Are you in the habit of sleeping during the day? Is it good to sleep several times during the day? What happens when you sleep in several phases? Let us understand more about Polyphasic sleep, its types, and side effects in detail.
Different people have different sleeping patterns. Most people sleep only during the night, which is called monophasic sleep. Some sleep twice a day, mostly a long sleep at night and a short nap in the afternoon. This is called biphasic sleep. However, when some people sleep multiple times a day, it is termed polyphasic sleep.
Polyphasic sleep is a practice of distributing multiple short sleep episodes in 24 hours rather than having one major sleep episode and sometimes additionally a minor sleep episode or nap during the day.1
Polyphasic sleep means sleeping more than two times a day or sleeping in multiple segments. In this, one may sleep for the recommended number of hours but in phases. The sleeping time is split into various segments or phases spread over 24 hours, such that wakeful hours are alternated by sleeping hours. However, most people often sleep in one large phase at night or sometimes a short phase during the day.
Polyphasic Sleep Schedule – Types
While anyone can follow a polyphasic sleep in their way, a few types of polyphasic sleep schedules are popular. These include the Uberman sleep schedule, Everyman sleep schedule, and Triphasic sleep schedule.2
- Uberman Sleep Schedule – This type of polyphasic sleep schedule is followed in various ways. The commonest method is taking 20-minute naps spaced throughout the day in six such episodes, thus making a total of two hours of sleep each day. A variation of this type also includes taking a 30 minutes nap alternated with awake periods or taking eight naps instead of six throughout the day.
- Everyman Sleep Schedule – This type of polyphasic sleep schedule includes sleeping for three hours at night and three short periods of 20 minutes during the day. In this, the awake periods are usually about five hours alternated by short naps of 20 minutes. This accounts for almost four hours of sleep per day.
- Triphasic Sleep Schedule – In this polyphasic sleep type, three short sleep periods are followed during periods after dusk, before dawn, and during the afternoon. This accounts for around four to five hours of sleep every day.
People who favor polyphasic sleep believe that a person does not need a single long sleeping period during the night. In short, they believe that monophasic sleep is not necessary for better performance. They think a polyphasic sleep pattern can adjust your biorhythm, regulate your sleep-wake cycle, allow your body to function normally, and improve your performance.
While there is no conclusive research to confirm that polyphasic sleep is better than monophasic sleep, for some people it may be beneficial.
Better Productivity – As sleep requirements vary from person to person, sleeping for short periods during the night may leave the person with a greater number of hours to complete their tasks. Also, the short naps taken throughout the day may help give short periods of rest and maintain energy and alertness. However, this may be beneficial for short periods, such as a time-bound task, preparing for examinations, etc. Continuing the polyphasic sleep pattern for a long may have some side effects, which must be considered.
Making Up For The Sleep – Polyphasic sleep can be helpful for those who are unable to sleep for seven to eight hours during the night, either due to work, travel, or other reasons. In such cases, a reduced number of hours of sleep can result in sleep deprivation and increase the risk of negative health effects. Following a polyphasic sleep schedule can help in making up for the lost hours of sleep by taking short naps whenever possible during the day.
Some studies suggest that polyphasic sleep can help to replenish lost hours of nighttime sleep and can also help to fight the negative effects of sleep deprivation.3
Compatible For Irregular Work Hours – As people work in various shifts, across different time zones, or are traveling their nighttime sleep is often affected. When this continues for a long it can impact their health. However, due to irregular work or travel hours, the total number of hours of sleep is reduced and polyphasic sleep can help. Taking short naps before or after working hours is a common feature among shift workers or travelers. If it is difficult to stay awake during irregular working hours, one may consider following a polyphasic sleep schedule but that too can have an impact on your health. But it is always better to get a good sleep in one long phase as much as possible and take small naps as needed.
Side Effects of Polyphasic Sleep
It is essential to get adequate sleep at night. The body-mind healing mechanism and release of certain hormones also function better this way. However, on many occasions, people may experience a polyphasic sleep schedule due to their nature of work or lifestyle. People who regularly experience disrupted sleep cycles may be at risk of some side effects of polyphasic sleep patterns.
Sleep Deprivation – Disturbance in the night sleep or spending fewer hours sleeping at nighttime can result in sleep deprivation.
A 2021 study concluded that polyphasic sleep schedules and the sleep deficiency that is caused due to these schedules can result in a variety of adverse physical and mental health as well as performance outcomes. Hence, experts do not recommend schedules that reduce the amount of sleep per day or fragment sleep into several episodes throughout the 24 hours.1
A 2017 study concluded that following polyphasic sleep schedules in which the sleep durations are distributed throughout the day may be less effective for students although they maintain the recommended total time sleeping. It also suggested that their academic performance was not related to the average sleep duration.4
Lucid Dreams – Polyphasic sleep may also be associated with lucid dreams in many cases.
Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon of experiencing wakeful levels of self-reflection with your dream. Alternating periods of wakefulness and sleep often increase the chances of lucid dreams.5
Some may use it to improve their performance by creating a stimulating environment. However, training to increase lucid dream frequency can be detrimental to normal sleep, due to the possible side effects of polyphasic sleep patterns. Studies have also shown an association between polyphasic sleep and lucid dreaming.6
Disruption of Circadian Rhythm
People who often change their sleep schedules, timings, and hence a change in the pattern of dark and light exposure, may experience changes in their circadian rhythm and find it difficult to adjust to changes. This can negatively impact their cognitive function and health. Following a polyphasic sleep may result in a similar situation, particularly when a person may sleep at different times during the day.7
Thus, polyphasic sleep can have its own merits and demerits, while for many that may be an important way to continue their work. However, it is strongly believed that monophasic sleep patterns or a long episode of sleep is essential for good health and well-being. If you wish to choose polyphasic sleep patterns you need to consider the benefits and side effects of both.