Sleep Efficiency


Has anyone here experimented with polyphasic sleep schedules?

I hate the wasted time of needing to sleep when I could be doing other things. Much like the efficiency of Soylent saving me time, I have been wanting to see if different sleep patterns might create efficiencies as well.

Edit: After a week, I ceased my experiment.


I am not hardcore enough for the “Uberman” schedule (20 minute naps six times per day, very rigid). I have instead opted to try one version of the “Everyman” schedule. (3.5 hr core sleep at night, three 20 minute naps, more flexible) I thought about starting with just a “biphasic” (2 sleeps per day) but the “Everyman” seemed a bit better for me, personally.

My first schedule attempt is going to be:
11p-2:30a (core)
7a-7:20a (nap)
noon-12:20p (nap)
6p-6:20p (nap)

For me, this gives me the best tradeoff of only needing 1 nap during my normal 8-5 workday schedule, and it is during lunchtime. If I need to move a nap around, I can move it up or back by 0-60 minutes if I need to. If I ever need to miss a nap, I can make it up through adjustments to the schedule.

This should give me an extra 3.5 hours per day of wakefulness. (sleeping 4.5 hours vs 8 hours)

Apparently it takes a couple of weeks for one’s body to adjust, so hopefully I make it.


Also, for anyone else looking at different sleep schedules/patterns, I found to be a nice tool to help with coming up with a schedule.


I have virtually never slept on a fixed schedule, but I personally think that cutting back much on the total amount of sleep that you get makes you stupid.


I can definitely do some stupid things sometimes.

However, it sounds like having the shorter naps trains your body/mind to get to REM sleep faster. REM is the beneficial part of sleep, and apparently accounts for very little of the overall amount of sleep during long duration sleep. Basically, you are trying to get to high-quality sleep faster and spend less time in low-quality sleep.

However, there is very little research into the different effects of sleep patterns. There are people who have gone years using various polyphasic sleep patterns and seem fine, but there could certainly be longer-term (or unseen) problems that are unknown. Also, some people just naturally require more sleep than others.

I can’t see experimenting with sleep patterns as any more potentially harmful than experimenting with nutritional consumption, though.


Where are you finding those charts?

Your information is backwards, REM is not the high-quality (deep) sleep, non-REM is. It’s true that adults get much less REM than NREM, but it’s not true that either REM or NREM is categorically superior rather they both play different and important roles in our biology.

The idea of engineered nutrition was always sound scientifically but this idea disregards the most important and largest phase of sleep as an “unnecessary stage”. It’s like they didn’t even bother to look anything up. I’m all for optimizing sleep but this method is a dead end because they don’t understand the science.



My main source of info was reading on this websites:

I should note that I probably didn’t describe any of it correctly above. They talk a lot about deep sleep and the benefits, as you point out Sententia. (Not just REM like I mistakenly said.) I am attempting to learn about it and probably am not the best source of info and probably mis-stated a bunch of stuff. (Apologies)

In addition to the above, there are a bunch of articles and other sources of info on the different polyphasic sleep patterns.


It has only been fairly recently that humans have been sleeping what we now consider “normal” monophasic sleep, or one big chunk. Pre-industrial humans (all the way up to about the 17th Century) slept in two distinct “chunks”, commonly referred to as 1st and 2nd sleep. (source, among many others) Standardized work hours, lighting, electricity, and overall industrialization led to the compacting of biphasic (a form of polyphasic) sleep into what we have now.

Also of note, many cultures still practice siestas or mid-day naps as a form of polyphasic sleep.

The human body is wonderfully adaptive. The use of polyphasic sleep cycles to increase efficiency is interesting. Even just taking a single mid-day nap can increase overall focus as well as decrease the amount of sleep needed. I find it interesting that as humans become elderly, they tend to take more naps and sleep less at night. (One theory for this is that the body is attempting to utilize the restorative properties of polyphasic sleep patterns due to elderly being more infirm.)


I have trouble waking up in darkness. I can get a full 8 hours of sleep and still be groggy and unfocused if I wake up before sunrise. Makes it very difficult to get to 8am classes on time and actually focus on them. Yet if I wake up during daylight, regardless how much or how little sleep I actually got I’ll feel fully awake and alert. I think if I were to try what you’re doing, I would have to leave the lights on all night…but then I would have trouble falling asleep in the first place. Am I the only one whose sleep is so heavily affected by light levels?


I have always been fascinated by the correlation between less sleep and successful people. (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)

Notice I said correlation and not causation, though. I am not sure if sleeping less (increasing waking hours) tends to cause success or if sleeping less is just a more common trait amongst those that are successful, but does not cause it.


I have the same issues. There are a bunch of sunrise simulator alarm clocks that gradually brighten at the time you specify to allow for a more natural awakening.


