Sleep Schedules: One Size Doesn’t Fit All


Article by David Crawford | 717 words

Growing up, I always thought that the only “right” way to sleep was to be awake during the day and when night came, sleep for six to eight hours. However, this is called monophasic sleep (once per day) and is simply one of many sleep cycles. As I grew older, naps came into play, sleeping for six hours and napping for twenty minutes, or sometimes sleeping for five hours and napping for ninety minutes. This brings us to biphasic sleep (twice per day). Taking it one step further brings us to polyphasic sleep (multiple times per day). So how do these different sleep cycles work?

The Monophasic Sleep Cycle

The sleep style you’re probably most familiar with is the monophasic cycle, which has many stages. According to, the first stage only lasts about ten minutes and simply leads to the second stage, which is a light sleep. At this time, the body is resting and preparing for a deeper sleep. Cue the third stage, when it’s extremely difficult to wake up. These stages of non-REM are important because the body uses these opportunities to strengthen the immune system. Next, the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage works on important mind and bodily functions. Additionally, dreams are much more vivid here than compared to the non-REM stages, as goes on to explain. This sleep cycle as a whole lasts about seven hours, though longer times are possible.

The Biphasic Sleep Cycle

Next is biphasic sleep, another common sleep pattern. According to, scientific research shows that this cycle is actually healthier than monophasic because the extra nap creates more alertness and productivity while lowering stress. It includes a five- to six-hour core sleep with a nap lasting about twenty, fifty or ninety minutes, totaling to anywhere from five to eight hours.  It’s sometimes referred to as the siesta sleep pattern.

Thomas Edison napping

Thomas Edison believed in the value of taking naps throughout the day. Credit:

Polyphasic Sleep Cycles

Although there’s just one cycle for monophasic sleep and one for biphasic sleep, there are many different possibilities for polyphasic sleep.  The most difficult of these to accomplish is the Dymaxion cycle. With room for adjustment, the cycle involves four thirty-minute naps for a total of two hours a day. However, as notes, only people with the mutated DEC2 gene can successfully pull off a schedule like this. Only about one percent of the world population possesses this gene, one of whom was Buckminster Fuller, the innovative architect who named the cycle.

For those who don’t carry the gene, there is another sleep cycle that’s relatively similar to it. The Uberman cycle is similar to the Dymaxion cycle in that it provides only two hours of sleep daily. The difference is an increased number of naps. Generally, the cycle requires twenty-minute naps six times a day. This cycle provides better rest than the Dymaxion cycle since a greater number of naps sends the body into more REM cycles, though there are still few people in the world who can pull off the cycle comfortably. So, some individuals tweak it by adding two extra naps a day, which can make a surprisingly big difference.

Another sleep pattern, dubbed the Everyman cycle by Puredoxyk, a blogger who holds a philosophy degree, brings back a core sleep. Although it began as a three-hour core with three naps lasting twenty minutes, the cycle now allows for the core sleep to last three and a half hours. notes that having the core sleep in the early morning is not advisable because it wouldn’t provide quality slow wave sleep (SWS), which is a stage of non-REM that enhances many immune and hormonal functions.

These sleep patterns may seem bizarre, but a number of successful people—including revolutionary geniuses—have used polyphasic sleep cycles. The list of names includes, but is not limited to, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill.

Unusual sleep patterns certainly aren’t for everyone, but if you find that a standard sleep pattern isn’t serving your needs well, I highly recommend researching more about these alternatives.  Websites such as provide suggestions for following unusual sleep patterns and offer forums to discuss your sleep needs with others who may find themselves in a situation similar to yours.  

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