Phone for free 0800 024 1122 0800 024 1122

9am - 6pm - 7 Days

Your Basket
0 items - £0.00
Buy Ergoflex Mattresses in Europe Buy Ergoflex Mattresses in Australia Buy Ergoflex Mattresses in USA

Alternative Sleep Schedules – Is polyphasic sleep safe?

By Hayley Carr   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Thursday 2nd July 2015

Alternative Sleep Schedules – Is polyphasic sleep safe?

In a world where almost everyone is running around trying to balance their work and home responsibilities, whilst also fitting in exercise and even a social life in between, getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night can be a challenge for many people.

So it’s not surprising that people throughout history have tried to cope on less sleep (famously, Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell were all said to get just four hours of sleep a night), or that many adults sleep in on weekends in an attempt to “catch up” with the hours they lost during the week. But some people have taken this to extreme levels, training themselves to cope on just two hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Whereas, the average person has a “monophasic” sleeping schedule, where they sleep in one continuous chunk at night between 7 and 9 hours, some people adapt less conventional approaches to sleep including, biphasic sleeping schedules (two sleeps in 24 hours) or polyphasic sleeping schedules (3 or more sleeps in 24 hours). 

A couple of reasons that people may adapt to a polyphasic sleeping schedule are, they have a schedule which leaves them unable to sleep continuously, or they may wish to extend the amount of hours in the day where they can be productive. However, there is not a lot of research into any long term effects that these alternative sleeping schedules could have and there are many risks involved with not getting enough sleep including, an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke, which may apply to people who choose to adopt these schedules. 

Sleeping Cycles

In order to get a good night’s sleep with all of the restorative benefits, your body goes through several cycles, each lasting approximately 90 minutes. One cycle will consist of three stages of non-REM sleep, followed by one period of REM sleep. REM sleep stands for “rapid eye movement”, and involves your eyes moving quickly in different directions, this is where dreaming is most vivid.

The three stages of non-REM sleep are:

  • Stage 1: This stage occurs mostly at the beginning of sleep, and lasts only about 5 minutes. You are very easy to wake at this stage and may believe you were never asleep when this happens.
  • Stage 2: At this stage, you are in a light sleep, and can be easily awakened, your heart rate slows and body temperature drops. This lasts from 10 to 25 minutes.
  • Stage 3: This is the deepest stage of sleep. Here, your body repairs and regrows tissues, strengthens the immune system, and builds bone and muscle. It is difficult to wake you at this stage and you would feel disorientated for several minutes. Dreams can occur in this stage. However, they are generally less vivid and less memorable than dreams during REM sleep. 

This is then followed by REM sleep, the first period usually lasts ten minutes, getting longer each time until the last period which can last an hour. Your arm and leg muscles are paralyzed during this stage and this is the stage where vivid dreaming occurs. The exact function is not known but without it, people find it difficult to learn complex tasks. When people are deprived of REM sleep, they will sleep for longer in this stage at the next opportunity, skipping quickly through the non-REM stages. This suggests that REM sleep is essential to our sleep cycles.

A lot of polyphasic sleeping patterns rely on training the body to enter REM sleep in a 20 minute nap. However, this means skipping through the other stages of sleep very fast. Non-REM sleep is often dismissed as “wasted sleep” by those who have these sleeping patterns. However, although studies have shown REM sleep to be important, there is no research to say that REM is definitely more restorative than non-REM sleep so attempting to cut out these stages of sleep could be dangerous. Therefore, this lack of full sleep cycles could be detrimental to health long term. 

However, there is research which found that some people naturally require less sleep than others. Approximately 1% of the population have the DEC2 gene which allows them to function perfectly fine on just 6 hours of sleep a night or less, so for those people, a polyphasic sleeping schedule may be a lot easier to adjust and stick to. 

Biphasic

Biphasic sleep involves sleeping twice a day. There are different forms of this, one form is “segmented sleep”, where a person sleeps for 3.5-4 hours, wakes up for 1 or two hours and then goes back to sleep for another 3.5-4 hours. There is historical evidence that this is a sleeping pattern which was adopted by our ancestors until just a couple hundred years ago. During the time awake, people would participate in activities such as, praying, thinking about their dreams, reading, talking to their bed partners or even going to visit neighbours. 

