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Polyphasic Sleep: How to Add 6 Hours of Awake Time To Your Day!

Updated on October 22, 2018
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As a psychology major at the University of North Texas, C. E. Clark found, and continues to find psychology endlessly fascinating.

Is a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule Right for You?

Let me just say from the start that polyphasic sleep is not for everyone. It is extremely regimented and must be that way in order to be successful. Most people cannot make polyphasic sleep work for them, because such a regimented sleep schedule conflicts with their other obligations and activities.

The majority of people in the world do not have a polyphasic sleep schedules. Most people have monophasic sleep schedules where they sleep for one long period every day.

Employers usually will not make allowance for an employee who must nap every few hours, as a polyphasic sleep schedule requires. Employment is usually the main deterrent to a polyphasic sleep schedule, but it is not the only deterrent.

Steve Pavlina
Steve Pavlina | Source

How Polyphasic Sleep Schedules Work

Steve Pavlina experimented with a polyphasic sleep schedule a few years ago, and he has written extensively on the subject, sharing the detailed records of his experiment.

Pavlina followed a polyphasic sleep schedule for 5 and a half months in order to better understand if it could be practical, workable, and physically and emotionally healthy. He slept approximately 20 minutes every 4 hours, keeping to that schedule 24 hours a day.

Pavlina slept a total of 2 hours out of every 24, which gave him an additional 6 hours everyday to be productive in his writing and other activities, but as he pointed out, he sacrificed flexibility considerably in his daily schedule in order to accommodate and maintain the polyphasic sleep schedule.

Maintaining the 20-minute nap every 4 hours is the reason polyphasic sleep schedules tend not to be practical for people who work as employees or who may have social obligations that interfere.

According to Pavlina, “. . . it takes a lot of discipline to avoid oversleeping.” There is extremely little flexibility in rearranging a polyphasic sleep schedule.

More Examples of Polyphasic Sleep Schedules

Some professionals give the example of newborn human infants as having polyphasic sleep schedules, where they awake every couple of hours or so for feeding, etc. Sometime elderly people develop a polyphasic sleep schedule where they sleep in several segments instead of one or two long blocks of sleep (3-5 hours each, for example). Also, some animals have polyphasic sleep patterns.

Technically, polyphasic simply means sleeping in several segments, and does not necessarily include such a regimented schedule as Pavlina used or recommends as being the most successful way of making use of that kind of sleep pattern.

In some cases, “systematic napping,” may be necessary because of extreme conditions. There are times when people have trouble sleeping because of physical injury, illness, or events in their lives, like the death of a loved one, etc. In such a case, a polyphasic sleep pattern may help them get through a difficult time.

Polyphasic sleep patterns can also be useful in combat situations or even with our people in the space program or on the space station. However, no one in my research recommended polyphasic sleep for long or indefinite periods of time.

Naps were again sited as being helpful for improving memory and learning.

How Easy Is It To Develop and Maintain a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule?

Pavlina reports that getting into the polyphasic sleep schedule is extremely difficult and took him nearly 3 weeks during which time he was so exhausted he felt like a zombie. However, things went well once his body adapted to the new sleep pattern. Read more about this in Pavlina’s own words by clicking here.

Even though Pavlina has reverted back to a monophasic sleep schedule for more socially practical reasons, he says he has taken away several advantages he mastered during his experiment with the polyphasic sleep schedule. He says he is now still able to take short naps – 15-20 minutes at will and that during those naps he is able to enter REM sleep immediately, just as he did once he was able to accomplish the polyphasic sleep pattern.

Of his dreams, Pavlina writes, “I suspect it [entering REM sleep quickly] may be a permanent adaptation. I took a nap this afternoon, had a dream that seemed about an hour long, and woke up naturally feeling refreshed and with a clear memory of the dream. But the total time I was lying down was only 13 minutes.”

REM sleep is sleep characterized by rapid eye movement, lack of reflexes or suspension of body movement, and dreaming.

It seems to come down to polyphasic sleep having advantages primarily during difficult high stress times in a person’s life. The rest of the time biphasic or monophasic sleep schedules, whichever works best for the individual, would seem to make more sense and be easier to accomplish and maintain.

This Man Has Figured Out How to Make Just 4 Hours of Sleep a Day Work For Himself

© 2012 C E Clark


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