Polyphasic Sleep Beginners Start Here

Welcome to the world of polyphasic sleep!

Humans are naturally polyphasic sleepers. Depending on the culture, humans will either have segmented night sleep, or nap throughout the day.

The reason humans sleep polyphasically is to improve sleep density, sleep stability, and for the warriors out there decrease overall time asleep. Humans need sleep, but only certain stages of sleep are important for us to recover each night.

There is evidence that light sleep is an intermediate non-recovering sleep stage and so a person will also aim to minimize the % of light sleep, and increase the % of deep sleep and dream sleep. A person who sleeps one 8h block of sleep will usually spend 65% or more of their time in light sleep! We aim to keep adequate Rapid Eye Movement and Slow Wave Sleep so the body and mind functions like normal.



REM  is for Rapid Eye Movement. This is a stage of sleep which performs vital functions, but most noticeably restores mental clarity, reducing symptoms of sleep deprivation. You will have your most vivid dreams in this stage, and your brain wave frequencies are wake-like. Also known as Paradoxical Sleep.

SWS  is for Slow Wave Sleep. This is a stage of Non-REM sleep which performs many immune and hormonal functions. You will be almost unwakeable in this stage, and your brain wave frequencies are slow very slow (delta). Also known as Deep Sleep or Stage 3 and 4 sleep.

NREM  is for Non-Rapid Eye Movement. Technically both light sleep and SWS are a type of NREM.

LNREM is for Light NREM. Most polyphasic sleepers consider light sleep to be a useless and intermediate sleep stage, thus we try to reduce it as much as possible. Also known as Stage 1 and 2 sleep.

A nap is a sleep that usually contains light and REM sleep, only lasting 18-26 minutes.

A core is a sleep that contains both SWS, NREM and REM, and can last from 30 minutes to 1.5h, all the way up to 12h.

Sleep pressure is how much a body requires a certain stage of sleep. If REM pressure is highest, the body will try to get REM sleep over stages with lower pressure. If SWS pressure is highest, the body will try to get SWS over stages with lower pressure.


Analogy of sleep and the body

Imagine, if you will, your brain as an automobile. As you use your car each day it gets dirty in the rain and mud (synaptic stress) getting you from A to B (thinking).

Each day the car becomes dirtier until the windscreen gets blocked up and you can no longer drive safely as you have no perception of the road (REM sleep deprivation).

You decide to take your car for a wash through an auto-washer, but there is a big line (light sleep).

You check your oil and it is dirty (Slow Wave Sleep deprivation).

Dirty oil can result in wearing away at your parts, lower efficiency (athletics), more fuel consumption (hormones) and eventually engine failure (blacking out).

You stop the car to change the oil (Slow Wave Sleep) and continue down the line into the car wash.

When you wash your car (brain) you turn things back on, and drive through the washer (REM sleep). If you do not get a good amount of time in the washer (15mins) then your car (brain) comes out still dirty (REM deprivation) and you need to wash again.

After the car wash you look at your fuel gauge and you are empty so decide to fuel up (eat food). You decide you want the higher octane fuel (low-GI nutrient-dense carbs or fats) rather than the lower octane fuel (sugar). Now your car (brain) is ready to drive again at optimal performance (live life!) and you go on your way.

From this analogy you can see how REM (washing) is most effective when it happens often, and REM deprivation (dirtiness) is quite obvious; SWS is just as important, but you can get away with less of it if you really needed to, and symptoms of SWS deprivation (dirty oil) do not become apparent until things start breaking down. Food is vital to keep your brain running, but there are good and bad choices of food to fuel your brain with.


How Polyphasic Sleep Works!

All schedules go through three adaptations: ultradian rhythm entrainment, and sleep repartitioning and circadian rhythm entrainment. These might be some new words to you, but just relax! If you don’t understand you can learn later.

The ultradian rhythm controls when you wake up, and when you feel sleepy. You will experience this throughout the day as waves of wakefulness and drowsiness. The only way to improve the ultradian rhythm is to try to sleep according to a consistent rhythm and be awake for the same amount of time between sleeps.

Sleep repartitioning is when the body diverts from the automatic 1.5h sleep stage consisting of stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 (SWS) then REM. Normally we progress through S1, 2, 3, 4 finally to REM. If an 8h sleeper had a 20 minute nap, it will at first consist of only stage 1 and 2 sleep as per the first 20 minutes of their normal sleep.

With time the body will adapt and change a 20 minute sleep by passing through the other phases very quickly and suspending the brain in the REM stage. The body can also change the first portion of a ‘core sleep’ from mostly stage 1 and 2, to mostly stage 3 (SWS), and many other changes like the first and second examples.

A normal night’s sleep.

A well timed 1.5h core sleep has a high % of deep sleep.

