Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
What do Leonarda da Vinci and Thomas Edison have in common? They were both proponents of polyphasic sleep, which refers to the practice of sleeping multiple times during a 24 hour period, versus the monophasic sleep cycle where we sleep for 6-8 hours and then are awake the remaining 16-18 hours.
Although little research has been done on the effects of Polyphasic sleep on the brain and body, it is rumored that if you follow a sleep pattern of several small naps each 24-hours, perhaps one of these naps being a little longer, you will supposedly reach a euphoric state with more energy and better concentration. The theory behind this is that with each nap, you will quickly enter REM sleep – the most restful and beneficial for the body and mind. With polyphasic sleep, you eliminate the “unnecessary” part of sleep – the non-REM sleep – giving you more hours each day to live your life.
There are various polyphasic sleep patterns. The most rigorous is the Uberman cycle, consisting of 20-30 minute naps every 4 hours. This type of pattern is said to help induce lucid dreams, which are believed to give the dreamer insight into depth, ability and creativity of your unconscious mind. Lucid dreamers can learn to practice creative visualization during their dreams to bring certain intentions and life goals to fruition. The second type, the Everyman cycle, includes one core nap, supplemented by five short 20-30 minute naps. The third is considered most extreme; the Dymaxion cycle consists of sleeping 30 minutes every 6 hours with a total of only 2 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. There are also cultures that cater to a Biphasic cycle, where the individual sleeps for a longer period at night – about 4 hours – and then takes a long nap mid-day.
Dr. Claudio Stampi, Founder and Director of the Chronobiology Research Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and author of Why We Nap, studies and researches polyphasic sleep. The video below follows a 49-day experiment led by Dr. Sampi with an Italian male subject following a polyphasic sleep cycle. In a regular night, reaching REM takes 90 minutes to 3 hours before REM sleep begins. Stampi found that in his polyphasic sleep experiment, it takes only couple of minutes. Dr. Stampi states, “The body will automatically prefer to concentrate on the sleep stages or in the sleep parts that are most important and most necessary.” Yet, the end of the video is quite funny, and brings up the question if polyphasic sleep is really enough, or if our physical body needs the extra non-REM sleep? And would polyphasic sleep really be possible in our society, anyway?
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