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Understanding polyphasic sleep schedules

If you wish to know more about your circadian rhythm before jumping into this article you can click here.

Monophasic sleep

Polyphasic sleep is known to sleep researchers as a variant of a sleep pattern that is set in opposition to monophasic sleep. In monophasic sleep, an individual or an animal sleeps in a single block during a single wake-sleep cycle of 24 hours. This is the most followed sleep schedule in the world. As doctors recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night (referring automatically to monophasic sleep), some argue that this schedule is, in reality a product of our fast paced, sleep deprived modern societies. Our natural environments would suggest otherwise and some clear sleep patterns have been demonstrated amongst babies and the animal kingdom.

Monophasic Sleep Circular

Biphasic sleep

There are plenty of historical evidence pointing to biphasic sleep. That means going to bed early, rising early, then napping for a prolonged period later in the day. In a recapitulation of phylogeny, human babies also sleep polyphasically, and gradually lose their nap slots until they become roughly biphasic around the age of one. Although a majority of westerners do not nap on a regular basis, their alertness shows a slump in alertness in the middle of the day.

A great example of a biphasic sleep schedule is the “siesta” that is very common in Spain, Germany, and various other European countries. Spain specifically closes shops in the middle of the day for a few hours so that people can go home for lunch, napping, and other quiet activities. The siesta schedule consists of 5 hours and 30 minutes of sleep at night and a 20 to 90-minute nap in the early afternoon. This form of sleep matches with our natural Circadian rhythm and is commonly known by scientists to be as healthy as monophasic sleep.

Both monophasic sleep and biphasic sleep are historically common and biologically normal for humans. Research has shown that both types of sleep routines can yield healthy, robust sleep architecture with adequate overall rest. If you feel a lack of concentration in the afternoon, switching to a biphasic schedule might be the right solution. It is also very easy to implement. 

Biphasic Sleep Circular

Polyphasic sleep

Polyphasic sleep, also called segmented sleep, covers all sleep patterns with multiple sleep episodes a day. Polyphasic sleep can be performed in many ways, from a triphasic schedule, suitable for people with non-flexible life-styles, to Uberman or Dymaxion schedules with very strict conditions and great time benefit as one gets only 2 hours of sleep.

Polyphasic sleepers can rest 3 to 6 times during a day. These sleep combinations are broken down into categories including:

  • Dual Core: Dual Core sleep is a derivative of the other schedules but with a core sleep around dusk, a core around dawn, and a number of naps in the afternoon.
  • Triphasic: A nap after dusk, a nap before dawn, and a nap in the afternoon. A Triphasic sleeper typically sleeps between 4 and 5 hours a day.
  • Everyman: A long sleep time of around 3 hours with approximately three 20-minute naps throughout the day.
  • Uberman: Only 3 hours of sleep per day in the form of six 30 minute naps throughout the day.
  • Dymaxion: Only 2 hours of sleep per day, in the form of 30 minute naps every 6 hours.

Everyman Sleep Circular

No one person’s sleep requirements are exactly the same. Some require 8 solid hours of sleep for optimal function. Someone else, however, may lead a productive and healthy life on 5 hours of sleep per night with a short nap or naps during the day.

So what’s the best thing to do?

The first step when reconsidering the way you sleep should always be to see if you are respecting the usual sleep hygiene basics. Exercising regularly and eating a healthful diet, avoiding foods that are sugary, fatty, processed or have caffeine, avoiding spicy foods or having caffeine at bedtime, stopping the use of computers, TVs, cellphones, and other electronic devices at least 1 hour before bed, maintaining a dark and quiet sleeping place.

The best call for an alternate sleep schedule stays the biphasic sleep program.You might consider going for a biphasic sleep schedule if you have a little bit of time in the afternoon to nap and you might gain a little bit of extra time for your day. It greatly helps countering the lack of concentration you might have in the afternoon and is a very healthy sleep schedule. The Circular app and ring can help you adjust to your schedule easily with automatic nap and sleep detection and automatic silenced wake ups. You can start from the programs circle, in the sleep programs.

When it comes to the other polyphasic sleep schedules, there are a couple of disclaimers you have to take into consideration before jumping in. Firstly, there is a lack of scientific literature on their benefits (there are great variants amongst results), and it is a great chance that, on the long run, these programs will make you sleep deprived.

That being said, polyphasic sleep programs suit some people and you can try them for yourself. It won’t hurt you to try for at least the needed adaptation period (usually 10 days) and check how you feel with your new schedule. The risk is when you stick with them for several months. But on the short term, they could be beneficial to you if you need a little extra time in your day and feel like changing your sleep schedule is what can help you reach that goal. 

