Lifestyle / Psychological

Struggling to stay awake? You may be sleeping all wrong…

“The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.” – Arianna Huffington

The average sleeper (those who burn the midnight oil not included) sleeps approximately eight uninterrupted hours a day, usually between the hours of ten o’clock in the evening to about six or seven o’clock in the morning; there is much evidence suggesting that (with regard to teenagers and young adults) this should not be the case, but more on that later. Sleeping in this way may be the most practical approach to gaining much needed rest in our society, but it is often difficult to maintain with our busy life schedules. Those who overlook the importance of sleep often experience adverse side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, stress and migraines, even though – because they were unable to get a good night’s rest – an afternoon nap could have solved the problem.

Unfortunately, sleeping more than once in a 24 hour cycle is seen as being lazy, and prioritizing sleep over other activities is simply out of the question. The common conception is tha humans can only afford one period of rest per day—at night. In fact, this sleep pattern, known as a monophasic sleep cycle, is one of the many different well documented sleep cycles, including: polyphasic; segmented; triphasic; siesta; and the Uberman – all of which have benefited the lives of those who are brave enough to try them.

The Monophasic

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As mentioned above, is the most common sleep pattern in the world. It consists of one core sleep during the night, followed by an extremely long period of wakefulness so as to accommodate time for the many daily activities. This pattern emerged during the industrial revolution as people became more conscious of time and efficiency.

The Segmented (biphasic)

This sleep cycle is considered to be the most natural of the sleeping patterns. According to modern scientific and anthropological research, conducted in 2001 by historian Roger Ekirch, it was found that prior to the industrial revolution people used to sleep in two distinct periods. Traditionally synchronized with exposure to natural light, people would firstly go to sleep at dusk with a brief period of wakefulness sometime during the night in which they would engage in private activities such as reading or meditation, followed by a second period of sleep which would end at dawn.

Siesta

Another biphasic sleep cycle is the siesta. Although similar to the Segmented cycle it does have a slight difference. The break during the day usually supersedes what we refer to as lunch hour. It is popular in many parts of Europe, especially in Spain. Shops and other businesses close their doors so people may go home and nap or conduct other quiet activities.

The Triphasic

This cycle was popularized by Leif Weaver, a triphasic sleeper. This type of sleeping cycle is for those who aim to gain more wakeful hours in their 24 hour day. Although it is considered reasonably easy to adapt to it does include two naps during the day which may only be suitable for people living in cultures which allow for this.

The Uberman

The Uberman Cycle is possibly the most contentious of the sleep patterns. It is the most widely attempted and failed schedule as it demands a rigid program of 20 minute naps spread periodically throughout the day. An Uberman sleeper must always be prepared to have a nap during their scheduled times as missing any of them could lead to serious sleep deprivation issues. Those who have succeeded in adapting to the Uberman cycle have reported higher productivity levels as well as greater alertness and well-being during their waking hours.

In his book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, Ekirch summarised the abundant historical evidence that humans previously slept in two separated segments. This is why I have chosen the Segmented sleep cycle for my experiment. For the next month I will be sleeping on a strict schedule, consisting of two three and a half hour core sleeps. By doing so I hope to be more productive and well-rested. Segmented sleep patterns have the potential for helping fight stress, anxiety, insomnia as well as providing many other physiological benefits. I will report my findings daily, hopefully with positive news.

Follow this link to plan your very own unique sleep cycle : http://napchart.com/ft2dr

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