Sleep Smarter, Not Longer


You’ve heard all your life that you should sleep eight hours a night- but do you really want (or need) to spend a third of your life sleeping? Some people believe that by following certain sleep schedules, you can sleep smarter rather than rely on a set amount of hours each night.

There are four main sleep schedules that people can try to follow. First, and most common, is monophasic sleep, when you sleep for a single period, usually at night. This schedule is easiest to follow (most Western countries exist around this sleep schedule), but recent studies suggest that seven hours may be the optimal sleep length for most people. To follow this sleep schedule, wake up at the same time every morning to get your body used to a certain amount of sleep.

Segmented sleep, on the other hand, is the natural sleeping pattern humans followed before electric light. In segmented sleep, you sleep deeper during the first phase of sleep, and you have a longer REM cycle during the second phase. You also earn a couple of productive hours in the middle of the night. However, this schedule is difficult to adjust to initially, and you have to go to bed early for it to work. If you go to sleep progressively earlier each night, this sleep schedule should naturally happen.

Polyphasic sleep, as its name suggests, is when the sleeper takes multiple short naps throughout the day. After getting used to the sleep cycle, the sleepers fall into REM sleep almost immediately. Geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla were fans of this schedule and only needed 2-3 hours of sleep per day. However, it’s incredibly tough to get used to and it requires naps during the work day, plus 7-10 days for your body to adjust to the schedule. Even then, it’s possible that this sleep schedule only works for the 1-3% of people who need only a few hours of sleep per night.

Finally, the siesta is an afternoon nap commonly taken in European in Latin American countries with warm climates. Companies such as NASA, Google, and Nike also allow siestas, possibly because they increase alertness and may even improve productivity by up to 34%. Unfortunately, most workplaces don’t allow siestas, and cultures that do often work later hours at night. If you have the flexibility to take a siesta, set an alarm so that you nap for 30 minutes tops and use a couch rather than a bed so that you don’t fall into a deep sleep.

Tate Handy