For some, these come with other great benefits such as having more concentration during the day or even being able to dream lucidly more easily. One thing to keep in mind before starting: you must start with schedules close to the one you are on. Typically, if you are on a monophasic schedule, try the “beginner” programs such as the triphasic or biphasic schedules first. Then move up gradually if you make it past the adaptation periods with no problem. If you feel way too tired then stop the programs and don’t go further. 

The polyphasic sleep community:

https://www.polyphasicsociety.com/polyphasic-sleep/beginners/

Your own sleep cycle. Basics n°2 about sleep

Simply put, when we sleep we go through several stages of sleep. These stages together constitute a sleep cycle and these sleep cycles will repeat several times during our sleep until we wake up definitely (yes definitely, because we wake up many times without knowing it during our nights).

You will read everywhere that a sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes. But this remains an approximation as a common average. In reality, sleep cycles duration is not the same for everybody, it’s completely personal. The duration of sleep cycles varies between 70- and 110+ minutes. Moreover, the length of your cycles varies throughout your nights, and will not be the same from one night to another. Several factors will also influence the structure of your cycle, such as your age, activity, your fatigue, and your stress.

Sleep cycle example

But why does it matter to know the duration of your own sleep cycles?

Knowing the duration of your sleep cycles helps you understand the structure of your sleep. And it will help you deduce how much sleep you need when you are physically active or not, when you are tired or not.

Knowing the duration of your sleep cycles can also be useful as long as you want to benefit from a smart waking up. Basically, not cutting off your recovery cycles by waking up in the middle of it and enjoying the full cycle by waking up at the right time. Indeed, waking up in the light sleep stage will make you feel more refreshed and will put you in a good mood to tackle your day. So if you want to be able to calibrate yourself to enjoy whole cycles and to wake up naturally in your light sleep stage, you will have to know the duration of your own sleep cycle to calculate your bedtime. That’s why this 90-minutes duration is used wrongly.

It is therefore complicated to know the duration of your sleep cycles on your own and without a tracking device.

The Circular ring detects at a clinical level, thanks to your heart rate & your movements, the duration of your sleep cycles and analyzes in real-time in which stage of sleep you are to wake you up silently during light sleep.

Sleeping pills risks and how to fall asleep naturally

Sleeping pills can be taken to catch up when you have a lot of sleep debt or when you are traveling and you must absolutely sleep during a specific period of time. But it should be taken punctually to cope with temporary difficulties and not systematically. A good use of sleeping pills should not exceed a few days. Otherwise, their benefits won’t be miraculous anymore. 

If you take sleeping pills systematically, you might get addicted. This means that your brain will get used to benefiting from their help and will no longer make the effort to fall asleep by itself , resulting in your natural chemical system not working properly. In addition to that, the effectiveness on your brain of the sleeping pills will decrease over time. As a result, you will not be able to fall asleep properly without them and at the same time the pills won’t be effective anymore. (This also applies to natural sleep solutions).

On the one side you will lose your freedom but on the other side you also risk to damage your health because their prolonged use causes undesirable effects such as daytime drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, memory problems, awareness problem, changes in appetite, headache, stomach pain, heartburn and more.

So what should you do to fall asleep without sleeping pills?

Sleep should be prepared during the day. If you follow what is said in this article with a bit of willpower, you will naturally regain a normal sleep without taking any external substances.

Experience both daylight and darkness.

Light influences your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Irregular light exposure can lead to a disruption in your circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep. That’s why if you live in a country where there is not a lot of sun or winters without sun, it is normal for you to have episodes where you sleep badly. It is important to expose your body to bright light or artificial bright light during the day and sleep in a dark room at night. (Click here to know more about Circadian Rhythm)

Respect a regular schedule

The second most important tip is to follow a regular schedule. This means going to bed at the same time each night to regulate your inner clock and to wake up at the end of your sleep. Generally, night people tend to have difficulties falling asleep quickly. And people tend to comfort themselves with the fact that they are not morning people so they can not do anything about it. But this is wrong. To make the changes, you have to be patient. Do it slowly, over days or weeks, and then stick with them for maximum effect. It takes discipline, but it can be done.

If you are a night person, I’ll give you a tip to adapt very quickly. Force yourself to wake up earlier than expected by an hour or two. Tired in the following days, you will be able to easily fall asleep sooner and faster. Once you see the change, stick to this bedtime and you will see that you will adapt very easily.