Some people claim that this may be the most natural sleeping pattern, and that it was eliminated from our lives when street and domestic lighting were introduced into our day to day lives, increasing the number of activities which could be done into the night and giving us less time to dedicate to rest.

Another biphasic sleeping pattern involves the person going to sleep at night for 5-6 hours and then taking a nap of either 20 or 90 minutes in the middle of the day. However, some people who wish to cut down on the amount of hours spent sleeping try to cut down the main (or ‘core’) sleep at night to the shortest time that they can manage, which could have negative health implications. 

In some countries, particularly in the Mediterranean, biphasic sleeping is common. In these countries, it’s common to take a nap after the midday meal called a siesta. Taking a nap at this time of day is ideal in these countries as the heat can be unbearable in the early afternoon. 

Polyphasic 

There are a few different polyphasic sleeping patterns which have been used throughout history. Some of the most commonly implemented are:

  • Dymaxion Cycle: This is the most difficult sleeping pattern to adjust to as it requires taking just four 30 minute naps throughout the day, meaning you only receive 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours. This can be quite difficult to schedule as taking 30 minute naps in the middle of the day can be impractical to fit around work or other commitments for most people. 
  • Uberman Cycle: Similar to the dymaxion, the uberman can also require just 2 hours of sleep every 24 hours, spread out as 6 naps, each lasting 20 minutes. However, on this sleeping schedule, 7 or 8 naps can be taken throughout the day. This sleeping schedule is difficult to adapt and stick to as the sleep times are very inflexible even when the body has adjusted. This means that missing one nap can make a person feel as though they have missed an entire night’s sleep. For most people’s life styles, this is extremely impractical as the majority of the world is monophasic. It definitely wouldn’t work for anyone who has a typical 9-5 job, and not being able to partake in any activities which last more than 3.5 hours generally has a hugely negative effect on people’s social lives. 
  • Everyman Cycle: This cycle consists of 4 sleeps, one core sleep of 3.5 hours and three 20 minute naps. This can be slightly easier than the dymaxion and uberman cycles to adapt to as it has some flexibility in the amount of naps and what time they are taken, and the core sleep can be extended once the person has adapted. However, it can still be difficult to adapt to as it means cutting down the amount of sleep to almost half of what is recommended.

All of these sleeping patterns can be extremely difficult to adjust to at first, making the person feel like a zombie for the first few weeks or even months. If a person then becomes ill, even if just with a cold, it means that they have to stop and take the amount of rest they need to recover, this can throw off the sleeping pattern altogether, resulting in them having to start from the beginning and going through the adjustment period again. 

Most people on these sleeping patterns need to watch their diet in order for them to be able to take naps at the times they are required. This generally means being unable to drink alcohol, coffee, or anything else with a strong caffeine content. 

The potential benefits of polyphasic sleeping schedules are uncertain as there is not enough research into them to know whether or not they are safe. However, the long term health risks of sleep deprivation, both in the short and long term, have been scientifically proven so doing anything to increase these risks is ill-advised. Getting a good night’s sleep has been proven to have mental, physical and restorative benefits. It increases your energy levels and productivity so that you can be at your best - these are all things that polyphasic sleeping is trying to achieve, without the risks. So next time you want to get more out of your day, you would be better off ditching the weird sleeping schedule for a good night’s sleep!

 



Exercise and Sleep - could the type of exercise you do be bad for your sleeping habits?

Last updated: Monday 22nd June 2015

Exercise and Sleep - could the type of exercise you do be bad for your sleeping habits?

Does the exercise you do really help you sleep better? Exercise is one of the most common suggestions to people who are finding it difficult to get to sleep, but studies suggest that the time of day you exercise, and the type of exercise you do, both effect the way you sleep.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Exercise and Sleep - could the type of exercise you do be bad for your sleeping habits?

