The content on this page was last updated and reviewed on Saturday 03 March 2018.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: When dealing with polyphasic sleep, it is good practice to be skeptical about what you read, including everything you find on this website. Polyphasic sleep is not an exact science, because the number of scientific studies done on this subject is very limited. Consequently, while this content has been compiled with the intention that it might be helpful and useful to people, a lot of the information contained within has been collated without regard to perfect scientific accuracy (although, in many cases, published research papers have been studied to give additional background). Portions of the content on this website are a result of direct or personal observation and some information has been extrapolated based on data already available. It should also be said that I'm not perfect, and it's possible I made mistakes or I've misjudged the information. Nevertheless, hopefully you find at least some of the content within to be useful. If you feel the information given here is inaccurate, or that I am giving out bad advice, you are encouraged to discuss this with me over in the Discord chat room.
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Please note: This website is intended to be read in a left-to-right order. The content on this page assumes you have read and understood all previous pages. If you are finding comprehension difficult and you haven't read previous pages, you should start reading the guide from the beginning.
People who are younger need a greater amount of sleep. This particularly affects those who are underage and have not fully matured yet, because they are still growing both mentally and physically. Extra SWS time is spent to boost bodily growth and extra REM time is spent to boost learning and memory retention. For people who are underage, the total amount of light sleep is much smaller and there is a higher percentage of REM and SWS in daily sleep totals; extra sleep in general is also likely to be beneficial. Consequently the total amount of daily sleep reduction that is possible for underage is very small and polyphasic sleep schedules which aim to significantly cut sleep totals should probably be avoided.
In general, activities which involve only light-to-moderate exercise (e.g. light cardio or light sports) should not have any significant impact on sleep architecture. However, activities that are very physically strenuous or which involve high-intensity exercise (e.g. heavy sports, weight lifting, HIIT, etc) should be taken with more consideration - when engaging with these activities, additional time is required for things such as muscle and tissue repair, and for this reason the daily SWS requirement is increased, with the increase in SWS usually causing a reduction in the total time spent in the LNREM2 sleep stage. Total time spent asleep has also been found to increase. Consequently, the total amount of daily sleep reduction that is possible for people who are engaging in these sorts of activities is reduced, because they need more sleep overall.
Due to low amounts of SWS during adaptation on schedules with extreme levels of sleep reduction, especially nap-only schedules which will encounter severe SWS rebounds during the adaptation period, some care should be taken not to engage in overexertion and extra time may have to be spent to recover even after light or moderate levels of exercise. After the adaptation period this effect should be less noticeable.
During times of sickness, a significant increase in the amount of slow wave sleep results in a boost to the immune system which helps it to effectively fight off whatever is making you ill. Consequently, the total amount of daily sleep reduction that is possible for people who are sick or ill is very small. For this reason, it is strongly advised that whenever a polyphaser is sick, they switch to a schedule which would allow for a greater amount of SWS. Traditionally this would mean dropping back down to monophasic sleeping until the illness has been dealt with, or adding extra cycles in SWS-favourable times to the entrained schedule's existing sleep blocks.
Caffeine has a half-life of around 5-6 hours and will mostly be gone from the system after around 12 hours. It works by antagonizing adenosine receptors, which can lead to reduced drowsiness. However, it also has some other effects, including increased heart rate, increased sleep latency and reduction in sleep quality. The increased sleep latency is particularly detrimental for polyphasic sleepers. For example, after consuming a reasonable amount of coffee and mountain dew around 3 hours before sleeping, the sleep latency was so bad that it took over half an hour to fall asleep and almost an hour to hit NREM2 despite being sleepy. Obviously this sort of sleep latency is unacceptable for polyphasic sleepers and will render any naps taken in this period as completely useless.
The general consensus within the polyphasic sleeping community is to completely cut caffeine out of the diet. However, this is likely to lead to caffeine withdrawal symptoms for people who have been consuming caffeine for a long time, because the body slowly counters the constant caffeine supply by setting up extra adenosene receptors, leading to a long-term tolerance and dependence on caffeine. For this reason, if the plan is to remove caffeine from the diet, it is probably a good idea to spend a few weeks without it (in order to get past withdrawal symptoms) before starting a polyphasic sleeping schedule.
