First defined by 20th-century psychologist J.S. Szymanski, a polyphasic sleep cycle is defined by sleeping multiple times in a 24 hour period. The word itself doesn't necessarily mean that you have a strict schedule -- Many people have this irregular circadian rhythm involuntarily -- but harnassing it's power can often allow an individual to have more time awake and likewise, more time to do the things that they need to be doing. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, read on! We'll explore the different types of rhythms, how to adapt your body for them, as well as the warnings that you should heed before going into such a plan.
The Different Types Of Rhythms
Monophasic: This is the run of the mill sleep pattern that most people adhere to. It involves being awake for the majority of the 24-hour period before allocating all of your sleep to one large chunk.
Biphasic: This schedule involves having one large chunk of sleep, usually at night, followed by a short nap during the day. Many people follow this type of schedule without even realizing it!
Everyman: The Everyman rhythm involves taking a shorter chunk of sleep (around 3-5 hours) followed by 3 short 15-minute naps intermittedly placed throughout the day. This allows someone who would've spent 8 hours in bed an extra 4 to spend on work or personal projects.
Dymaxion: This schedule is designed for someone who really wants to optimize their time awake during the day. In a 24 hour period, an individual takes 4 evenly spaced 30-minute naps (one every 6 hours), trimming their slumber time to a total of 2 hours in a 24 hour period. This allows the follower an extra 6 hours during the day!
Uberman: Arguably the most intense of the polyphasic rhythms, this involves taking 6 15-minute naps in a 24 hour period, shaving off another 30 minutes from your time slept.
Developing The Schedule
The only way to start one of these intensive schedules is to dive in head first. You might need to take off work or cancel other personal arrangements while your body is adjusting to the change.
The most important thing to do is make sure that you're occupied during your hours awake. Start an exercise regimen, work on a personal project, or find anything that involves a heavy amount of concentration. Nothing attracts sleep more than boredom, so you'll want to remove as much of that as you possibly can.
I must warn you that not everyone can handle a polyphasic sleep schedule. Before going all out, consult with a physician and make sure that your body can handle the added stress you'll be putting on your body. It takes approximately 7-10 days to fully adjust to any change in sleeping patterns.
It is quite possible that you'll undergo sleep deprivation, where you'll feel fatigued and mentally suffer. If you're feeling uncomfortable at any point, you should pause your schedule and revert back to your previous sleeping cycle. Having more time awake isn't worth sacrificing your health!