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Polyphasic sleep: what you need to know about intermittent rest

sleeping woman

Polyphasic sleep is an increasingly popular practice that has both benefits and risks. Let's find out together how it works and what is important to know about it.

When we talk about polyphasic sleep we mean the practice that leads to sleeping several times a day with always different times and intervals. In practice, it is a completely different way of resting and which instead of being monophasic (the way we sleep that we all know) instead becomes polyphasic , i.e. with different rest sessions that alternate during the day.
Even if it doesn't seem like it, it's an increasingly widespread method but which, precisely for this reason, is really important to get to know. Let's find out, therefore, everything related to this way of sleeping , what are the differentiations to make and what risks to be on guard against.

From monophasic to polyphasic sleep: everything you need to know

Normally, the phase of sleep that we all know and which therefore goes from the evening to the following morning is called monophasic sleep. It is in fact a single moment of the day in which you go to sleep and rest for about eight hours. Many people, even if they don't know it, instead follow biphasic sleep which is characterized by the phase just described and to which is added a shorter rest usually carried out in the afternoon.

sleeping woman
sleeping woman

On the other hand, we speak of polyphasic sleep, when the times in which we go to bed with the intention of sleeping are more than two and carried out during the day.
Each phase generally lasts more than two hours a day and can be repeated at more or less regular intervals for about three or four times, including both daytime and nighttime hours.

How to implement monophasic sleep

Let's start by saying that newborns experience this way of sleeping in a completely natural way, alternating moments of sleep of about 3 hours and repeated several times a day. Likewise, the animal kingdom is full of such examples. This method is also used by soldiers or by those who, due to work needs, often find themselves having to be alert or where to sleep for less time.
Therefore, there are many polyphasic sleep modes and they can have different causes.

Being a modality chosen independently for a short time, the studies in progress are still few and with unclear results. According to some, sleeping in this way would allow to reduce the hours of sleep while remaining efficient. According to others, however, it is a modality that can be put into practice for short moments in life and which in the long run can be stressful, especially if you go to limit the hours of rest.

On the other hand, other studies show that for some people, getting three to four hours of sleep a night with short daytime naps of half an hour each can improve memory and productivity.

What are the best known polyphasic sleep modalities

As already mentioned, polyphasic sleep can be managed in very different ways and times. For this reason, there are some that are better known and more widespread than others.
The Dymaxion mode provides, for example, four half-hour sleep sessions to be spaced out every six for and for a total of 2 hours of sleep in all.
Everyman mode, on the other hand, is made up of three-hour sleep blocks a night with 20-minute naps during the day for a total of 4 hours of sleep overall.

Regardless of the modality, it is clear that it is a question of a few hours of sleep which, for most people, in the long run, would be harmful in several respects. That said, the story brings several examples of talented characters who slept in a polyphasic rhythm. From Thomas Edison to Leonardo da Vinci, there are many characters who, for the most disparate reasons, found themselves resting in this way.

The risks of polyphasic sleep

By its own definition, polyphasic sleep leads to sleep less than the eight hours that every adult needs for a correct circadian rhythm. This can lead to exhaustion, poor concentration, depression and increased stress.

The first thing to consider, therefore, is that polyphasic sleep can only be a resource in certain circumstances or when one is forced, for example for work reasons, to interrupt the normal rhythm due to night shifts. In other cases it can be useful when preparing for an exam and you find yourself sleeping a few hours a night. However, everything should always be studied and evaluated on the individual.

In fact, each of us has different needs and ways of adapting. Which is why polyphasic sleep can be both an asset and a problem. Especially if we think about how sleep disorders are able to lower the quality of life, making what is called sleep hygiene necessary. And which is, to all intents and purposes, a way to sleep well and, above all, for the right hours.

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