Polyphasic Sleep—A Primer

Polyphasic sleep is a catchall term for sleeping on a schedule more than once a day. Since the term’s inception, the polyphasic community tends to agree that it also involves a schedule of some type, often rigorous or well-defined, but not certainly so. It’s been attributed to famous people like Thomas Edison, Buckminster Fuller, Leonardo DaVinci and more, but whether those people actually practiced it is mostly unknown for sure, though Buckminster Fuller did keep quite a few records on his sleeping patterns. My own experiences with polyphasic sleep revolve around a schedule known as Uberman—a series of 6 20-minute naps spaced 4-hours apart. For more information on schedules, see the schedules page

The question I get the most in regards to my sleep schedule is “does it really work?” The answer, in short, is yes. I have successfully adapted to a polyphasic schedule like many other people and I now sleep significantly less than 8 hours a day. Over the course of the last 48 hours, for example, I have slept a total of 2.5 hours. There are many schedules to which you can subscribe, and some of them will work better than others.

My friends often comment that they “love sleep” and would hate to give it up, but my personal belief is that sleeping 6 times a day shows more love for sleeping than sleeping just once a day. The length of the time spent sleeping rarely matters, especially since it’s so hard to know how long you’ve been asleep. Not only that, but when you dream for 20 minutes, it feels like you’ve been asleep for 2 hours. Imagine if you could feel like you’ve taken 6 2-hour naps a day but only slept a total of 2 hours at all? That’s how I feel all day.

The science behind polyphasic sleep is minimal at best. Scientists don’t really know why we sleep, let alone how modified sleep schedules would affect us. If you’re considering polyphasic sleep as an option, be careful. If you take it lightly and end up sleep deprived, serious health hazards can occur, not to mention that being tired can be dangerous if you’re driving, walking, or using heavy machinery like the can opener.