Polyphasic Sleep and Exercise

Whether you are a bodybuilder, runner, gymnast, powerlifter, or train in functional movements, recovery is an important part of any training regimen. Some will even argue that rest and recovery are just as important as the training itself. That being said, how can polyphasic sleeping fit in with exercise?

The answer: It all depends on your personal goals. Are you looking to gain size? Are you training for endurance sports? Are strength and power your main focus? Depending on what you are looking to gain, your training affects the rest and recovery your body needs. When we exercise we engage our Sympathetic Nervous System. This is often called the “fight or flight” area of the nervous system We tear muscle fibers and essentially do other types of microdamage to our bodies on a controlled scale. In the rest and recovery phase, the Parasympathetic Nervous System takes over. Our bodies recover and rebuild when the parasympathetic system is in charge. This mostly happens when we sleep and can also be activated during meditation. 

So how much sleep do we need to recover? Typically if you are looking to gain size or add muscle mass, the more the better. Professional bodybuilders will sleep for a long period of time during the night and may nap during the day. Sometimes they will wake up during the long sleep to eat protein-rich foods to give their bodies the building blocks it needs to build new muscle mass. Frequent sleeping along with hypertrophy exercise has been shown to boost natural human growth hormones. We see evidence of this in prisoners who live a structured lifestyle that usually involves little else but eat, sleep, and working out. Napping can also cut down on the levels of the stress hormone cortisol which inhibits muscle growth.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that endurance athletes need less sleep for their bodies to recover. Since they typically have slimmer physiques than bodybuilders or powerlifters, the systems that they tax recover in different ways. For endurance athletes, napping will actually have the opposite effects that it does for bodybuilders. While it also helps the body recover, napping will make them slimmer. When we are well rested our bodies limit the production of a hormone called Ghrelin which is what makes us feel hungry. So how much sleep do you need? Listen to your body. You spend enough time torturing it during exercise. Don’t skimp on recovery.


4 comments on “Polyphasic Sleep and Exercise”

  1. James Reply

    Can you go more in depth into this? Do you have to adjust your schedule if you work out daily? Can you do some of the harder schedules like dymaxion if you work out? Which schedules can support the increased SWS need from working out?

  2. Alexander Reply

    Hi guys, I’m on day 5 of my adaptation phase using the uberman sleep schedule.
    I first began with a naptation phase, because I heard it was easier. So I didn’t slept for 36 hours and then had a 25 minutes nap every 2-3 hours. Sometimes I was really tired and slept 2 hours after a nap, and other times I could stand 3 hours without a nap.
    I was beginning to feel better after a nap. The only thing is I feel my muscles are really tired, like they aren’t recovering. Can someone relate to it? Or tell me what I can do about it?

    Today I crashed hard. Yesterday because I finally was feeling better after the naps I decided to sleep for an hour so that my muscles could recover. That was my idea, I thought after this hour I will feel great. So after I can switch to the normal uberman schedule were you sleep every 4 hours. So after the 1-hour nap, I didn’t feel better and my muscles still were tired. Nevertheless, I switched to the normal uberman schedule. After 4 hours I took my nap and was reeeeally tired, I could barely stay awake. I washed my head with cold water, which normally makes me fully awake. But it didn’t work. I could even think normal. It was really bad. I slept I think another hour in naps that I added, and now I sleep every 3 hours. I just woke up from my second nap since I crashed and feel rested. But my muscles still are tired and I feel how they become more and more tired. I don’t know what to do…can anybody give me a tip or something???

  3. Martin Reply

    @Leon – Dr. Piotr Wozniak wrote a funny article… however the fact is that if body (and it’s inner clock) was so perfect there would be not need for alarm clocks / polyphasic… I work as freelancer and I never ever used alarm clocks, I was overslept all the time, felt tired, miserable and no motivation to do anything… Polyphasic might be a cure

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