A 19 minute nap has a brief period of light sleep, but is mostly REM.


Sleep repartitioning depends also on circadian rhythm which is the body’s tracker for ‘time of day and lighting conditions’. Lastly the circadian rhythm will change to accomodate to a new time of day. With this change will come digestive timing, a definite placement of the ‘graveyard hours’ and a general stability.

The actual clock times do not matter to the circadian rhythm, but lighting conditions do! This picture isn’t entirely accurate, but is a good learning tool.


Why be a poly-sleeper?

Have more time in your day:

Ever thought you simply do not have enough time in your day to do all the things you wanted to do? Let me scare you a little bit, an average 9h sleeper is cumulatively only awake 227.5 days a year, out of 365 days! Changing to a single nap schedule you can have an extra 40 days a year to do what you want. That is like getting a free week’s holiday! Alternatively if you cut down to only 3h sleep a day, you can improve that to an extra 91 days a year (an extra 3 months you never had). In the long run, your life will be effectively longer and you will live more years in a younger body!

Live longer:

‘Although it’s a common belief that 8 hours of sleep is required for optimal health, a six-year study of more than one million adults ages 30 to 102 has shown that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate. Individuals who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 4 hours a night, were shown to have a significantly increased death rate compared to those who averaged 6 to 7 hours. ‘

Many may like to point out ‘or less than 4 hours a night’, but these individuals also were tested to get far less REM and less SWS than the suggested amount. Polyphasic sleep depends on the fact that you are getting the same amount of REM and SWS as you do monophasically. A 4h monophasic sleep will not be the same quality sleep as 4h polyphasically.

Become a better learner:

For humans taking a 90 minute nap “…containing both SWS and REM sleep… performance over 24h showed as much learning as is normally seen after twice that length of time. Thus from the perspective of behavioral improvement, a nap is as good as a night of sleep for learning. Ref: http://www.learningace.com/doc/1120222/1a85d23d9e16600aa31e638585176068/118natneuro_mednick_brief

Elevate your mood:

Sleeping too much has been linked to depression. Many adapted poly-sleepers have anecdotal evidence for feelings of euphoria, elevated mood, better social skills and increased happiness.

Dream More (Lucidly):

Because you are sleeping more often and getting dream-full REM in your multiple sleeps, you will be dreaming more! Many polysleepers are also practised Lucid Dreamers, as they go hand in hand. Even without Lucid Dreaming techniques many polysleepers experience frequent lucid dreams.

Risks of poly-sleep:

With reduced light sleep, there is reduced Sleep Spindles and K-complexes. Researchers think that Sleep Spindles are the brain learning about what nerves control what specific muscles when asleep. Sleep spindle activity has furthermore been found to be associated with the integration of new information into existing knowledge as well directed remembering and forgetting (fast sleep spindels). These are all associated with the young, and it is not know how these processes are important to adults.

The K-complex’s suggested function is aiding the activation homeostasis of synapses and memory consolidation. The activation thresholds of cortical synapses become raised during wakefulness as they process information, and so need to be adjusted back to preserve their signal-to-noise ratio. The down-state provided by K-complexes does this by reducing the strengths of synaptic connections that occur when they are activated while an individual is awake. Further, the recovery from the down-state they induce allows that “cortical firing ‘reboots’ in a systematic order” so that memory engrams encoded during neuronal firing can be “repeatedly practiced and thus consolidated”. This having been said, there are many recorded instances of humans with a genetic mutation causing them to only sleep 2-4 hours a day (and thus having little or no Spindles or Complexes) and still living a perfectly normal healthy life.

There is also evidence that extremely short sleepers may have shorter lifespans if we are anything like Shake Flies.

Age and need for sleep-totals

As a person gets older, their need to sleep becomes less and less over time. That is not to say it is healthy for them to have less sleep, but they can ‘get by feeling fine’ with less. An 18 year old may be needing a full 3h total sws/rem, whilst a 40 year old may feel just as energetic and aware on 2.5h total sws/rem. This phenomena also stretches across to body size, where sometimes a taller larger person can get away with less sleep than a shorter smaller person.

Underage poly-sleep:

Often it has been discussed that teenagers are in need of more sleep than adults (10h monophasic). This may reflect upon polyphasic sleep, a teenager should be aiming to get more REM than the usual adult, at least 2 hours REM a day. This may mean an extra nap, or a longer core. It is not yet suggested children (who need even more sleep) experiment with a reduced sleep polyphasic schedule, though it is still healthy for a child to sleep polyphasically.

Why not to polysleep?

