The Polyphasic sleep schedule is a departure from anything you’ve ever known about sleeping.
Most people sleep and night and work during the day. They’ve been told to try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but no nap. Most people know someone who really likes naps, and takes one almost every day, at about the same time. This is the beginning of a polyphasic sleep schedule.
Polyphasic sleep has been studied and found to provide many of the benefits of a full night’s rest, but at a fraction of the time. Polyphasic sleep practitioners have been able to decrease their sleep requirements down to 2 hours with some practice.
Uberman Sleep Schedule
The most extreme schedule is known as the “Uberman” sleep schedule. Uberman provides in 2 hours what most people achieve in 8 hours. By sleeping only 2 hours per day, you are, in effect, adding 6 hours of usefulness and productivity per day. This means that, over a week, you are adding 42 hours of productivity.
The Uberman sleep schedule is 3 hours and 40 minutes of wakefulness followed by a 20 minute nap. This means you will only be sleeping 2 hours per day, with 22 hours of wakefulness. While it sounds like this is nearly impossible, many people throughout history have adopted similar schedules quite successfully.
Initially it will be difficult to follow this schedule, especially with the very short naps that you must take frequently, but your body will adapt to your demands. Normally, the body takes a long time to get into REM sleep, and the first few days are difficult. Scientists found that REM sleep is the kind of sleep that gives rest, and is actually consists of only about 2 hours of the 8 hours most people sleep. By forcing your body to follow your schedule, you will get nearly 20 minutes of REM sleep every nap (20 minutes, 6 naps), which is equal to the 2 hours a monophasic (that is, someone who sleeps for 8 hours straight) sleeper gets.
With Uberman, your body will realize that it will only be getting those 2 hours of sleep and slips into REM sleep almost immedietelly. This allows you to stay awake much longer with much less rest.
What are some other sleep schedules?
With biphasic sleep, about halfway through the day a nap is taken. This nap can be long or short. Generally, a short nap means a longer “main” sleep while a longer nap means a shorter main sleep. Usually this will lead to about a 6 hour main sleep, saving you about 1-2 hours from your sleep requirements per day.
Segmented sleep was widely considered to be “normal” before the 20th century. In segmented sleep, users would sleep for about 3.5 hours, then wake for a short period of time, then sleep again for another 3.5 hours. See this post for a more information on the “natural” sleeping schedule.
Everyman is a sleeping schedule where there is a relatively large main sleep followed by 2, 3, 4, or even 5 naps spaced evenly throughout the day. This allows for a large main sleep while still maintaining many of the benefits of a polyphasic sleep schedule.
Buckminster Fuller followed this schedule for about 2 years, but stopped it because it conflicted with everyone else’s schedules. Dymaxation is about 5 hours 30 minutes of wakefulness, followed by 30 minutes of sleep. It will net you the same time saving qualities of Uberman, but with fewer naps per day.