How to Get More Hours in Each Day by Changing Your Sleep Patterns

April 06, 2015

How to Get More Hours in Each Day by Changing Your Sleep Patterns

What if I told you that you could sleep less and be productive during more hours of the day and night? Sounds too good to be true right? Well it is completely possible if you change your sleep pattern from monophasic to polyphasic. Let me explain, and I promise it won't be as complicated as those "phasic" words sound.

Most people are monophasic sleepers, i.e. they sleep in one long stretch of time, like 7-9 hours a night. Biologically, we are actually biphasic sleepers. That afternoon dip we have in energy is actually our brain lightly nudging us to take a nap. Our brain activity slows down along with the rest of our organs. So countries like Spain who still practice biphasic sleep with the well-known and well-loved siesta, may actually have it right. Businesses close and send workers home for a couple of hours in the afternoon so they can get their siesta. As an adult who loves sleep, this appeals to me.

siesta

 

But what exactly is polyphasic sleep? Basically, instead of sleeping in one long session, you sleep only 25-30 minutes every 4 hours, all day and all night long. In a 24 hour period you will sleep a total of 3 hours (based on 30 minute sleep session every 4 hours). The idea is that instead of cycling through 5 or 6 90-minute sessions of a normal sleep cycle with a short session of REM sleep following, you sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night, training your brain to enter REM sleep immediately. REM sleep is the restorative sleep in which we dream and is the most important stage of sleep that we can get.

Who would purposely change their sleep patterns to incorporate this type of limited sleep schedule? And more importantly, why? Some famous polyphasic sleepers include Leonardo Di Vinci, Buckminster Fuller, and Thomas Edison. These three men were smart, gifted men, so maybe there is something to sleeping this way.

Here are the positives to becoming a polyphasic sleeper:

1. More time

Sleeping less than 8 hours a day, at one time, means we spend 1/3 of our day/night sleeping. 1/3!! You only have 16 hours a day to be productive. The number one complaint by people that work is that they do not feel they have enough hours in the day to get everything done. If you didn’t have to sleep for such a long period of time, you would have more hours in the day. There have been books written about how to maximize every hour during the day so that you can be the most productive person possible. Certainly this has to be the most attractive quality of polyphasic sleep.

2. More varied day/night schedule

There are some people that truly enjoy being a night owl, and there are people that thrive on being an early riser. Our biology aside, some people just simply enjoy the nightlife and do not want to go to bed when they should. I would consider myself one of them. If you are a night owl, then perhaps this type of schedule would work for you. You would get the best of both worlds. Imagine being able to be productive during normal business hours, and enjoy the nightlife without worry about not getting enough rest for work the next day.

 

siesta-nap

3. More productivity means more money

This one is a no brainer. If you are your own boss and work online (as an example) then being awake for 21 hours during the day will almost double your productivity and your wallet as well. If you want or need to make more money, you will have the opportunity to do so sleeping this type of schedule.

4. A little dose of euphoria

From the people that have successfully maintained this type of schedule, the best part was that after the initial induction period, a sense of euphoria would come over them and never go away. Because they were training their brain to go into REM sleep immediately when laying down to nap, they achieved much more restorative sleep than normal sleepers and this created the sense of euphoria that they felt. Of course, maintaining a healthy diet is paramount to reaching this euphoria because the healthier the body, the less issues the person will have when it is time to sleep. Digesting certain foods (heavy or greasy foods especially) takes work and energy, and if the body is working to digest a cheese burger it will not go into REM sleep very well and this could mess up your entire schedule.

Now for the negatives:

1. The schedule

The schedule honestly is the best and worst thing about this type of sleep schedule. If you work for yourself then you will be able to tailor the nap times to your schedule and sleep when you need to. If you work in an office or for someone else, it’s likely that your boss will not understand or appreciate you sleeping on the job, even if it is only for 20-30 minutes. Theoretically, you could use your lunch hour to get a quick nap, as well as eat lunch. However, the only way to succeed at this type of sleep schedule is by being consistent with your nap times. You cannot miss your scheduled naps because you will end up over sleeping on the next nap and this will throw the whole entire schedule off. You will have to start over.

 

nap-at-work

2. Speaking of starting over...

The worst part about training yourself to sleep this way is the first two to three weeks. You will be tired. You will want to sleep as much as you can. If you do not have a good amount of self-discipline, you will end up sleeping longer than 30 minutes and this will throw off your whole schedule. Being tired and having a cup of coffee is a thing of the past. That caffeine will make you wired and your brain will not allow you to enter into REM sleep for your next nap. You will have to grin and bear the adjustment. Do not schedule anything that requires your super brain powers because honestly, you will be tired and so will your brain. Take this time to re-organize the garage or deep clean the house. It will feel like you are running on autopilot so the less you have to think, the better.

3. Having too much time

A friend of mine decided to try out polyphasic sleep. The reason he went back to monophasic sleeping was he had too much time on his hands and became very bored. He was much more productive, but he started running out of ways to be productive. There is only so much new content you can come up with to write about, (he’s a blogger as well) and he started running out of ideas. With extra time on his hands he felt inclined to be more productive and he simply couldn’t.

4. It goes against the norm

I am all for anything that rocks the boat and pushes boundaries, however, it needs to be practical. The world is largely comprised of monophasic and biphasic sleepers. Your friends and family may not try out polyphasic sleeping and will remain on their schedules which means you will be up roaming your house at night. You won’t be able to see your friends because they will be sleeping too. You may need to sleep during a scheduled meeting or the family dinner and your work partner and/or family members may take your absence personally. This could lead to feeling isolated, which is not what you are going for.

So, now what? Well, if you find yourself very curious about this type of sleeping schedule, then do the research on it. Maybe find a way to get in contact with people that have done it successfully and pick their brain. Find out everything you can about polyphasic sleep before you decide to try it. Once you make the decision to try it, you need to commit to at least 60 days. The first month will be all about re-training your brain to sleep in shorter cycles. The second month will reap the rewards of euphoria and extra time, however it will also be filled with much trial and error as you find what does and doesn’t work for you. Don’t worry about feeling like the walking dead. That feeling will go away after a few weeks.




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