Hack Your Brain: Polyphasic Sleep
Have you ever wondered why humans, the most advanced species on Earth, need so much sleep?
You may say that it’s needed to repair and replenish our body tissue, but that can’t be the answer. Giraffes, for example, can weigh upwards of 4,000 pounds yet they only sleep on average 1.9 hours per night. Then it must be for our brains! you may say, but that’s not true either.
Humans have been shown to function fine on only two (yes two) total hours of sleep per 24 hour cycle.
Scientists really don’t know much about our sleeping patterns, which is a shame because we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. There is no defined biological reason why we sleep so much. In fact, you could go so far as to say it’s a major disadvantage in our evolutionary process.
Imagine how much more you could accomplish in your life by sleeping less.
You may know that sleep is divided into five stages. Polyphasic sleep concentrates on the fifth and most important stage of sleep, rapid eye movement (REM.) This is the most beneficial stage of sleep; it is when the brain is most active and is when dreaming occurs. REM is the only stage of sleep that is actually required to survive and function normally. The interesting part of all this is that you only spend 1 to 2 hours in this stage of sleep every night. The other 6 or so hours spent asleep every night are seemingly wasted.
Polyphasic sleep cycles basically cut out the other useless phases, giving you an additional 4 to 6 hours of time awake.
The trick involves tricking your brain into immediately entering the REM stage of sleep, skipping the other four. Everyone has experienced this at some point in their life.
If you’ve gone a long period of time without sleep, and take a nap, you will find that you immediately start dreaming. This happens because your body is trying to catch up on lost REM sleep. The premise of polyphasic sleep then, is to train your body to enter REM sleep at multiple set times during the day with short 20 minute naps. If you are a fan of lucid dreaming, you will enjoy this even more because you will pretty much automatically become lucid while you sleep, without trying, multiple times per day.
There are six different ways to accomplish this, which I will outline below.
This is the most common way that almost everyone sleeps. However, it is completely unnecessary and only popular because you have been raised to sleep this way and are now conditioned to it. It involves sleeping 8 hours, with 2 hours of total REM sleep.
This is where the fun starts. There are five commonly accepted polyphasic sleeping cycles, and none is better than the other.
What you need to do is pick what works best with your schedule. The Uberman, for example, would not work for a 9-5 worker. The siesta might be more effective in that case. The five different cycles are listed in order of difficulty, with the Siesta being the easiest, and the Uberman being the hardest.
This sleep cycle is actually pretty common around the world in warmer countries such as Latin America, where the temperature is so hot during the middle of the day that people retire to take a short nap after lunch. It involves 6 hours of core sleep and one short 20-30 minute nap. You will find in these countries that most shops close during the early afternoon, as everyone is ‘busy’ taking their siestas!
The Everyman is basically like a climbing ladder that details how much many naps are required depending on how much core sleep you want to cut. Each nap shaves off an astounding hour and 40 minutes from your core sleeping time.
The Uberman is only for the most hardcore polyphasic sleepers. It involves six evenly spread out naps every four hours and completely eliminates any core sleep you may have needed before. It is the most difficult cycle to get used to, but once accomplished, you sleep for two hours a night, freeing up the other twenty-two to do whatever you want.
Important Things You Must Know
Do NOT oversleep or skip naps. If you oversleep you WILL throw off the entire schedule and feel exhausted for up to 24 hours. If you skip a nap (by more than a couple hours with the Everyman, or by 30 minutes with the Uberman), the same thing will happen.
• Make sure you have a period of free time (up to a month) to adjust to the cycle.
• The first week or two is the most difficult part when trying to adjust to any of these cycles. Beat this phase without oversleeping or skipping naps, and you will have successfully hacked your brain.
• You must have something to fill up all your newfound time with, else you will get bored and find that falling asleep may be the easiest thing to do. Find a big project and work on it throughout the adjustment phase.
• Enjoy your newfound freedom. Don’t worry about negative effects as people have done each cycle before, and after being examined by doctors after years, and been found perfectly healthy. In fact, people only stop these cycles because they find it is difficult to run on a sleeping cycle which contradicts the entire rest of the world. Who knows, one day we may all be Uberman sleepers!