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Most people sleep using a Monophasic circadian rhythm sleep schedule, where they go to sleep in the late evening and wake up in the morning, which results in about 8 hours of sleep and 16 hours of being awake.

Uberman has developed a new Polyphasic circadian rhythm sleep schedule, where you take a power nap of 30 minutes every 4 hours. The goal of the sleep cycle is that you are actively in REM sleep within a couple of minutes of falling asleep and remain in that state until you awaken.

This method of organizing optimizes your sleeping time to maximize your REM sleep and minimize your non-REM sleep, so that you power naps are really effective. The result is that you sleep for only 3 hours each day, so that you are awake for 21 hours.


So, now I'm wondering about the productivity result of being more hours awake because of less sleep which isn't necessarily bad. When searching for Uberman's Sleep Schedule in combination with Productivity online I don't find any interesting results, but when looking for Polyphasic Productivity I mostly get tips that show that polyphasic sleep gives a boost in productivity. Here is such example, indicating that it did help!

Now my question is... Does Uberman's Sleep Schedule result in more productivity?

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1  
There is not much research into extended polyphasic sleeping patterns - i.e. beyond 6 months. So it might not be a good option for a way of life, but better suited to intense bursts. Some helpful links I found a while ago: Steve Pavlina, SuperMemo article, MyZeo risks of polyphasic sleep –  Simon Martin May 30 '12 at 20:41

6 Answers 6

up vote 40 down vote accepted

Based on your description, the premise of Uberman's Sleep schedule seems to be based on a belief that REM is the only useful stage of sleep and thus maximizing REM gets all the benefits of sleep in less time.

This sleep article on WebMD explains how both REM and deep sleep provide benefits. Specifically on the benefits of non-REM (NREM) sleep:

During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system. As you get older, you sleep more lightly and get less deep sleep. Aging is also associated with shorter time spans of sleep, although studies show the amount of sleep needed doesn't appear to diminish with age.

These are not benefits I'd be inclined to go without.

My take away is basically: REM repairs the mind, while NREM repairs the body. So perhaps in the short-run mostly REM sleep would increase productivity because it would provide your mind the rest and defragging it needs to operate efficiently, in the long run the lack of body-repairing deep sleep seems likely to catch up to you.


Edit: Came across some additional research that suggests ancestral people may have slept in two four-hour stints, with an hour or so break I between.

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So, a solution in the middle would be Everyman. :) –  Tom Wijsman Jul 2 '11 at 21:21
    
Even though I do agree with this post, I think it lacks the mention (of the belief) that "and shallow sleep is useless". Especially as even with Ubermann, there are reports that naps can be either REM of deep NREM, so both useful phases can be achieved. Tell me if I should grow a full post, maybe, as answers here don't seem to take into much account the biggest source of information about polyphasic cleep. –  Nikana Reklawyks Nov 27 '12 at 19:30
    
@NikanaReklawyks Absolutely write an answer. –  Adam Wuerl Nov 30 '12 at 5:51

I did the Uberman schedule a year or so ago, and it was AMAZING!! I absolutely loved it, it was everything I had read about... time seemed to slow to a crawl, I felt better than ever, and I absolutely couldn't believe how many extra activities I was able to work on.

However just like everyone else I've read about, I ended up going back to a mostly monophasic sleep pattern, for these reasons:

  1. It was just too hard being so out of sync with my family. My other half never got to go to bed with me anymore, and that's very hard on a relationship.
  2. I found that if you miss a nap, you are SCREWED!! The effects are very very hard to recover from, or at least they were for me.
  3. When it's nap time, you MUST SLEEP NOW! If you're in an environment where there's any noise or disturbances at all, it can completely ruin your nap and therefore you. I work from home but found that if I nap in the guest room, the cats want to join me which would be great if I were going to sleep for a while, but doesn't work for 20 or 30 minutes!

Ultimately... I gave up. Now I just sleep whenever I feel like it and sometimes that's in the middle of the day for an hour or two, and I find that those naps usually allow me to stay up and productive until anywhere from 3am to 5am. So, 2 to 4 hour blocks twice a day tends to work well for me, but doesn't gain me anywhere near the amount of time I got from Uberman. =(

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There is some research mentioned in a recent BBC article that points to a predisposition for 2 periods of 4 hours with a short waking period in between.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16964783

I've yet to try it in earnest but I will say I have slipped into a similar cycle in the past and remember enjoying it immensely.

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Thanks for linking this. I read this recently, too, and was intrigued. I fell into this habit for a while because I'd fall asleep with my kids when I put them to bed, but I stopped because I thought I was messing up my sleep schedule. I was definitely awake and active for a couple hours inbetween 'sleeps', but it was contradictory to anything I'd ever heard about sleep. –  eflat Mar 4 '12 at 21:19

Here's another "personal experiment" writeup I found, doing the Everyman schedule and comparing to a past attempt at the Uberman schedule: http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=Everyman%20Sleep%20Schedule - that person seems to find it helpful, at least, and easier to maintain than Uberman.

If you look around at the links, he's probably written about it more.

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It's not a he, and yes, she wrote a huge lot more about it. –  Nikana Reklawyks Nov 27 '12 at 19:33

You may be able to be more productive if you have a bunch of short tasks that don’t interfere with napping. Being a loaner will also help since this schedule will put you on a different time then most people. With this type of schedule there are tradeoffs and you have to determine if the possible increased productivity is worth the drawbacks. For a detailed explanation of why someone returned to a normal sleep schedule after being on a polyphasic schedule for several months see this link

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The only research I particularly trust on the more extreme sleep schedules is the Nasa stuff - http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/03jun_naps/ (the article is a summary - the paper itself is very interesting as well). The tests were carried out over 10 days in laboratory conditions and the result was more or less that time-in-bed is what counts for alertness and almost all other measures. I found this pretty interesting because it damages both the ultraman claims and also the more traditional claims about having to get say, 8-hours uninterrupted sleep - several naps adding up to, say, eight outs are just as good.

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