There are several things that will work against you and your adaptation, some of these include:

Poor Health – if you are currently sick, or have a poor immune system the initial sleep deprivation may make things worse. Often people have gotten sick in the first 2 days of adaptation because they are one bad sleep around the corner from a cold or flu. Much like REM suppression, there is an immunity suppression in the beginning stages of sleep deprivation. This is another reason to do an exaptation rather than a traditional adaptation, because the faster you go through the suppression stage, the less time you have to get sick and the healthier the adaptation will be.

Poor Diet – it is suggested you fix your diet by cutting out refined foods and sugars so that your insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels are even, this helps control your weight and your immune system. You will have better sleep quality if you have better food quality.

Caffeine/Alcohol or substance addiction – your addictions will ruin your sleeping habits, and prevent you from getting fast, quality sleep. Stimulants and depressants will generally delay REM or reduce total SWS.


48 comments on “Polyphasic Sleep Beginners Start Here”

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  9. Dominique Dalton Reply


    I am wondering if using the polyphasic sleep cycle is detremental to muscle recovery and growth? I go to school from 0730-1530 Monday through Friday, and then to the gym at around 1600. I would also like to start back up on morning workouts at 0445. Usually when I don’t get at least 5-6 hours of sleep I can’t stay awake in class and then I am sore from workouts a bit longer. Can you help me out? Thank you for this article and your time and have a good day.

    • dm1001 Reply

      Only thing detrimental to muscle recovery and growth is sleep deficiency, particularly SWS. Polyphasic sleep is about improving the quality of your sleep.

      • Micha Reply

        So what about the Uberman, in this pattern you don’t get any SWS?
        So how can the muscles recover?
        Tanks for your answer.

        Greetings from Germany

        • Mazzy

          Go to sauna or have cold shower it will improve your body to heal and circulate your blood faster.

  10. Leftright Reply

    What would be your recommendation for an apropriate age to begin practicing this schedule?

  11. Micheal Watts Reply

    Im a dedicated trainer and all around study buff.. I have a great diet, giving up caffine and I dont drink, i want more time in my life to train my mind and body I do rest my muscles without sleeping. Will this assist me in get more time in my life?

    How long of a nap after each BRAC it didnt specify is it 20 m8mutes or 30 minutes?

  12. Leena Reply

    I am a college student looking to change my sleep schedule so I can have all night to work on school/other projects while also being mentally present in class. Is it okay to have a sleep schedule that is not constant? I plan to sleep for 6 hrs a day, but my schedule makes it hard for the hours I sleep to be at the same time.

    • Robbert Reply

      REM sleep is the part of the night where you dream, and because you sleep for so long in your life it is classed as an alternate reality. Hope i helped

  13. Alex Reply

    Hey Leena, although the overall rhythm of your sleep schedule will be a bit inconsistent, your body will still adapt to the technique and you will most likely experience more rejuvenating naps 🙂

  14. chris Reply

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t clear to me. Could you kindly tell me in a nutshell, Why should I learn polyphasic slseep?

  15. J Hale Reply

    I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t consume any soft drinks, I workout (both cardio and strength) regularly. I would love to adapt to polyphasic schedules, but there are two things that could be obstacles to this:
    First, I have one cup of coffee once a day, dark roast, sugarless, consumed around 8 to 1300, but no later. Sometimes when I have a few days with no work deadlines, I will go without any caffeine for a few days just so I can get more of a buzz when I start it again. I’m not sure how much I would need to change this, as a moderate amount of coffee or a cup of hot tea are important to me.
    Secondly, I am a soldier in a reserve armed forces unit. It generally does not affect my sleep habits, but 2-9 weeks a year I am away working a different operation or another, and must adapt to the standard 6-8 hour core (sometimes less), and naps are pretty frowned upon.
    Will either of these things make it ‘impossible’ to gain the benefits of adapting (then readapting for training, then readapting for civilian work, etc.) to polyphasic sleep?
    I suspect if I keep my caffeine intake low, it will make it easier, and that I should be able to adapt/readapt, but it will probably suck due to increased transition periods, but that neither of these things would be impossible to overcome. However, I would like an expert’s opinion on such a question instead of my imprecise judgement.
    Thank you.

  16. Glenn Reply

    Okay from what I read, what I get is that I should nap periodically throughout the day. This will give my body more REM sleep that I may be missing out on in a 6 hr sleep period? I work 2 jobs full time and I go to sleep around 2:45 am (up by 7 ish). Also if I were to sleep for the same amount of time each day it will improve my sleep right? So how can I properly incorporate this polyphasic sleep style into a schedule like mine?

  17. Joshua Wheeler Reply

    Is cannabis use considered a part of the caffeine/alcohol/substance abuse section?

  18. Barb Reply

    Can you relate this to sleep apnea? I have moderate apnea and periodically use a mouth guard but it doesn’t help much. A Cpap doesn’t work for me . Can this type of sleep help and all?

