Alternative Sleep Cycles: Which One Is Right for You?

Most of us live our lives thinking that we need 6-8 hours sleep at night, stay awake all day, and then hit the pillow again after 16-18 hours… and repeat. But in actual fact, this monophasic cycle is only 1 of 5 major sleep cycles that have worked successfully for humans in the past.

There are 4 other sleep cycles, called polyphasic cycles, that focus on multiple naps each day, rather than one solid sleep at night. But can polyphasic sleep patterns be healthy? And can they work for you?

The most important stage of our sleep cycle is our REM sleep, otherwise known as Rapid Eye Movement, and this is the stage in which the brain benefits, grows and repairs. In a monophasic sleep cycle, which most of us will have, this REM sleep will occur in stage 4, quite late-on into our deep sleep. When we transfer over to a polypshasic sleep cycle, our brains are tricked into entering REM sleep immediately, rather than 45-75mins in.

In summary, this means you can reap the benefits of an 8-hour sleep, without wasting the first hour of rest! It’s a much more efficient way of sleeping, and here are the 4 polyphasic cycles you can try: 

Biphasic/Siesta Cycle –

The siesta cycle consists of around 4hrs sleep per night, then a 90-minute nap around noon to stock up on your REM sleep. The most similar to monophasic sleep, this cycle is probably the easiest to try out first.

Uberman Cycle –

This cycle consists of 20-30-minute naps, every 4 hours, resulting in 6 naps per day. This way of sleeping is highly efficient, and users claim to feel healthier, refreshed and well-rested. The downside? If you miss any naps, you will feel horribly tired!

Everyman Cycle –

This cycle works on one longer ‘core’ nap, supplemented with several 20-30-minute shorter naps across the day. The best variations are a 3-hour sleep, paired with three 20-minute naps, or a 2-hour sleep, with four or five 20-minute naps. This cycle is much easier to adjust to than the Uberman cycle, and allows for more flexibility in nap times.

Dymaxion Cycle –

Probably one of the hardest polyphasic cycles to attempt, the Dymaxion Cycle is based on the belief that we have 2 energy tanks; one that is easy to replenish, and one that is much more difficult. It asks you to take 30-minute naps, every 6 hours, resulting in only 2 hours of sleep per day… albeit very efficient REM sleep! It’s the most extreme of the cycles, but also the most effective!

So which one is for you?

Your choice of sleep cycle depends completely on your lifestyle. Many people can’t take naps during the day while they are busy at work, but if you can, it could be worth experimenting!  Bear in mind, it will take your body around 3-10 days to fully adjust to a change in cycle, so aim to attempt a cycle change in a less busy time of your life, like a vacation or time-off work.

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