A polyphasic sleep schedule is one where sleep is obtained several times throughout a day, rather than all in one extended block. In practice, as most people pursue it, polyphasic sleep schedules also tend to involve fewer total hours of sleep, in some cases dramatically so. I think I first heard of polyphasic sleep back in 2005. At the time, I thought it would be interesting to try it, but with the schedule I had at the time, it
just didn’t seem feasible and I never pursued it. A couple of weeks ago, I ran across it again, and disovered that the internet resources for this alternative schedule are much more plentiful than they had been when I first looked.
Reading through the information I found rekindled my interest in giving this schedule a try. I decided to start with what’s known as the Uberman schedule. This schedule specifies a nap (appox. 20 minutes) every 4 hours (round the clock) but no other sleep.
I find that there are three main reasons I am attracted to trying this approach to sleep, one that is obviously radically different than most people follow. I’m intensely curious about the experience of living time more continuously. With the Uberman schedule, there is no day, night, and new day clearly defined by sleep patterns. People who have described it say that time takes on a different perspective with the schedule. For myself, I imagine seeing the circle of the summer sun as it moves continuously around the compass, dipping briefly below the horizon in the north at night. I suspect this will be a different experience then going to sleep with the sun in the northwest and rising several hours later with it in the northeast or east.
Almost as important to me is the possibility of becoming much more flexible with my time. I have tended to be someone who did not function well without a full night of sleep. There have been many times it would have been advantageous to adjust my schedule and still be highly functional, but that’s not often been possible for me. Most people would not describe the Uberman sleep schedule as flexible. The naps cannot be changed much from the regularly schedule time, but I think that 20 minute naps every 4 hours give me more time flexibility than my current schedule. In particular, it will be much easier for me to observe the world at night and in the early morning; times when interesting things happen, but I have had difficulty being awake for.
Finally, I think the extra time will be nice to have. I’ve tended to feel like there is not enough time in the day to do the things I would like to, and I am optimistic that with more wakeful time will make it easier to create blocks of time for things I think are important, but that have tended to get shorted in my schedule.
It’s been about 3 weeks since I started getting serious about adapting to a polyphasic schedule, two weeks since I started preparing, and a little over a week since I started the adaptation process. I will write about this in some entries to come.
Steve Pavalina’s Polyphasic Sleep Log: where I first learned about polyphasic sleep.
Polyphasic Sleep at Wikipedia: a nice summary
The Ubersleep Book: Written by puredoxyk, who may have been the first person to try the Uberman schedule and write about it on the internet. A book is available for download, but there are also many articles related to polyphasic sleep.