This month I am starting a new crazy experiment - I am going to attempt to adopt a polyphasic sleep pattern.

What is Polyphasic Sleep?

Most people sleep once each day, normally during the night. This is called monophasic sleep as you are getting all of your sleep in a single sleep phase.

In some countries, it is not unusual to have a biphasic sleep pattern: This means that you would sleep twice each day. Normally you would have a long sleep session during the night, and take a siesta in the afternoon. A lot of people that nap in the afternoon like this sleep less hours overall - it seems that by having a short nap in the afternoon, you can reduce the duration of your main sleep by longer than the duration of the nap.

I am going to adopt a polyphasic sleep pattern, which means I will be sleeping multiple times each day. This should allow me to spend less time sleeping, while still feeling fully alert and awake.

Polyphasic Sleep Schedules

The first properly documented polyphasic sleep pattern was the dymaxion sleep pattern that Buckminster Fuller invented - he decided to split his day into 4 equal chunks, and sleep for half an hour every 6 hours. He did this for a few years and only stopped because "his schedule conflicted with that of his business associates, who insisted on sleeping like other men".

Another similar sleep pattern is the 'uberman' sleep pattern. This pattern is reportedly easier to achieve than dymaxion, and consists of 6 equally spaced naps throughout the day, each being 20 minutes long. This means that you only sleep for 2 hours each day, but the naps have to be consistently on time: You have to sleep every 4 hours.

The sleeping pattern that I am going to try is called the 'everyman' sleep pattern. In this pattern you sleep for a long, 3 hour core nap, and then have 3 naps throughout the day for a total of 4 hours sleep. (Each nap is 20 minutes long). This is supposed to allow a bit more flexibility than the uberman sleep schedule.

My Sleep Schedule

Initially, I am going to attempt to sleep the following hours:
Sleep Period From To
Core Sleep 23:30 2:30
Nap 7:00 7:20
Nap 12:20 12:40
Nap 17:00 17:20
The following is a graphical representation of my sleep pattern - the dark areas are areas where I am asleep and the light areas are where I am awake in a 24 hour period.

My Everyman Sleep Pattern

This is not quite ideal - I think it would be better to have exactly 5 hours between each sleep period but that wouldn't fit around my life so well. Instead the spaces are 4:30, 5:00, 4:20, 6:10.

The reasons that I have chosen these hours are to interfere as little as possible with my girlfriend's routine. She goes to bed at 23:30 and wakes up at 7:30, so my first 2 sleep periods fit inside this. My 12:20 nap will involve me cycling home at lunch time (I have slept at that time before when I have been exhausted), and my final nap is before she gets home from work.


So you might be wondering why exactly I am doing this. The answer is pretty simple: Every night when I go to bed I find myself wishing there were a few more hours in the day. With this sleep pattern I will be able to be awake for 4 extra hours each night! I should also feel as alert as I do on a full 8 hour sleep, and a lot of polyphasic sleepers even report feeling better than on a full nights sleep.

Also I like doing slightly odd things! Even if this experiment fails, at least I can say I tried it and can be sure that 8 hours solid sleep is the best way for me to sleep.

Further Reading

If you would like to read more about polyphasic sleep, I would highly recommend the book Ubersleep. You should also probably check out the author's blog.

If you want a brief overview of polyphasic sleep, the wikipedia page has some good information.

You should also take a look at Steve Pavlina's blog, which contains highly detailed sleep logs from when he took up the uberman sleep schedule.