  19. Noah Reply

    Hey, I’m in the military and this looks interesting. My time is normally filled by military commitments and sleeping like this would give me more time to myself, but my daily schedule is very rigid so there unpredictable times where I cannot sleep during the day. Does anyone have any tips for me to make a good schedule given my circumstances?

  20. Arthur Renner Reply

    I know that there are many jobs and situations, where it is nearly impossible to get a nap in. So, there are some things a person can do. You can use the alarm feature on your smart phone, for short 4 to 7 minute power naps. You may have to go to a restroom, or at a desk, if a desk job, if in military, take quick naps during all those hurry up and wait times. Can wear dark sunglasses, so nobody can see that your eyes are closed. You can practice putting the body and mind into a type of very relaxed sleep state, even while standing up. And, at the same time, be just alert enough, to ‘wake up’ completely and quickly when the need arises. Another thing one can do, is to remain in a relaxed state, all the time, and only tense up when needed. Same goes to thoughts in the ‘monkey’ mind. Bruce Lee was very relaxed and tensed up only when needed, this also conserves energy, and more energy is available when needed. Release and let go of all anxiety and worries. Most people allow too much stress into their psyche. These are just a few ideas. I could easily write a whole book about this subject.

  21. Federico Reply

    Hi All,
    I am very interested in polyphasic sleep and am going to try an Everyman 3 as soon as I will find enough courage…
    However, I have a tricky question that I never found elsewhere: can I be a polyphasic sleeper five days a week, and be monophasic during weekends, and even during holidays? Or is it worthless not to be orthodox?

    • Quantacake Reply

      Hey Federico. I think mixing it up would resemble a shift work pattern. I would believe it is best to stay consistent. But if you think about it, being a poly will mean you only need a couple 20-30 minute naps in the day and maybe a 2-3hr at night. But I’m sure your body will become more accustom with poly sleep that you won’t be able to have a decent mono sleep.

      My thoughts

  22. Sankarsh Prasannnaa Reply

    I plan to write a highly competitive exam (IIT-JEE), for which I would have to study a lot so I believe polyphasic sleep would help, but I am 17 years old, considering the fact that I am nearly ending puberty, would polyphasic sleep be detrimental to my health ?

  23. Sam Reply

    What about this for an 18 year college student (me lol) ; modified E3: 10.30pm to 2 am (3hr core), 5.30am to 6.50 am (1.5hr), 3pm to 4.30pm (1.5hr).

    • Anonymous Reply

      I honestly have no idea cause I skimmed the article, but I think the schedule will change like any as you find the best way for you but it seems good. Out of curiousity, if you started how is like your overall energy through it the day? I’ve been thinking of starting out.

  24. Rob Reply

    Hi, I am going to try the poloyphasic sleep pattern with a 4 hour block at night and a 20 minute nap after work, as I’m not able to get a nap in at work at all during the day would it have the same effect losing that extra nap?

  25. Liam Reply

    I am aged 22 and a masters student at University, with job applications, thesis and deadlines looming I would like to get more out of days. Naturally, I sleep for around 9 or 10 hours a night just now and I was wondering how easy a polyphasic sleep cycle would be to adopt and which is the best to initiate with? Thanks.

  26. Vanessa Evans Reply

    Great article. How well does polyphasic sleep work for people that move a lot? I train 4-6 hours a day, am very active and an avid mountain hiker. What impact does this sleep have on physical endurance and strength training? Thank you!

  27. Dan Hoagland Reply

    It seems I fell into a pattern of sleeping 3-4 hours a night with a nap during the day.
    I am no longer going to fight it but adapt to it using what I have read on Polyphasic sleep. I’ll try 2 20-30 minute naps and see how I feel.

  28. Felix Reply

    I`m brasilian. I’m starting to make polyphasic sleep for the 2nd time. I didnt nave the discipline to carry on the first time.

    Im starting to have vivid dreams and don’t be so tired along the day.
    It is still dificult to get up on the 3.5h core. But im doing well nas FEELING fine with more hours.

    I’d like to thank the creator of this App for studying and sharing his kwowledge with us.
    +55 71994041546 my Whatsapp. whoever want to talk about polyphasic sleep get in touch. will be nice.

  29. Gerardo Reply

    I’ve been trying polyphasic sleep for 2 months and I can’t seem to really adapt yet, I feel really tired sometimes, and my body tends to feel weak at certain hours, I don’t have alcohol nor caffeine addictions, but I smoke 8 to 10 cigarettes a day, would this really affect my sleeping patterns? because I eat well, I swim for an hour 3 or 4 days a week. So I don’t really know if my addiction will make an obstacle here. Also when I try to do my naps, I have sometimes a real hard time falling asleep, and since I do one of my 3 naps during lunch at work, I can’t spend 30 minutes expecting to fall asleep.

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