What is Biphasic Sleep? Definition, Cycle, and Effects
Do you sleep in a single stretch or small segments? Have you ever thought about how your sleeping patterns can affect your energy levels during the day?
Most people sleep in a single stretch as their schedule requires them to be outdoors 10-12 hours a day. This type of sleeping pattern is known as monophasic sleep. A monophasic sleeper goes to bed around 10 pm and wakes up at 6 am-7 am. He/she then goes by the rest of the day without a nap. It is the simplicity and manageability of monophasic sleep that makes it so convenient.
You will be surprised to learn that there are plenty of people out there who sleep more than once a day. Even high-performance athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo have tried it. In his days with Real Madrid, Ronaldo took five 90-minute sessions of sleep a day on non-match days. We all know how well it worked out for him.
However, if you are a monophasic sleeper, you will find the idea of sleeping for two or more times a day, strange and impractical.
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What is Biphasic Sleep?
Biphasic sleep, or also known as bimodal sleep, is the practice of sleeping for two periods over 24 hours. Generally, one period tends to be much longer than the other. Biphasic sleepers like to sleep 4-5 hours at night and catch a nap (half an hour to an hour) whenever they can.
Before the industrial revolution (1760), this is how most people rested. They worked till noon on their farms or other businesses and came home at noon for a nap. The nap helped them recover from the fatigue and also fueled them to work late until sundown. Even today, in certain cultures, a mid-afternoon nap cherished.
Take Spanish culture, for example, to counter the feeling of post-lunch drowsiness, most people in Spain and other countries with Spanish influence, take a short nap known as Siesta at noon after their mid-day meal. As you can see from the image above, two friends are sharing a nap after a heavy mid-day meal.
As we mentioned earlier, a biphasic sleeping pattern is practiced even today–in countries with warm weather. China, Croatia, Hispanic countries in South America, India, Greece, etc. are some places where the biphasic sleeping pattern is the norm.
You must have noticed that your body feels pressured to go back to sleep from the moment you wake up in the morning.
Needless to say, the amount of pressure — or as Harvard professor, Charles A. Czeisler, calls, the homeostatic drive for sleep — is quite low in the morning and early afternoon period. It only begins to rise after late-afternoon. Hence a mid-afternoon nap can help release the pressure. This is the primary reason why a biphasic sleep works so well.
Is Biphasic Sleep Healthy? Who Is It For?
Biphasic sleep is very healthy and should be practiced if your health and work schedule allows you to do so. Children and teens may be able to take mid-day naps without any problems as most elementary, and high school students get back home before 3 pm.
According to a report by LiveScience, the average start time for middle and high schools in each state varies from state to state. Nevertheless, most schools start somewhere around 7.40 am – 8.30 am.
Another good news for students wanting to try out the biphasic sleep patterns is that even health organizations are stepping up by persuading schools to set the timing as per regulations (which is set considering the health of the children).
It’s only the adults who work a 9-to-5 job, who will find it challenging to practice a biphasic sleep pattern. Maybe you can squeeze in a half an hour nap during the lunch break. But do it only if your employer permits you to.
Coming back to the subject of health, we have noticed that biphasic sleep, when appropriately practiced, can make it easy to remain more productive, diligent, cheerful, and energetic throughout the day.
Monophasic sleepers tend to lose focus and energy as the day progresses. They start their day well but fail to retain the enthusiasm throughout the day. Hence, it would be best if you practiced biphasic sleep.
What is the Best Biphasic Sleep Schedule?
If you can manage to take a half an hour nap during the day, you should sleep twice over 24 hours. Once in the night for 5.30-6 hours and subsequently somewhere during early or mid-afternoon for about half an hour to 45 minutes.
This schedule makes sense for someone who wishes to spend the first couple of hours after waking to do some creative or consume academic content (like studies or preparing for a test).
Upon returning from work (somewhere around 6 pm -7 pm), you will still feel fresh and energetic. The late evenings can also be utilized for work or studies. This is what makes this schedule so compelling.
How to Take a Spanish Siesta?
Spanish Siesta can be practiced even if you stay in a cold country where people do not relish mid-day naps. We understand that health problems, cultural differences, work commitments, and social pressure can make it challenging to practice a siesta.
Also, you don’t have to go against the grain too much. If your employer does not permit you to nap during lunch break, try squeezing a 20-minute nap on your way back home (in the bus or the train).
To take a perfect Spanish siesta, there are few factors that you need to consider. Do you have access to a comfortable chair or a bed? Is the artificial light in your room too bright? Have you had any caffeinated drinks in the past few hours?
Once you have clear answers to the above questions, you can go ahead and practice a perfect Spanish siesta at home or workplace. For more in-depth information on this subject, check out this post by a Spanish site, TheLocal.
The Benefits of Biphasic Sleep
1) It Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Reduction in stress and anxiety are two things that you will notice immediately on practicing a biphasic sleeping pattern. In modern times, life is more stressful and demanding than it used to be. Even a child or a teenager lives under the pressure of doing well at school or college.
Although a certain amount of stress helps us think and expand our consciousness, it can be detrimental if the limits are crossed. This is where a midday nap comes into the picture. It relaxes you and puts your mind at ease; at least for the time being.
2) It Makes You More Productive
Along with relieving your stress, sleeping twice a day can also make you more productive and efficient. You can get more work done while feeling energetic and active throughout the day.
You no more will have to resort to binging on TV shows or eating fast food to cope with the work-induced tiredness and exhaustion. Even the morning period (between 6 am – 8 am) can be utilized to learn a new skill or reading books.
3) It Gives You a Peek into Your Subconscious
Sleeping twice a day can help you recall and access your dreams. This might sound like a myth: there is scientific evidence suggesting that it is difficult to remember what we dreamt of immediately on waking up in the morning.
Sleep scientist named Thomas Wehr, who performed an experiment to find the positive effects of biphasic sleeping, concluded that when we wake up in the morning (after a good night’s sleep), we don’t let our dreams settle. Whereas, when you wake up from a midday nap, you are forced to break off from a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. This is where dreams occur. Hence, sleeping twice can give you a peek into your subconscious and reveal information buried deep inside your mind.
Also, you don’t have to wait for days to see a positive result. You can enjoy a deeper, more restful sleep and wake refreshed every time.