Sleeping less to do more

An experiment on biphasic and polyphasic sleep.

Hannah Pappert, Photo Editor

At one point, we have all wished we had more time to accomplish something. We wish there were more than just 24 hours in a day. Including the time that it takes to get ready, I spend 9 hours on school a day. That doesn’t include the rest of my day of homework and softball, which usually takes up another 3 hours on average. Put this time together and I have twelve hours left, but that doesn’t include the 8 hours I take to sleep and the extra time to do my chores and drive to practices. This means I have about two hours of time to do whatever I want.

I needed more time to do things that I’m passionate about, like writing, but where was I going to get it? After doing some research I stumbled across polyphasic and biphasic sleeping. Biphasic sleep is the practice of sleeping during two periods over 24 hours, while polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping multiple times throughout a day. The idea is to train your body to enter into the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep faster than normal, so that your body needs less time to sleep. For the common monophasic sleep schedule, the body takes 90 minutes on average to enter into the REM phase, but those who partake in polyphasic sleep enter into REM much more quickly due to weeks of allowing their body to get used to less sleep.

After much consideration, I decided to experiment with the idea of polyphasic sleep for my own schedule. After going over some basic schedule options, I chose to be a biphasic sleeper. I would go to bed at 10 p.m. and sleep for 4.5 hours, and when I got home from school, I would take a 30 minute nap.

The first week was difficult for me. My body was going through what other polyphasic sleepers call “zombie week.” My thinking process seemed to slow down noticeably, my creativity was lacking and I had very little energy. However, I was keeping up with my homework and chores much better than usual. I could take time in the morning to do some homework, finish my daily chores and still have time to read, listen to a Spanish podcast or write.

During the second week, I noticed my speed to accomplish problems was restored, my creativity had increased and my body felt close to being normal again. I had even taking up running in the morning, which I never thought I would do. I continued to take time to do my homework and chores in the morning, so I could have free time after the school day. I felt like I was being more productive than ever.

Although I loved what my new sleep schedule was doing for me, I decided to return to a monophasic sleep schedule after three weeks for a few reasons. The first was that my schedule was constantly fluctuating due to softball, so I didn’t always have time to take my nap after school. If I had to skip a nap, I rapidly became sleep deprived the rest of the night and the following day as well. I also had to consider spring sports that were approaching. Once they started, I would no longer be able to stay on schedule. The second reason was my diet. In order to be successful with polyphasic sleep, you need to have a steady stream of energizing, fresh foods. I tended to replace the vegetables I should have been eating with potato chips, and they took their toll on my body.

My goal is to eventually be able to return to a biphasic sleep schedule, as it helped monumentally with my productivity. I believe polyphasic is a great alternative to monophasic sleep if one is trying to find more time to accomplish their goals, but it is important to consider all of the factors that could affect the schedule and yourself. For me, I am going to take the summer to find a schedule that fits my body and my time.