This weekend, I slept until noon one day, and woke up at 6 am the other. My patterns aren’t always dead on. That’s the case for a lot of us 8-5 workers, but we force ourselves to commit to one pattern: that of monophasic sleep.
Monophasic sleep is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a sleep pattern that occurs in one distinct chunk per 24-hour period. We Westerners sleep as if we’re monophasic naturally, but many studies reveal that isn’t our bodies’ choice.
In fact, as infants we are polyphasic sleepers, a loose term for sleeping for shorter durations about six to eight times in a 24-hour period. We lose our precious naptime gradually and become roughly biphasic around one year of age – and we remain that way throughout our lives.
The “2:30 feeling” is a hallmark of our biphasic nature. We are geared to sleep at night and at that time during the day when our alertness severely dips.
But the advent of the lightbulb and, subsequently, the industrial revolution, has propelled us into using a schedule that crunches our time into distinct periods. Eight hours of sleep at night is all we have time for – and for most of us, even that amount is a dream.
Because we can all recognize that this type of schedule is a natural threat to our corporate wellness, many scholars have devised new, controversial systems of sleep patterns. The Uberman polyphasic Sleep Schedule, for example, is both praised and deplored. (We suggest reading more about this option to see if polyphasic sleep could benefit you – or if it’s the monster some sleep experts suggest it may be.)
But biphasic sleep tends to be less controversial, and it’s almost a fact that this schedule only remains unpopular because of corporate scheduling, better known as “business hours.”
There are a few ways to divvy up your sleep blocks, but if you absolutely cannot nap during the day, beginning with two, four-hour blocks at night will be the simplest.
To start, set a schedule and stick to it. You’ll need to determine when you want to wake up after the second block and how much time you want to use between the two blocks to determine when you first let your head hit the pillow.
It’s important to recognize that your “off” block will occur in the middle of the night – definitely not during business hours. Think about what you can accomplish during this time. If you normally go to bed at midnight but spend two hours reading before bed, push your bedtime back by two hours and use the “off” block hours for that reading, instead.
An example: Fall asleep around 10 pm. Wake at 2. Be awake. Be productive. Fall asleep again at 4 am. Wake at 8.
If you need to be up by 6 am, modify your schedule accordingly. If you’d like 3.5 hour blocks of sleep instead and more time in the middle, that’s ok, too. Here’s an excellent piece on how you can conduct a biphasic sleep experiment.
Some extra tips: Avoid caffeine, stick to the schedule, reward yourself for success, and keep the rest of your waking life routines the same during the process of switching schedules.
However your schedule develops, you’ll find that the benefits to falling into a natural rhythm can be incredibly rewarding. For one thing, you won’t consider yourself an insomniac or “disordered” because you are awake in the middle of the night. (It’s actually normal!) You also may find that you have:
• increased energy levels
• increased focus during waking hours
• increased productivity
• better memory recall
• more consistent eating habits
Have you ever tried a biphasic sleep schedule? What was the outcome? Tell us your story on our Facebook page!