The Circular app can help you with that because it will analyze for you, your sleep needs and tell you at what time you should go to bed depending on your time to fall asleep and your waking up time.

No nap for you

If you are having naps during the day, get rid of them.

Be active

If you are not already doing physical activity, be active during your day. But be careful, do not do sports too close to the time you go to bed or your system will still be stimulated and you won’t be able to fall asleep correctly. Give your system at least 3 hours before sleeping.

Avoid digital screens

The following factor is the number one cause for extremely high falling asleep time. SCREENS. Digital screens are a plague for sleep and this for two main reasons. Firstly because watching something on a screen requires a lot of effort for your eyes and is very stimulating for your brain. This will make your brain think unnecessarily (even unconsciously) before and during your sleep. And secondly, because the blue light of these screens will disrupt your circadian rhythm. Basically, it will make think your inner clock that it is not time to sleep, and therefore delay your sleep even if you put yourself in the dark. 

So don’t watch digital screens before sleeping. And if you really want to watch your screen, install something to get rid of blue light, lower the brightness to the minimum and do not look at your screen in the dark but rather in a lit room. Finally do not look at your screens in your bed while lying down. Because lying in bed for a long time without sleeping will also disrupt your inner system. The gesture of lying indicates to your system that you want to sleep, so don’t miss your opportunity to sleep.

Be smart about what you eat and drink

Minimizing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before sleeping seems logical. But less known, avoid having heavy and late dinner. A light dinner, without quick sugars and red meat but with a portion of slow sugars.

Do not eat within 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. 

Create a comfortable environment of sleep. 

Don’t work too late to free your mind (within 2 hours of the time you want to sleep).

Sleeping in a quiet, dark room and at a cool and comfortable temperature will help you sleep faster. The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 18 – 22 degrees Celsius (64.4 – 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Practice meditation

Meditation and relaxation training will help you improve fall asleep faster and sleep better. There is a simple but powerful breathing method called 4-7-8 method that is used by the military and ancient yogi that will lower your heartbeat, calm yourself and make you fall asleep faster, sleep better and increase your natural defense. 

Here are the steps. Exhale completely through your nose until you completely empty your air. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose until you are completely filled with air (belly and lung) while mentally counting to four. Hold your breath and mentally count to seven. Close your mouth and exhale completely through your nose, and mentally counting to eight. If 4-7-8 is easy for you double the ratio to 8-14-16 and so on. The higher the ratio the better it is. Repeat this cycle 7 times. Do it at least three times a day, the more you do it the better it will be for you.

Do not pay attention to time

People who can’t fall asleep often tend to watch the clock and are obsessed about the fact that they cannot fall asleep. But this behavior causes anxiety and that’s what you want to avoid. So get rid of any clock in your bedroom that shines in the night or forces yourself not to watch it. Even if it is tempting, watching the time is useless. In the end, you will have to wake up at the time you have set and it is not by looking at it that you will fall asleep faster.

Fight anxiety and stress

One of the major cause for falling asleep issues is anxiety and stress. I am anxious myself and I hate it when my brain starts working hard just before sleeping when I have my eyes closed. I then find it hard to relax and to turn off my thoughts.

There are techniques that I have tested and that I can confirm are helping. Try to visualize something that makes you happy and smile while you have your eyes closed. This technique will help you occupy your mind with good thoughts instead of engaging with worries and concerns during pre-sleep time. But if you think of something important and you feel that it develops in your mind. Stand up and write it down on a piece of paper. At first glance, one may think that getting up will make you start over from the beginning but on the contrary, it will allow you to move on and fall asleep more quicker.

But the best techniques to clear your mind before sleeping are still meditation and breathing exercises.

Conclusion

Yes, there are a lot of parameters to take into consideration in order to find good sleep back . But you are certainly doing great on some of these factors. And if you are not, it’s okay. Try to apply these changes one by one. This may take several weeks, but I guarantee you’ll get there!

Scientific sources:

Picture from Ivan Oboleninov / Pexels

Better sleep, the key to your problems. Basics n°1 about sleep

Sleeping is such a daily and frequent moment that the majority of us forget its importance. When your schedule gets busy, sleep is often the first thing to get neglected. “Oh I slept only 5h last night, it’s okay, the day is going to be harsh but I’ll survive”. You probably once said that to yourself because you already managed to resist days where you slept badly.

However, it has been proven that losing even one hour of sleep during a night can affect your mood, your energy, your mental sharpness, your cognitive ability and ability to handle stress. 

