Our daily sleeping schedule is usually an 8 to 9 hours of nighttime sleep. However, there are people who take multiple naps, instead of sleeping for long hours. This irregular or abnormal sleeping pattern is commonly described as polyphasic sleep. Here 'poly' means many and the term 'phasic' is related to phase. Thus, people diagnosed with this abnormal sleeping cycle are said to complete their sleep in multiple phases.
A person showing polyphasic sleep pattern has the habit of taking short naps throughout the day. Frequent alternating periods of sleep and wakefulness are a hallmark of this sleeping pattern. The duration of each nap may vary from 20 minutes to about half an hour. Sometimes the nap duration can be as small as 10 minutes.
Causes of Polyphasic Sleep
A trauma such as a violent blow to the head during an accident may disturb normal sleeping patterns. A brain injury too, can produce the same result. This sleeping schedule is also observed in babies, which is quite natural.
There are people who intentionally change their normal sleeping pattern and opt for polyphasic sleep cycle in order to increase their waking time. This kind of experimentation can negatively affect health in the long run. Studies show that performance at work is likely to diminish as the body is deprived of uninterrupted sleep. Decreased alertness, intellectual performance and creative output can also occur. Lack of sleep continuity can lead to decrease in mental capacity.
Normal sleeping mechanism goes haywire, if the polyphasic sleep schedule is incorporated in the daily routine. This sleep pattern mainly comprises short naps taken at regular intervals of time. There are different variations of sleeping polyphasically, like Everyman, Uberman and Dymaxion, and each one demands strict mental discipline to make it a habit.
In this sleep schedule, one can take uninterrupted sleep whose duration varies anywhere between 1.5 and 4.5 hours. In addition to this continuous sleep, one can take short naps (around 2-5 in number) at regular intervals.
Following this type of sleep schedule involves taking 6 naps in a 24 hour period. Each nap comprises 20 minutes sleeping and separated by 4 hours duration. Thus a person opting for Uberman's sleep schedule takes a 20 minute nap every 4 hours.
Followers of this sleep schedule are supposed to take 4 naps, each having a duration of 30 minutes. Also, a time gap of 6 hours has to be maintained before taking the next nap.
Long Term Effects of Polyphasic Sleep
Many consider sleeping polyphasically as an unhealthy habit. The fact that it deprives you of much-needed sleep as well as may put you at the risk of sleep disorders such as delayed sleep phase syndrome, is unacceptable. Studies reveal that a large population have had trouble following this sleep schedule. Most complain about fatigue, inability to stay focused and irritability. Mental health issues like depression are also likely to erupt.
Adjusting to this unusual sleep cycle of polyphasic sleep is not easy, rather quite difficult. The body will take some time to adapt to this new sleep cycle. A point to note here is that practical implementation of sleeping polphasically, in today's hectic lifestyle, has its own drawbacks. For instance, taking naps during office hours is not feasible, unless you are self-employed or your boss allows you to work at your own pace.
To survive today's cut throat competition, one has to learn new skills and maximize mental capacity, which is not possible with polyphasic sleep. A good night's sleep has many benefits such as improved memory, more alertness and reduced stress that can go a long way in optimizing our overall health. So, it is recommended to enjoy all the stages of sleep by sticking to monophasic sleeping pattern and not disturb the human biological clock, thus keeping you energetic and active throughout the day.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.