Clutter and Sleep Loss - an untidy bedroom could be affecting the way you sleep

Last updated: Tuesday 16th June 2015

Clutter and Sleep Loss - an untidy bedroom could be affecting the way you sleep

Does the sight of a messy bedroom have you rushing to tidy it up? Or is the colour of your floor long forgotten underneath the piles of clothes, papers and general clutter of your bedroom? 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Clutter and Sleep Loss - an untidy bedroom could be affecting the way you sleep

The Lunar Effect: How the Moon Affects Your Sleep

Last updated: Tuesday 5th May 2015

The Lunar Effect: How the Moon Affects Your Sleep

Gazing at the moon on a dark night can give an indescribable sense of wonder, calming all your senses and can put perspective on everything. This feeling of awe could fall into what is described as the ‘lunar effect’, which is the belief that the lunar cycle can influence the behaviour of animals and humans. Whilst a lunar effect may first appear to be a myth from ancient times, there is at least some scientific evidence to back up the theory – especially on the way you sleep. 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: The Lunar Effect: How the Moon Affects Your Sleep

Weird Sleep Experiments – Strange Journeys into the World of Sleep

Last updated: Friday 1st May 2015

Weird Sleep Experiments – Strange Journeys into the World of Sleep

Sleep remains one of the most mysterious elements of life, with scientists continuing to debate the most fundamental questions relating to the issue. It’s hard to believe that there isn’t actually a scientific consensus on why we sleep, let alone the reasons behind many of the more complex areas of the subject.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that over the years there have been some downright bizarre experiments into sleep.

Here are some of the weirdest, featuring a chanting man in a summer camp dormitory, a Clockwork Orange-style eye-opener, the ‘Pillownaut’ and a remarkable example of the power of the mind.

Are you ready to go down the weird sleep rabbit-hole?  

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Weird Sleep Experiments – Strange Journeys into the World of Sleep

20 #Sleephacks (You Can Try Tonight)

Last updated: Tuesday 28th April 2015

20 #Sleephacks (You Can Try Tonight)

Struggling to sleep? Well, a good night’s sleep might be closer than you think – check out these easy #sleephacks that you can try tonight.

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: 20 #Sleephacks (You Can Try Tonight)

A Recipe for Sleep: Food & Drink to Naturally Induce Sleep

Last updated: Monday 27th April 2015

A Recipe for Sleep: Food & Drink to Naturally Induce Sleep

Falling asleep isn’t an exact science – there are no right and wrong ways to fall asleep as long as your system works well for you – but are there any foods and drinks you could be implementing into your night time wind-down routine? 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: A Recipe for Sleep: Food & Drink to Naturally Induce Sleep

Can You Fall Asleep in under a Minute?

Last updated: Monday 20th April 2015

Can You Fall Asleep in under a Minute?

How long does it take for you to drift off? For some, it takes only a matter of minutes, but for others it can often be a real struggle. Studies give a varying degree of results as to what the average time to fall asleep is, with some claiming it to be a mere seven minutes, and others claiming it to be 20+ minutes. Being able to fall asleep in a matter of seconds would certainly make life a lot easier, but is it possible?

The time taken to fall asleep has a technical term – sleep-onset latency

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Can You Fall Asleep in under a Minute?

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 13th 2015

Last updated: Friday 17th April 2015

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 13th 2015

Week beginning April 13th
Let's see where sleep has made the news this week.

 

Category: Industry News

Read full: Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 13th 2015

Child sleep frustrations driving parents to tears… and to drive! Survey reveals the extent of bedtime battles

Last updated: Thursday 16th April 2015

Child sleep frustrations driving parents to tears… and to drive! Survey reveals the extent of bedtime battles

Our latest UK sleep survey took on the thorny topic of child sleep routines, and revealed that parents often go to extraordinary lengths to get their little ones to sleep, that bedtime battles are an alarmingly regular event, and that the sleep deprivation-fuelled stress of the situation can bring everyone to tears – including the adults!

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Child sleep frustrations driving parents to tears… and to drive! Survey reveals the extent of bedtime battles

Why It's Totally Natural for Teenagers to Be Sleepyheads – Parents Take Note!