Sleep researchers discovered that 3% of the population has a rare gene that enables them to do well on less than six hours of sleep a night. For the other 97% of us, six hours is not enough at all.

Average sleep duration and percent of the population

Many people may not even remember what it feels like to be truly wide-awake and fully alert. But how do we know if we are sleep deprived?

You lack sleep if you recognize yourself in one of these situations:

  • Feeling sluggish in the afternoon
  • Getting sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
  • Getting drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
  • Falling asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
  • Feeling the need to sleep in on weekends
  • Falling asleep within five minutes of going to bed

The problem is that we often do not manage to catch up on the lack of sleep. And over the long-term, sleep loss can weaken your mental and physical health. After several years, this is where your body suddenly drops out without warning you and makes you fall into a burnout. And that’s what the Circular team wants you to avoid. 

Your sleep is a reflection of your stamina during the day. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort! 

At Circular we believe that the day starts with the night before. That’s why we give a lot of importance to understanding your nightly sleep and how to bounce back from sleep loss. By getting on a healthy sleep journey, you will find your vitality back and your best stamina for you to perform to your true potential.

Get rid of sleep inertia forever

Logically, if you have slept badly (not enough time or of poor quality), your inertia will be stronger. But sleep inertia happens even to the best sleepers since it does not solely depend on those factors. Here are the main causes of sleep inertia:

  • Inertia partly comes from the dehydration of our body during sleep since we are unable to drink enough water for long periods of time.
  • Sleep inertia is also due to the adaptation time that our body needs to restart some of its mechanisms after a period of partial inactivity. And a large part of the mechanisms that need a restart is triggered by biological events governed by the circadian rhythm (natural light/darkness cycle of the planet).
  • One of the reasons is also that we usually do not wake up in the right sleep stage due to our alarm clocks. Sleep is composed of different stages that can be summarized by light, deep and REM stages. Waking up during deep and REM will increase our inertia. The human being is programmed to wake up naturally at the end of its sleep stage, but our alarm clocks prevent just that from happening. 

The solutions to reducing inertia upon waking-up therefore naturally result from the origins of our problem.

  • First and foremost, we obviously need a good night’s sleep and I invite you to read the Circular blog at https://www.circular.xyz/en/blog where many articles will help you better understand and improve your sleep.
  • We should drink plenty of water as soon as we wake up to rehydrate and maintain the level of water our body needs to function properly. Water is essential for all vital processes. Eating as soon as we wake up is also very important to restart our internal system and provide the necessary energy to our body.
  • Although it seems contradictory to our problems, getting quickly into action after waking up is very useful to restart the mechanisms of our body as quickly as possible.
  • To restart our cognitive mechanisms, we also need to expose ourselves to natural sunlight (or an artificial lamp if there is not much sun where you live).
  • And finally, it is preferable to wake up in a light sleep stage where you will feel like waking up naturally rested and alert. Waking up in deep sleep will be the main cause of our inertia even if we have slept well.

But you wonder how we can do this. Since we set our alarm clock to a certain fixed time, the alarm clock will wake us whether we are in deep sleep or light sleep.

For this, we need to use a smart alarm clock. You can read about the solution offered by the Circular ring against sleep inertia “Circular® smart alarm clock: Wake up with motivation and energy and get rid of sleep inertia”

How to lower your time to fall asleep?

First of all, you have to know that sleep experts assess that a healthy adult should fall asleep between 5 to 30 minutes once the person climbs into bed and closes his eyes in a dark place. Falling asleep below 5 min or above 30 minutes is not considered as normal. 

Time to Fall Asleep Circular
Type image caption here (optional)

But for most people, falling asleep outside of this slot does not mean that you are suffering from sleep disorders. The causes can be multiple and it takes just a little bit of willpower to fix that.

Experience both daylight and darkness

Light influences your body’s internal clock, which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Irregular light exposure can lead to disruption of circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep. That’s why if you live in a country where there is not a lot of sun or winters without sun, it is normal for you to have episodes where you sleep badly. It is important to expose your body to bright light or artificial bright light during the day and sleep in a dark room at night. (Click here to know more about Circadian Rhythm)

Respect a regular schedule

The second most important tip is to follow a regular schedule. This means going to bed at the same time each night to regulate your inner clock and to wake up at the end of your sleep need. 

Generally, night people tend to have difficulty in falling asleep quickly. And people tend to comfort themselves with the fact that they are not morning people so they can’t do anything about it. Even if it is genetic, I personally am a night person and I succeeded in decreasing my time to fall asleep. To make the changes, you have to be patient. Do it slowly, over days or weeks, and then stick with them for maximum effect. It takes discipline, but it can be done.

