Polyphasic Sleep

Two pie charts side by side demonstrating the difference in time spent asleep versus time spent awake for monophasic sleep and polyphasic sleep patterns.

Polyphasic sleep is a pattern of sleep that includes many phases of rest and wakefulness throughout a 24-hour period. This pattern opposes monophasic sleep, the common pattern of sleep for adult humans, which is 7-9 uninterrupted hours of sleep at night.

There are different types of polyphasic sleep. Taking an afternoon siesta, for example, would fit the definition of polyphasic sleep. Some researchers also hypothesize that preindustrial people were segmented sleepers. They would wake up for 2-3 hours in the night between two 3-to-4-hour periods of sleep.

More recently, a community of people have adopted polyphasic sleep as a way to increase productivity, making it a form of biohacking. But rather than sleep for 7-9 hours total, proponents claim to survive on as little as 2 hours. They'll point to such innovators as Thomas Edision, Buckminster Fuller, and Winston Churchill, who all boasted short sleep schedules. Other names, like Leonardo da Vinci and Napoleon Bonaparte, appear frequently—but these claims are more difficult to confirm.

Adjustment to these strict polyphasic sleep schedules exhibits typical symptoms of sleep deprivation, including fatigue, nausea, cognitive impairment, and feelings of irritability or euphoria. Medical experts advise against this practice. But proponents claim that once people push through these symptoms, they'll reap the benefit of adding 10-11 more years to their waking life.

For more in-depth information about polyphasic sleep, see the articles below:

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