Last updated: Monday 13th April 2015

Why It's Totally Natural for Teenagers to Be Sleepyheads – Parents Take Note!

Teens and students are often victims of the spending-all-day-in-bed stereotype, and parents don’t need reminding how long a teenager can sleep for - but the surprising reality is that they do need more sleep than adults – it’s in their DNA, and it’s perfectly natural. 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Why It's Totally Natural for Teenagers to Be Sleepyheads – Parents Take Note!

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 6th 2015

Last updated: Friday 10th April 2015

Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 6th 2015

Week beginning April 6th 2015

Let's take a look at where sleep is appearing in the news this week.

 

Category: Industry News

Read full: Sleep in the News - Week beginning April 6th 2015

How Moving House can Devastate your Sleep – Stress tops the poll of moving-related sleep-woes

Last updated: Thursday 9th April 2015

How Moving House can Devastate your Sleep – Stress tops the poll of moving-related sleep-woes

Our latest survey into the sleep habits of the nation looked at how the process of moving house can impact upon sleep quality, revealing that the upheaval and stress of the situation can lead to an alarming loss of sleep in the short term. Of the 2,531 participants in our poll, some 74% said that their sleep patterns had been negatively affected by moving, making it an overwhelmingly common issue. Of those who suffered sleep loss, the average nightly disruption was a massive 3 hours and 59 minutes, lasting for 11 days – totalling 44.8 hours of lost sleep - more than enough to constitute chronic sleep deprivation. Considering the effects of such severe sleep deprivation perhaps it’s not surprising that 49% of respondents said that they never wanted to move house again!

When it came to specific reasons behind the sleep loss after moving house, the top five responses were;

  1. Stress – 49%
  2. Unfamiliar surroundings – 45%
  3. Noise pollution in new area – 36%
  4. Adjusting to living with partner / housemates – 28%
  5. Adapting to new bed / mattress – 15%

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: How Moving House can Devastate your Sleep – Stress tops the poll of moving-related sleep-woes

Sleeping with Hay Fever: Tips to Sleep Easier During Allergy Season

Last updated: Thursday 9th April 2015

Sleeping with Hay Fever: Tips to Sleep Easier During Allergy Season

Spring is in the air and the weather is starting to get warmer – hallelujah! But the enthusiasm isn’t shared by everyone – some look at the spring and summer months with a certain sense of dread. Hay fever affects roughly one in four people in the UK, and is an allergy with no real cure. One area that is significantly affected by hay fever is sleep, and the endless sneezing and nose blowing brings with it many sleepless nights. 

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Sleeping with Hay Fever: Tips to Sleep Easier During Allergy Season

Can You Learn in Your Sleep?

Last updated: Tuesday 31st March 2015

Can You Learn in Your Sleep?

You’ll spend one third of your entire life sleeping. That’s an incredible amount of time to be asleep, and although that time is absolutely vital to your health and well-being, just imagine how useful being able to learn new things would be whilst you lay there oblivious to the world - imagine waking up and being able to speak a completely new language, or being able to recite a Shakespeare play from memory. The ability to broaden our knowledge during sleep has appealed to academics for a very long time, but it does seem like an implausible concept at first sight. Just how aware is our brain as we sleep, and would it be at all possible to learn new things subconsciously through the night?

Category: Sleep Research

Read full: Can You Learn in Your Sleep?

Page 1 of 50    |    Older >    |   



Why wait? Enjoy as early as tomorrow!

Copyright © Ergoflex™ 2015
Ergoflex Limited: 2 Maling Court, Union Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 1BP.
Company registration number: 6187613. VAT number: 917666001
Registered in England.
Feefo Gold Trusted Merchant 2014  Backcare Verisign Secured by SagePay

Ergoflex on Facebook Ergoflex on Twitter Ergoflex on Google+ Ergoflex on YouTube Ergoflex Blog RSS Feed

Sitemap | Resources | Reviews | Sleepcentre | Also available in: Ergoflex around the world

Back to the top