Can We Sleep For Three Hours and Still Function Normally?

Polyphasic sleep - also known as *Uberman's Sleep Schedule*, consists of six daily naps taken every four hours instead of one long sleep every night (monophasic sleep)

The naps can last from a minimum of 10 minutes up to 30 or 40 minutes. 25 minutes is considered optimal.

The polyphasic sleep concept is based upon the fact that we have a 4 hour *ultradian* rhythm operating alongside our normal 24 hour cycle. This ultradian rhythm means that we go through a complete mini-cycle every 4 hours. Usually at the following times: 4am, 8am, noon, 4pm, 8pm and midnight. Have you ever experienced dip in energy at 4pm?

Those following the polyphasic sleep schedule usually sleep from 10-30 minutes every 4 hours . This goes on for the whole 24 hours. A modified version of this is also practiced, where 3 hours core sleep in the early morning is followed by 20 minute naps every 4 hours. Individuals can adapt cycles to better suit their lifestyle.

Mammals living in dangerous environments practice the polyphasic sleep schedule. Their survival may mean remaining alert to danger throughout the day and night. Astronauts are also taught it in case they need to deal with emergency situations. The army also trains some troops in polyphasic sleep.

The type of sleep experienced by polyphasic sleepers is mostly comprised of stage 5 REM. Thus the earlier stages of sleep are largely bypassed allowing the user a few more hours of 'awake time' each 24 hours. This is a gradual process though. At first the naps may not be largely NREM which may explain the seven to ten day stage where some polyphasic sleepers feel heavy, grumpy, spaced out and can't concentrate.

The Advantages of Polyphasic Sleep

Polyphasic sleep has been called the "sleep of genius" Famous folk such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon. and Winston Churchill have used this schedule in some form or another. Many who have trialled polyphasic sleep have reported feeling extremely creative, although this state may take some weeks to achieve.

The obvious advantage of course is the extra time gained in each twenty four hour period. If you follow the classic schedule, six naps of twenty five minutes each, you would be averaging only two and a half hours sleep!

Once you get used to sleeping this way, you can slip into the sleep state within a few minutes, compared to twenty minutes or longer for monophasic sleep.

Writers, or anyone who needs creativity in their field, find that sleeping this way allows them to be more creative. This could be due to the occurrence of more alpha and theta brainwaves, rather than beta, during their waking hours.


This type of sleep schedule is not recommended long term although there have been some that have kept it up for 6 months with no apparent ill effects. There has been no long term research done to find out any negative effects on health.

Although its been practiced through the centuries, it's not known whether depressing the other non REM stages of sleep - especially the stages 3 and 4 of deep sleep, may have a negative effect on long term emotional health.

Polyphasic sleep is impossible to integrate into a normal working day.

Oh! And another thing. Those who have tried it have reported an increase in appetite which may lead to weight gain. You would probably need to spend some of that extra time doing more exercise!


If you're interested in trying polyphasic sleep, try it for a while during your next holidays. It won't do any damage short term, except possibly make you feel tired and grumpy!

It is recommended that participants review their eating habits and make sure they are on an optimum diet with all the necessary food groups and maybe a vitamin and mineral supplement.

Also recommended is to have a series of interesting projects on hand to keep the mind stimulated and to prevent accidental sleeping outside the schedule.

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