Biphasic Sleep: Why You Should Consider A Two-Part Sleep Schedule

6 Min Read | By Lewis Ridley

Last Modified 15 May 2024   First Added 8 January 2021

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Biphasic sleep definition:

Biphasic sleep is a sleep pattern in which a person splits their sleep into two main segments per day. They may sleep longer at night, and then take a nap during the day. Or, they may split their nighttime sleep up into two segments. Biphasic sleep is also referred to as segmented or bimodal sleep

Source: Sleep Foundation

Biphasic sleep is an alternative sleeping pattern that could be a potential replacement for the standard monophasic sleep that we, as modern humans, are used to.

With more people working remotely than ever before and the standard 8 hour working day disrupted, biphasic sleeping patterns could be the latest sleeping trend.

If you’re looking to improve your sleeping routines for flexible working and are open to new ideas, a biphasic sleeping pattern is one you can definitely experiment with.

This article will break down all you need to know about this intriguing sleep methodology. You’ll discover what it entails, how to do it, and the benefits that could result from making biphasic sleep your latest goal.

What is biphasic sleep?

Biphasic sleep is a sleeping pattern that involves the splitting of sleep into two separate segments. It’s also referred to as bimodal, segmented, or diphasic sleep.

The sleeping routine includes both a night-time and daytime sleeping interval. These are usually comprised of a 5-hour segment and a 1-1.5 hour sleep in the day. However, this can alternate with other variations involving a 6-hour sleep at night followed by a 20-minute nap during the day.

As you can begin to see, this is completely different from the standard monophasic sleeping pattern people commonly adopt, which involves sleeping for 7-8 hours a night. However, as you may have experienced at some point in life, achieving this many hours of sleep can sometimes prove to be a challenge.

Interestingly, the monophasic sleeping pattern is hypothesised to have become the norm as a result of industrialisation. The working day made it difficult to achieve daytime naps, resulting in the majority of sleeping occurring during the darker, later hours.

Unfortunately, with the application of technology and brighter screens, maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule has become problematic in modern times. With sleep becoming an evermore talked about topic, it can become only natural people would begin researching alternative sleeping patterns like biphasic sleep.

What are the benefits of biphasic sleep?

Biphasic sleep boasts a number of potential benefits, including:

  • Improved cognitive functioning
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Decreased levels of stress
  • General feelings of being well-rested

However, many of these pros are derived from studies on napping. They’re not the findings from studies investigating biphasic sleep directly.

When looking at the historical studies on biphasic sleeping patterns, the initial perception is positive.

One article discussing the change to monophasic sleeping patterns as a result of the invention of the working day advocates the use of biphasic routines. As monophasic patterns were a product of social change, there is an argument they’re not natural. If we were to look further back in time, it is likely we’d see biphasic and polyphasic sleep being used more regularly.

However, if we were to look into studies investigating napping and use them as a proxy for biphasic sleep, the results are mixed.

Research in 2010 found daytime napping to have a positive influence on cognitive functioning with larger benefits being seen with naps lasting longer than 30 minutes.

Conversely, one study in 2012 found napping to be a poor method to achieve quality rest and could result in lower cognitive performance. Bear in mind this study was performed on pre-schoolers and may not be generalisable to a wider population.

As you can see, it’s difficult to get a straight answer.

The takeaway here is that everyone is different, and situations vary. Your best bet is to experiment with this sleeping style yourself and note down how you’re feeling every morning. Do you feel well-rested? More alert? Or do you feel sluggish and exhausted?

In either case, if you’re struggling with sleep, consulting your GP is always advised.

How to achieve biphasic sleep

Biphasic sleep can be performed in two core ways:

  • Short nap: This is composed of sleeping 6 hours at night with a short 20-minute nap during the day
  • Long nap: This is composed of sleeping 5 hours at night with a 1-1.5-hour nap during the day

This doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re unsure which one to choose, simply alternate and see which one gives you the best impact on daytime performance.

What’s the difference between biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

If you’ve heard of biphasic sleep, you’ve probably heard of polyphasic sleep as well.

The key difference between the two is the sleeping intervals. Biphasic sleep involves 2 separate sleeping segments, whereas polyphasic sleep involves aggressively splitting up sleep into 4-6 different segments throughout the day.

The polyphasic routine splits out into three different styles:

  • Everyman: A long sleep of 3 hours with three 20-minutes naps during the day
  • Uberman: Limits sleep to just 3 hours, taken in six 30-minutes nap intervals
  • Dymaxion: limits sleep to 2 hours in the form of 30-minute naps every 6 hours

You begin to ask yourself the question: why in the hell would anyone do this?

Limiting your sleep to just 2 hours is extreme. However, the individuals who perform this extreme kind of sleep purge claim it makes them more productive and cognitively enhanced.

Here’s what Healthline has to say:

“People might actively pursue a biphasic or polyphasic sleep lifestyle because they believe it makes them more productive. It creates more time for certain tasks and activities during the day, while maintaining the same benefits of monophasic sleeping at night.”

Of course, for some, there will be drawbacks. In some cases, polyphasic sleep is a result of an underlying sleep disorder.

It’s important to assess your needs and goals when it comes to experimenting with extreme sleep routines like the polyphasic one. After all, there are numerous limitations to sleep deprivation.

What to do next?

Biphasic sleep is an alternative sleep routine to the standard monophasic pattern which is composed of 7-8 hour sleeping interval. In the biphasic routine, you can expect to sleep 5-6 hours a night with one 20-minute to 1.5-hour nap. With the social creation of the working day, monophasic sleep became the norm in the modern world. However, as indicated above, there may be benefits in taking short naps during the day to supplement sleep.

Start small and cut your night-time sleep by an hour, replacing that with a nap during the day and see how it impacts your energy levels and productivity.

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