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

Updated on October 22, 2018
Au fait profile image

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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    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Peggy W., thank you for reading and commenting on this article. So glad you enjoyed this one and my others, too! Very much appreciate the share also. Yes, it would be so useful to be able to get by on just a couple of hours sleep a night/day. Next thing, employers would be expecting it . . .

      Hope you're planning cool activities for the next few days. We're to have 99 degrees everyday through Monday, and it's usually hotter down there where you are, so stay cool.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What an interesting article and one that I just now discovered. It is understandable why polyphasic sleep would not work for most employed people. The one nice side effect of that experiment that Pavlina did was how he can easily now nap and get to the REM state quickly. That would be a plus. Of course he felt like a zombie until his body adjusted. Ha! You always write the most interesting articles! Happy to share.

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      Thank you PegCole17 for coming by to read and comment on this article, and for sharing what works for you.

      This particular pattern described herein is difficult to maintain and still have a social life of any kind. I think the biphasic pattern works best. I usually wake up every 3-4 hours no matter what.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Interesting topic on sleep patterns and the sleep study by Steve Pavlina - and he's kinda cute, too. I tend to sleep a maximum of five hours before awakening like it's a brand new day. Anytime I do fall asleep, I begin to dream vividly, even if it is a short nap of 15 minutes.

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Thank you for your comment Shyron!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Doctor appointments would prevent a polyphasic sleep schedule. I love to sleep!

      Wonderful hub, enjoy it very much.

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Your Cousins, thank you for reading and commenting on this hub! Agree that polyphasic sleep wouldn't work well for most of us, but biphasic works pretty well for me. You should check out my hubs on it. It might work for you too.

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub Alecia Murphy! And for sharing too. Even the man who conducted/participated in the experiment for polyphasic sleep said it didn't work for him long term and he was self employed and unmarried.

      I think you might find a biphasic sleep pattern more practical and beneficial. Read my other hubs on the subject of biphasic sleep and see if they don't make more sense. Biphasic works for me, and Daughter of Maat has written a hub on the subject too, after reading mine, and finding that it worked well for her too.

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I would love to add 6 waking hours to my day, but the cost of polyphasic sleep is too high for most of us. It sounds interesting and could work for a short period of time, but I think we would eventually shift back to our old habits.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      8 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      This is very interesting. I've never heard of this but if I had to compare it it sounds like a similar concept to eating small meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones. It sounds like a good concept for someone doing shift work or working inconsistent hours. Voted up and shared!

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Thank you R2-D2-2, for adding to the discussion and being honest. Frankly, I don't think I could manage a polyphasic sleep schedule either, but I do have a biphasic one. That seems to work well for me most of the time. I just wanted people to know about the polyphasic pattern in case someone out there might benefit.

    • R2-D2-2 profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      This sounds like it would be very hard to do. I read about your biphasic sleep pattern and that sounded do-able. But this having a short sleep for just 20 minutes every 3 hours and 40 minutes, don't think I could do it. Like you said it didn't work for the guy trying it because of his social obligations, but for me, I think I just couldn't discipline myself to do it. Still, an interesting concept. Interesting to learn about it.

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Queen Hypatia: Thank you for your comments and compliment! I'm glad you feel like you've learned something from each of my hubs. Most of them are written for that purpose -- to educate people and get them to thinking and researching more on the subject.

      Pavlina only experimented with actually sleeping a polyphasic sleep pattern for 5 months. It just didn't work well for his social life and he was self-employed with more versatility in his schedule than most people. I agree that a biphasic sleep schedule makes more sense for most people.

    • Queen Hypatia profile image

      Queen Hypatia 

      8 years ago

      So surprising that Pavlina could accomplish sleeping this way and not get sick! I can understand sleeping a little here and there at times when things are not going well, but to do it all the time? I don't think I could do it.

      I like the biphasic sleep pattern that you wrote about best. This is still a very interesting article. The thing about your articles is that I always learn something. I like that.

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Thank you again Shyron, for commenting and adding interesting information to the discussion!

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Daughter Of Maat: Agree with you, and thank you so much for your encouraging words!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Voting you up, most interesting, I love to sleep and dream, even is my dreams are not always good ones, and sometimes I can go inside my dreams and change them.

      Interesting hub, as always.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg COA OSC 

      8 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      I love your hubs Au fait! I'm still trying to implement the biphasic sleep pattern. Like you said it's quite difficult to stick to. But I'm looking forward to the permanent adaptation Pavlina spoke of.

      When you think about it, we're really the only life that has a monophasic sleep pattern (hibernation doesn't count lol). My cats take naps constantly! We could learn a lot from them!

      Voted up and useful!

    • Au fait profile imageAUTHOR

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Thank you Roberto, for your kind words. Unfortunately, many people complain of insomnia, so for many people the 8 our sleep stint isn't working, but we all try to conform even if it for some of us it is futile.

      I like your sleep pattern better than the monophasic one. I think it is more reasonable and practical, and most likely more healthful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and many xx for you also . . .

    • diogenes profile image


      8 years ago from UK and Mexico

      It's interesting to observe most higher mammals sleep on an off in the day and for longer periods in the night (or day if they are nocturnal) I am sure it's very unatural to sleeep 8 or more hours at night and stay awake 16 hours, but it seems to work for us the way the world is organized. I personally like about 6 hours at night and a couple of naps in the for me, partly because I observed the Mexican siesta system for so many years.

      Interesting article sweetie



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