Alternative Sleep Cycles: You Don’t Really Need 6-8 Hours!
Most people only think that there is one way to sleep: Go to sleep at night for 6-8 hours, wake up in the morning, stay awake for 16-18 hours and then repeat. Actually, that is called a monophasic sleep cycle, which is only 1 of 5 major sleep cycles that have been used successfully throughout history. The other 4 are considered polyphasic sleep cycles due to the multiple number of naps they require each day. How is this possible? How is this healthy? Well the most important of every sleep cycle is the Stage 4 REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which has been shown to provide the benefits of sleep to the brain above all other stages of sleep. When changing over to a polyphasic cycle, the lack of sleep tricks the body into entering REM sleep immediately instead of 45 to 75 minutes into sleep like in the monophasic sleep. This way, you still get the benefits of 8 hours of sleep without wasting all of the time it takes to get to REM cycles, resulting in a much more efficient sleep cycle. Here are polyphasic cycles:
20 to 30 minute naps every 4 hours, resulting in 6 naps each day. The uberman cycle is highly efficient, and usually results in feeling healthy, feeling refreshed upon waking and extremely vivid dreams. Many uberman-users report increased ability to lucid dream as well. However, the rigid schedule makes it near impossible to miss naps without feeling horribly tired. Blogger Steve Pavlina tried the cycle for 5.5 months and had amazingly positive results.He only reverted to monophasic sleep so that he could be on the same cycle as his wife and children. Read his articles and updates on the cycle here.
One longer “core” nap that is supplemented with several 20-30 minute naps. The most successful variations that I have read about are either one 3 hour nap and three 20-minute naps or one 1.5 hour nap with 4-5 20 minute naps, all of which have equal amounts of time in between each nap. This cycle is much easier to adjust to than the Uberman and allows for more flexibity in nap times and in skipping naps when necessary. It is also still extremely efficient compared to monophasic with only 3-4 hours of sleep per day. Many bloggers have tried out this cycle and reported no negative effects on their health.
Bucky Fuller invented the cycle based on his belief that we have two energy tanks, the first is easy to replenish whereas the second tank (second wind) is much harder to replenish. So Bucky began sleeping for 30 minutes every 6 hours. That’s 2 hours a day of sleep! He reported feeling, “the most vigorous and alert condition I have ever enjoyed.” Doctors examined him after several years of using the cycle and pronounced him perfectly healthy. In fact, Fuller only stopped the cycle because his business associates were still stuck on monophasic cycles. This is by far the most extreme of the 4 alternate cycles, but also the most efficient.
Not even worthy of a diagram, the biphasic cycle is basically that of every college student in America. The biphasic cycle consists of sleeping for 4-4.5 hours at night, and then taking a 90 minute nap around noon. So not all that different, still more efficient than monophasic, but not by much.
So which cycle is right for you?
That completely depends on your lifestyle. Keep in mind that if you decide to switch to either the Dymaxion or Uberman cycles, you will be a zombie from day 3 to around day 10 until your body fully adjusts to the cycle. Here are some other tips I have gathered from reading other people’s accounts:
- Eat healthy, avoid fatty foods and the adjustment will be much easier
- Make sure you have a project to work on during all of your new awake hours as it makes the time go by faster
- Also make sure you have two or three weeks of freedom to adjust to the cycle so that you don’t go to work or school completely dead from sleep deprivation
- Hang in there. Each of the cycles will get exponentially easier all of the sudden after the first 2 weeks or so. Just be patient and diligent! Don’t skip naps or change your nap times around or you will basically have to start your adjustment period over.
- Use natural cues for being waking up from naps like sunlight and loud music, while using darkness and silence for sleep (obviously)
If you are seriously considering making the switch over the a polyphasic sleep cycle, a really enjoyable and informative read is Steve Pavlina’s extremely in-depth report of his experience with the Uberman cycle, available here.