effects of transitioning to this new sleep schedule he was aware that his energy levels would be depleted during the first week so he arranged his work schedule accordingly. He set his sleep times and allowed a time period to see if he could adjust (30 days) and after that time period he would decide if he wanted to continue. After 30 days he was convinced that a polyphasic sleep schedule works wonderfully. The first week was the hardest for him physically and the second and third weeks involved a mental adjustment, but in the end he absolutely loved it. What would you do with an extra 30-40 hours of free time per week?

Note: Many believe that a healthy human could not entrain polyphasic sleep without a degree of sleep deprivation and maintain one’s ability to maximize creativity, alertness and health in the long run. The body’s internal clock has a period of 24 hours. During a single 24 hours, 6-10 hours we are drowsy and during the remaining 14-18 hours we are awake but only a portion of this time is suitable for intellectual effort. The maximum period of alertness is as little as 2-6 hours. In order to achieve the maximum productivity we need to sleep when our body requires sleep and work when creativity falls into our hours of maximum alertness. It is difficult and unhealthy to force your body and your body’s clock to adjust to a different sleep/wake cycle as it is far too easy to adjust your life to your body’s natural clock.
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