There are dozens – if not hundreds – of sleep schedules online. Ranging from monophasic, biphasic to polyphasic sleep.
In simple term, monophasic sleep describes the regular sleep you might be accustomed to: 8 hours of sleep per night without any naps during the day.
A biphasic sleep describes a sleep pattern, where the sleep is divided into two sleep blocks or chunks. One popular type of biphasic sleep is the Siesta sleep. You sleep – for example – 6 hours at night and then have a 20-90 minute Siesta nap around noon.
Polyphasic sleep is where it gets more sophisticated. You divide your sleep into multiple chunks: for example three 90-minute blocks of sleep divided over the day, or six naps equally divided over the day.
Over the last few years, I often experimented with sleep regarding health, well-being, and productivity. I found differences between summer and winter as well as sleep schedules for well-being and productivity, which I want to share with you.
Sleep Schedule for Well-Being
The best sleep schedule for human well-being is biphasic in the summer (±5h at night, 90 min during the day) and monophasic during the winter (8-10h sleep at night; no nap during the day).
It’s best to wake up with the onset of the morning dawn (slightly before sunrise). It is natural for most humans to wake up with the sunrise. When you sleep without an alarm clock for several weeks, you’ll see that you’ll naturally wake up shortly before the sun rises – no matter whether you went to bed a 9PM or 12PM.
In the summer, the sun is rising earlier and setting later. This is why I believe during the summer, it’s better to go to bed later and wake up earlier with overall less sleep (5h or even less) and have a siesta nap (20 or 90 minutes) during the hot summer noon.
In the winter, this is not the case. Naturally, you sleep much more during the winter time. There is less natural light and it is colder. You naturally have more sleep need which is why you often get tired quite early in the winter. With artificial light, it is easy to prolong the bedtime, but it’s probably best to sleep earlier and longer in the winter.
Sleep Schedule for Productivity
When your goal is productivity instead of well-being, I find that waking up and working early is preferable to staying up and working late.
While I can be insanely productive at night, I found it much harder to fall asleep after closing down the laptop well after midnight. While this may also have something to do with our circadian rhythm, blue light and so on, I explain it with my brain is being in work and problem-solving mode. This means when I decide to go to bed, I’ll still lay there thinking about all kinds of problems, issues, ideas. Not good.
When I stop working several hours before I go to bed, I never have the slightest difficulty falling asleep. My brain, by that time, got out of work mode and is ready to peacefully leave all issues and ideas behind to quickly fall asleep. Tomorrow is another day.
Another plus: when I finished my most important tasks before 8AM, the day will be a success, regardless of what might happen.
But waking up early – which fore me means around 4AM – comes with a cost. Either you’d have to go to bed very early (at 8PM) or you’d accrue an unhealthy amount of sleep debt.
For me, neither sounded interesting, which is why I naturally started to have multiple 20-minute naps during the day.
When I started to research sleep schedules online, I stumbled upon a website called polyphasic.net. There I got the idea of a longer 90-minute nap in the noon. This is interesting out of two reasons: first in a 90-minute siesta sleep, you’ll get REM sleep. Sleep which is necessary for your regeneration. Second, you can view this long Siesta sleep as a second real sleep block. You didn’t sleep for only 5h at night. But you slept 5h at night and 1.5h during the day – ergo you slept 6.5 hours in total.
This made sense to me, as I experienced a real energy low around noon in the summer. The heat was daunting which made it impossible to work productively – especially without an air condition.
Instead of torturing myself through these noon hours, I recharged my energy with a 90-minute Siesta nap.
The Siesta nap took quite a while to adapt. First, I wasn’t able to sleep at all for 90 minutes. After a while, I naturally woke up after 60 minutes or so. After one or two weeks, I adapted. I felt very energized in the morning, afternoon, and evening with only 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep in total.
Would I slept 6.5 hours on a monophasic sleep schedule, I would need a couple of cups of coffee, and I’d sleepwalk through the day.
So to sum it up: With a Siesta sleep schedule of 4.5 hours to 5 hours of sleep during the night and 1.5 hours of sleep around noon you:
- Feel equally energized as on 8 hours of sleep with only 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep.
- You can wake up very early (4AM or even earlier) but can still participate in social events in the evening
- You get rid of the noon low (or food coma) by sleeping
- You can accomplish your most important task before 7AM
If you have the luxury of having your own schedule, this is a superb sleep schedule – especially during summer.
Other than experimenting with sleep schedules, I also found that the more I meditate, the less sleep I require. This is why I believe that our body uses deep rest periods – as you achieve them in meditation – to regenerate, without sleeping.
Secondly, the less I eat and the more raw plant-based food I eat, the less sleep I require – naturally.
Overall, I don’t believe in the notion of you must have 8-hours of perfect sleep every night. When your body works efficiently, you need much less sleep.
The more bad things you do to and put into your body (little movement, bad food, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, excessive workouts) – the more time will your body need to recover.
On the other hand, when you care about your body with spiritual practices, healthy food, periods of fasting, a lot of movement such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Kung Fu, you’ll naturally sleep less.