Around the world, there’s one thing people seem to agree on – that we go to sleep at night and stay awake in the day. But science proves that other sleeping patterns are feasible, and possibly more preferable. Follow the law of contrary public opinion, and try one of these alternative sleeping cycles.

Did you know:

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 85% of mammals sleep in polyphasic patterns, meaning that they sleep in portions throughout the day. The vast majority of us, however are monophasic, but is that always best for us? Read on to find out which sleeping pattern you’d be best suited to.

Related: Who Are Short Sleepers & Why Don’t They Need Sleep?

If you have already tried one and find it more effective than the method of us average humans, let us know in the comments!

4 Alternative Sleeping Cycles That You Didn't Know About, an infographic guide.

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Four Alternative Sleeping Cycles That You Didn’t Know About

Around the world there’s one thing people seem to agree on – that we go to sleep at night and stay awake in the day.
But science proves that other sleeping patterns are feasible, and possibly more preferable. Follow the law of contrary public opinion, and try one of these alternative sleeping cycles.

The standard sleep cycle

Most of us are familiar with the simplest of sleep cycles – monophasic sleep. But despite being routine, is it the most efficient?

Monophasic cycle

Synopsis:
– The most common sleep cycle. Consists of one sleep at night of between 7-9 hours

Pros:
– Generally the most convenient sleep cycle
– High flexibility in sleeping/waking hours
– Minimal risk of sleep deprivation

Cons:
– Requires a relatively large amount of total sleep
– Inconvenient for professions with late shift patterns

Best suited to:
– People working regular hours (9-5)
– Schedules that don’t allow for napping

 

Four alternative sleep cycles

Monophasic sleep is just one cycle among many. Studies have shown that there are other, more pragmatic ways to get some shut eye.

Each of these alternate cycles are polyphasic – which means they involve multiple sleep phases each day.

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch published a seminal paper that suggested humans originally slept in two phases.
His book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, shows over 500 references to polyphasic sleep throughout history, from Homer’s Odyssey to modern tribes in Nigeria.

Biphasic cycle

Synopsis:
– Consists of a split sleeping pattern – 5-6 hours at night and one nap at midday.

Pros:
– Napping improves memory and cognitive functions
– If taken regularly, short naps after lunch can improve cardiovascular health and reduce stress
– Can provide a boost on tiring or sleep-deprived days

Cons:
– For insomniacs, napping perpetuates bad habits
– Can worsen sleep issues caused by jet lag, stress and illness

Best suited to:
– People living in areas where byphasic sleep is common, i.e. Mediterranean or Latin America.
– Those that have no trouble sleeping at night as a result of daytime napping

Everyman cycle

Synopsis:
– Consists of a 3.5 hour spell of core sleep and three 20 minute naps spread out across the day.

Pros:
– Longer waking hours than Uberman
– Naps are brief – only 20 minutes long
– Enormous flexibility in napping once adapted

Cons:
– Daytime napping is still required
– Minimal sleeping time (4.5 hours) each day

Best suited to:
– People who don’t feel able to handle Uberman or Dymaxion cycles
– Those who want to use polyphasic sleep to increase waking hours

Dymaxion cycle

Synopsis:
– Consists of 4 x 30 minute naps throughout the day – 2 hours of sleep in total.

Pros:
– Most waking hours of any cycle
– 6 hour waking periods
– Requires only 4 naps a day once adapted

Cons:
– Most difficult cycle to adapt to
– Longer (30 minute) naps are less convenient for scheduling

Best suited to:
– People who don’t require much sleep
– Those with the DEC2 gene – ‘short sleepers’

Uberman

Synopsis:
– Consists of 6 to 8 equidistant naps across the day, each lasting 20 minutes.

Pros:
– Once fully adapted, you can quickly fall asleep anywhere
– Only 2 hours of sleep required each day
– All naps are only 20 minutes long

Cons:
– Difficult and impractical to adapt to
– Extremely inflexible in sleeping/waking times

Best suited to:
– Those who can follow a rigid schedule
– Those we do not perform activities that require longer than 3.5 hours

Monophasic sleep with occasional naps is what comes naturally to most people. But don’t just follow the status quo; find a sleeping pattern that works for you.
In a 24/7 world, time spent sleeping is time wasted – so break out of old routines and awaken a new lifestyle.

 

Above any unusual sleep patterns, It’s massively important that you still get enough sleep, in whatever form that takes. One of our other infographics, 7 Sleep Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making and How to Fix Them, looks at what you can do about the sleep you’re getting now, regardless of pattern.

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