Alternate Sleep Cycles
Most people believe that there is only one way to sleep: go to sleep at night for 6-8 hours, wake up in the morning, stay awake for 16-18 hours and then repeat. This is called a monophasic sleep cycle, which is actually 1 of 5 major sleep cycles used throughout history. The other 4 cycles are considered “polyphasic sleep cycles” because they require multiple naps to be taken throughout the day.
The most important part of every sleep cycle is the Stage 4 REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which provides the benefits of sleeping the brain needs above all other stages. When changing over to a polyphasic cycle, the lack of sleep tricks the body into entering REM sleep immediately, instead of approximately an hour later like in monophasic sleep.
The Uberman Cycles requires 20-30 naps every 4 hours, resulting in 6 naps each day. This cycle is highly efficient and usually results in feeling healthy and refreshed. Many Uberman-users report increased ability to lucid dream as well. Because this schedule is so rigid, it’s impossible to miss naps without feeling extremely tired.
This cycle has one longer “core” nap that is supplemented with several 20-30 minute naps. The most successful cycles can include one 3 hour nap and three 20-minute naps or one 1.5 hour nap with four or five 20-minute naps. This cycle is easier to adjust to than the Uberman, and allows for more flexibility in nap times and in skipping naps when necessary.
This cycle was invented by Bucky Fuller based on his belief that we all have two energy tanks: the first is easy to replenish whereas the second tank (second wind) is much harder to replenish. He began sleeping for 30 minutes every 6 hours (only 2 hours of sleep a day!) and reported feeling “the most vigorous and alter condition I have ever enjoyed.” This is by far the most extreme of the 4 polyphasic sleep cycles, but also the most efficient.
The biphasic cycle consists of sleeping for 4-4.5 hours a night, and then taking a 90 minute nap around noon. It’s not very different from the monophasic sleep cycle, but still more efficient.
If you’re considering switching to an alternate sleep cycles, eating healthy meals and avoiding fatty foods can make the adjustment much easier. It’s also a good idea to ask your doctor before switching to an alternate sleep cycle. Make sure you have 2-3 hours of freedom to adjust to the cycle so work or school are not affected by the change.