If you are a night person, I’ll give you a tip to adapt very quickly. Force yourself to wake up earlier than expected by an hour or two. Tired in the following days, you will be able to easily fall asleep sooner and faster. Once you see the change, stick to this bedtime and you will see that you will adapt easily.

The Circular app can help you with that because it will analyze for you, your sleep needs and tell you at what time you should go to bed depending on your time to fall asleep and your waking up time.

No nap for you

If you are having naps, get rid of them.

Be active

If you are not already doing physical activity, be active during your day. But be careful, do not do sports too close to the time you go to bed or your system will still be stimulated and you won’t be able to fall asleep correctly. Give your system at least 3 hours before sleeping.

Avoid digital screens

The following factor is the number one cause for extremely high falling asleep time. SCREENS. Digital screens are a plague for sleep and this for two main reasons. Firstly because watching something on a screen requires a lot of effort for your eyes and is very stimulating for your brain. This will make your brain think unnecessarily (even unconsciously) before and during your sleep. And secondly, because the blue light of these screens will disrupt your circadian rhythm. Blue light is harmful to your internal clock since it delays the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleep. It will make think your inner clock that it is not time to sleep, and therefore delay your sleep even if you put yourself in the dark. 

So don’t watch digital screens before sleeping. And if you want to watch your screen, install an app/software to make rid of blue light, lower the brightness to the minimum and do not look at your screen in the dark but rather in a lit room. Finally, do not look at your screens in your bed while lying down. Because lying in bed for a long time without sleeping will also disrupt your inner system. The gesture of lying indicates to your system that you want to sleep, so don’t miss your opportunity to sleep.

Be smart about what you eat and drink

Minimizing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before sleeping seems logical. But less known, avoid having heavy and late dinner. A light dinner, without quick sugars and red meat but with a portion of slow sugars.

Do not eat within 4 to 6 hours of the time you want to sleep. 

Create a comfortable environment for sleep. 

Don’t work too late to free your mind (within 2 hours of the time you want to sleep).

Sleeping in a quiet, dark room and at a cool and comfortable temperature will help you sleep faster. The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 18 – 22 Celsius degrees (64.4 – 71.6 Fahrenheit degrees).

Practice meditation

Meditation and relaxation training will help you improve fall asleep faster and sleep better. There is a simple but powerful breathing method called 4-7-8 method that is used by the military and ancient yogi that will lower your heartbeat, calm yourself and make you fall asleep faster, sleep better and increase your natural defense. 

Here are the steps. Exhale completely through your nose until you empty your air. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose until you are filled with air (belly and lung) while mentally counting to four. Hold your breath and mentally count to seven. Close your mouth and exhale completely through your nose, and mentally counting to eight. If 4-7-8 is easy for you to double the ratio to 8-14-16 and so on. The higher the ratio the better it is. Repeat this cycle 7 times. Do it at least three times a day, the more you do it the better it will be. 

Do not pay attention to time

People who can’t fall asleep often tend to watch the clock and are obsessed with the fact that they cannot fall asleep. But this behavior causes anxiety and that’s what you want to avoid. So get rid of any clock in your bedroom that shines in the night or forces yourself not to watch it. Even if it is tempting, watching the time is useless. Anyway, you will have to wake up at the time you have to and it is not by looking at it that you will fall asleep faster.

Fight anxiety and stress

One of the major cause of falling asleep issues is anxiety and stress. I am anxious myself and I hate it when my brain starts working hard just before sleeping when I have my eyes closed. It causes me trouble relaxing and turning off my thoughts. 

There are techniques that I tested and that I can confirm are helping. Try to visualize something that makes you happy and smile while you have your eyes closed. This technique will help you occupy your mind with good thoughts instead of engaging with worries and concerns during the pre-sleep time. But if you think of something important and you feel that it develops in your mind. Stand up and write it down on a piece of paper. At first glance, one may think that getting up will make you start over from the beginning but on the contrary, it will allow you to move on and fall asleep more quickly.

But the best techniques to clear your brain before sleeping are still meditation and breathing exercises.

Conclusion

Yes, there are a lot of parameters to take into consideration to find a good sleep. But you are certainly doing great on some of these factors. And if you are not, it is okay, try to apply these changes step by step. This may take several weeks of adaptation, but anyway you are used to taking a long time to fall asleep or sleep badly for a while now. 

Photo credits to Shingo_No from Pixabay