Wow, I need one of those! They’re so expensive, though :frowning:


From what I’ve read about the (very limited) research done on sleep restrictions and polyphasic sleep, it seems that short sleeps tend to provide a greater feeling of alertness and focus but longer sleeps benefit memory retention more. Personally I would prioritize the latter, but maybe that’s just because I’m a student


There are a couple for under $20 that I saw. (1, 2)

There are several in the $20-$50 price range in the previous link or on Amazon, if you budget allowed for that.

Disclaimer: I have no idea how good any of them are. I just knew they were a thing.


I bought one of these on Amazon as a Christmas gift and even tried it. It had no discernable effect. I would like to try one of the more expensive ones.


Tread with care - this is an interesting, but poorly understood, area. If you take all your information from sites supporting polyphasic sleep, you may get an artificially favorable impression.

For example, consider the idea that it takes several weeks for the body to adjust, and “learn” to fall asleep quickly… bear in mind that we know, from extensive research, that being chronically sleep-deprived also results in going into REM sleep very quickly. This pattern is so well researched and documented that measuring time to fall into deep sleep is one of the standard diagnostic measures of the level of sleep deprivation.

So, if you partake of a new sleep pattern that reduces your sleep by several hours for several weeks, is your body “learning” to go to sleep quickly? Or is you body just falling asleep rapidly because you’ve been sleep-deprived for several weeks?

On the subject of REM versus other levels of sleep - REM sleep is closely tied to certain mental processes. It’s currently believed that it’s probably related to things like memory consolidation, processing the day’s events, etc., and we know that chronically disrupting REM sleep will lead to a variety of (mostly bad) psychological effects. Not only a REM-deprived person rapidly fall into REM when lying down to sleep (instant dreaming), but they are also likely to hallucinate if they try to stay awake.

But solving the need for REM by taking naps isn’t enough… REM is a small sub-segment of sleep, in terms of time spent. Light sleep and non-REM deep sleep are not perfectly understood, either, but they seem to have purposes. Your body’s physical recovery is dependent on time spent during those sleep cycles, and is likely unrelated to the amount of REM sleep. We have many circadian (daily) rhythms: while we sleep, we see dramatic changes in melatonin, cortisol, thyroid stimulating hormone, prolactin… and these appear primarily tied not to 24-hour cycles, but rather, tied to our sleep cycles. What is the impact on physical recovery of decreasing the amount of time spent in light and deep sleep? Impact on immune system?

True, there’s good evidence that polyphasic sleep patterns may have been more common and natural in our history as a species, especially seasonally… but there’s little evidence that those sleep patterns resulted in less total sleep than our current norms. In fact, humans already sleep considerably fewer hours than other primates, and sleep fewer hours than most mammals. I believe the only major groups of mammals that sleep fewer hours than humans are grazing animals, like cattle, elephants - these animals all have to eat for many, many hours a day, and they sleep by taking brief snoozes while standing. Other groups of mammals all sleep much longer, including those most similar to us (such as primates) and many that are very dissimilar - everything from mice and rabbits to cats and dogs all sleep more hours than we do.

But, now that we’re on the subject, I may do some more research (checking out the latest science) and experiment with polyphasic sleep, myself. But I’ll be splitting up my sleep time in hopes of improving health, not in hopes of decreasing time spent asleep. My goal is to increase the value (and wakefullness) of each waking hour, and to live as long as possible in excellent health. Also, I’m currently in a situation that allows for polyphasic sleep, so it’s a good time to experiment.

My personal experience suggests that those who don’t rest enough are generally functioning at inferior levels (compared to what they’re capable of), but that they can’t tell that they’re sub-standard, because their ability to tell the difference is one of the things most impaired!


All very good advice, @MentalNomad. I am monitoring my sleep patterns via a sleep tracker. I would like to get one of these masks that is made for sleep hacking, but they appear to currently be backordered due to the success of their Kickstarter:

I am considering monitoring bloodwork as well.

If I start posting gibberish on discourse, would someone please warn me! :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously, though, there are people who have gone years on this sleep pattern with no known ill effects. Also, as stated above by others, there are many successful people that survive(d) on 4 or 5 hours of sleep per day basically their whole life. (Marissa Mayer, Jack Dorsey, Jay Leno, Bill Clinton, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, Margaret Thatcher, etc.)


I find that artificial light wakes me up eventually, just like sunlight. The sucky part (for me) is going from total darkness to immediately bright light. I’ve thought about getting one of these fancy sunrise alarm clocks to wake me up more gently:

Edit: Which someone else pointed out already. I was so excited to share! :stuck_out_tongue:

How are we supposed to tell? :confused:




What bothers me about this cutting back on sleep idea is the common assumption that sleeping is basically a waste of time. I remember as a child glorying in the idea that when I was going to sleep I could think anything I wanted, with no concern about whether it was socially acceptable, or even made sense! It was a kind of complete freedom.

You wouldn’t want a couple of hours cut out of your waking day. I think that when we go to sleep we just keep on thinking, but the rules are different.