Alternate Sleep Cycles?

Has anyone tried "sleep hacking", like polyphasic sleep patterns? I'm giving the "dymaxion" sleep schedule a try, sleeping for 30-minute intervals every 5.5 hours at 5:45 and 11:45, both AM and PM. It seems the most efficient sleep cycle from internet research, but as I've only just begun I have no idea how well it will actually work in practice for me.


  • I used to be really into polyphasing. I slept in 15 minute increments every four hours for a total of 1.5 hours of sleep. After a month or so to adjust with a number of "false start" I had a successful run of about 4 months.

    My advice: Get an interval timer and set it to give you an alarm 1/2 an hour before a sleep period. Make a small ritual to indicate to your body that your about to sleep. For me, I did a two minute series of stretches each time. Get high quality noise canceling head-phones and download some binaural beats. I used a binaural beat program and audacity to make my own 15 minute mp3s. They have an induction/relaxation period. A minute before wakeup this transitions to a wakeup/stimulation beat. Then at minute 15, some kind of stimulating sounds occur to wake you up. You'll need something to cover/obscure your eyes.
    Those cheap sleep eye covers won't cut it either. They let light in around the sides. You'll figure something out.
    Also, use your time wisely. No one will be around to keep you company at 1am so it's a great time to exercise and clean etc. You'll have to stay physically active at night, because it's the hardest time not to crash.

    Also, in the day use small doses of melatonin. Sound antiintuitive, but the lack of melatonin being expressed is associated with higher levels of cancer. You can look up studies on people who work swing shifts and night shifts. It shortens your life, unless you take care to supplement.
  • I work in sleep medicine.  A lot of these things have been tried.  Currently, I know of a researcher that is affiliated NASA working on exactly this problem.  The studies are basically isolating people from all zeitgebers, which are external sleep cues, most prominently light, but there are others.  He is then looking for the optimal sleep patterns, which would allow a crew to have some people alert at all times.  So he's experimented with any number of combinations.  You can look into the research he's doing.  His name is Dr. David Dinges.  
    I've also experimented w/ neuroentrainment on days when I'm unable to sleep and find that while it doesn't replace sleep it does supplement it.  This is simialr to what Cassox is talking about, using binaural beats.  You can get programs that use light and sound to stimulate the brain into different patterns.  During sleep the two most important types of sleep are REM and Delta sleep.  REM tends to be associated w/ some Theta level patterns, although really it looks more like just slightly desynchronized wake.  Delta is named for the type of waveform most prominent, which are Delta waves.   I've found it effective use entrainment to attain these waveforms and alternate Theta and Delta on 90 min cycles, which is the average natural cycle length. 
    Another important thing that you can use, in addition to melatonin is a light box.  This stimulated the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is thought to be the brains primary sleep regulator.  That's actually a bit of an oversimplification, however.  In reality REM is almost as different from NREM as either are from Wake.  REM is also triggered from a different part of the brain, actually the brain stem.  REM is produced by PGO waves from the PPN.  
    No matter what you do, however, eventually you'll need to make up on that sleep, although usually you can get by with less hours slept.  Your body will compensate by first going into REM rebound, which means, you'll spend longer than normal periods in REM, then Delta rebound.  
    Long term there are dangers in both cutting into your sleep as well as working shift work, which I have for most of the last 16 years.  On a neruochemical level it upsets cholinergic and neurodrenergic neuromodulation.  Upsetting those neurotransmitters can effect almost every system in the body, but most directly it tends to impact appetite and sex drive, since along with sleep, all three of those primary drives are centered in the hypothalamus.  
    There is a lot of argument in the sleep research community about a lot of these things. Also, quite a lot of paradoxical findings.  Such as the theory that REM is related to creativity, memory, cognitive function, etc., while at the same time, cutting down REM is an effective treatment for depression.  
    As someone who deals with people who are chronically tired, both the people who work for me and our patients, I can tell you to be very careful about cutting into sleep and driving.  There is a high correlation between sleepiness and car accidents.  
  • Hey, this is pretty cool. I'm planning on writing up a series of Blogs on Polyphasic sleep schedules. Perhaps we could collaborate a bit? Or at least I could ask advice?
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