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How Polyphasic Sleep Works


The Life Hack: Uberman or Everyman?
Steve Fisher, security supervisor at London's Old Bailey courthouse, walks through The Grand Hall on Dec. 15, 2010. Fisher works from 7 p.m. to 7a.m. We're hoping he gets a big chunk of satisfying sleep during the day.
Steve Fisher, security supervisor at London's Old Bailey courthouse, walks through The Grand Hall on Dec. 15, 2010. Fisher works from 7 p.m. to 7a.m. We're hoping he gets a big chunk of satisfying sleep during the day.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Recently, polyphasic sleep has been nicknamed the "life hack," or a way to make our busy lives more efficient by sleeping less and doing more.

"We have an increasingly sleep-deprived society due to many things that compete for our time," says Dr. Watson, from the University of Washington. "From television and media to Facebook and smartphones, there's no shortage of things to do other than sleep. Some have gotten the notion that you can cheat your sleep need, and polysleeping is becoming a popular theory for getting less sleep and not paying the price for it."

Wait ... there's no price?

"There's no substitute for regular sleep," Watson says. "No pill, no schedule that can provide the same benefit as getting the healthy amount of sleep a person needs, which is between seven and nine hours a night."

According to Watson, two of the most popular ways to polysleep are the Uberman schedule -- six 20-minute naps, or one nap every four hours in a 24-hour period -- and the Everyman variation, or one major sleep period, with an additional two to five 20-minute naps during the day.

So how efficient can you really be if you're sleeping while other people are awake and awake when most people are sleeping?

"It's a difficult schedule to sustain," Dr. Watson says. "On the Uberman schedule, you have to time your life so that every four hours you're in a situation where you can take a nap. It's tough to have social life. You're going to be awake a lot of times when no one else is. Most people just don't have that much control over their activities where they can schedule things so rigidly."

But let's just say you have no job requiring you to be somewhere or do something at a certain time. And no spouse or child's schedule to work around. And, for the sake of argument, let's imagine that in this world of gloriously unrestricted free time, you choose to make yourself a human sleep experiment. Grab a pillow and a blanket and keep reading to find out how to get started.


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