It should be noted that Puredoxyk mentions in her Ubersleep book that she was given soda to stay awake during her initial Uberman adaptation, and has been known to drink small amounts of coffee and other things while sleeping polyphasically. It might also be beneficial to use small doses of caffeine to offset sleep deprivation symptoms during an early period of adaptation or during the initial sleep deprivation period. One trick often suggested is a "caffeine nap" where you consume caffeine immediately before sleeping (it normally takes around half an hour to activate, so it hits your system just as you are waking). Personally, I'm not in favour of this idea, especially given the long half-life.
It has been observed that alcohol consumption can increase depth and length of slow-wave sleep, and huge amounts (more than 1 or 2 drinks) can lead to REM reduction. Drinking significant amounts of alcohol also leads to significant sleep architecture disturbance, which can completely wreck a polyphasic adaptation. Consequently, it is probably not advisable to drink huge amounts of alcohol while polysleeping. It is also not really advisable to drink alcohol prior to any sleep sessions which are intended to be REM-focused. It might be okay to drink a small amount prior to sleep sessions which are focused on SWS without significant schedule damage, but large quantities are not advised and avoiding drink entirely is probably the safest option.
Consumption of Modafinil while on polyphasic sleeping is not recommended due to extremely long half life (15 hours) which means it is likely to impact the quality of multiple successive sleep sessions. Further research is required in this area.
Nicotine is a stimulant with similar effects to caffeine. Consequently, it is unlikely smokers would be able to successfully adapt to a polyphasic schedule as the sleep latency would be too high and naps are unlikely to work well. So far, there are no reports of any smokers having successfully adapted to any schedule.
If this is currently a problem for you, you are very very strongly advised to quit completely before you attempt a polyphasic sleeping schedule (although, given the enormous health problems caused by smoking, it's best for you to quit anyway, even if you decide not to bother with polyphasic sleep).
It was suggested by some people in the polyphasic sleeping Discord that a ketogenic diet (low carbs, adequate protein, high fat) is helpful for poly sleep because consuming carbs increases tiredness and/or sleep need. So far no evidence presented to support this claim. Further research is required in this area.
It is generally suggested that it is better to eat just after waking up from sleep so that your body isn't having to digest food while sleeping. Indeed it can be very hard to sleep if your belly is overflowing. Contrastingly though I've also found that it's hard to sleep if your stomach is grumbling due to being hungry. Further research is required in this area.
It has been suggested that room temperature has a notable impact on sleep quality. Further research is required in this area to determine how much impact there is and the most optimal temperature range to sleep in.
There appears to be a link between REM sleep frequency/quantity and depression. In particular, reducing REM frequency and quantity appears to reduce severity of depression and SSRIs (common antidepressants) appear to function by reducing both REM quantity and also REM deprivation symptoms. Information along these lines has been supported by study. Consequently, polyphasic sleep might have the initial effect of dampening depressive symptoms, but after REM rebound they might be amplified. (This would support my observation where I was able to get so far into schedule without any depression at all and then suddenly I get a huge surge of it which kills the adaptation). Further research is required in this area.
Some people have claimed that meditation can be used instead of sleep to serve the same purpose. This sounds like complete crap to me but I'm not willing to dismiss this without evidence. Further research is required in this area.
Masturbation, porn and sex are likely to make you subsequently feel tired and want to sleep, so if you want to engage in these activities, it might be better to do them shortly before sleeping. Some people in the polyphasic sleeping community are also part of the NoFap community and don't masturbate at all; whether this is helpful or not is debatable. Further research is required in this area.
It appears that even after successful adaptation there are likely to be long-term metabolic effects of polyphasic sleeping, especially on extreme schedules. There is plenty of evidence to support this and the consensus from veterans on extreme schedules seems to be that you get more hungry. A notable example of this phenomenon is aeia, who lived on Uberman between June 2009 and March 2010 and has a prominently notable video blog of the experience on YouTube. She eventually quit because she felt that she was gaining too much weight, and every single diet that she tried failed to stop the problem; eventually this impacted her modelling career and she was forced to pack in the schedule. It is also very plausible that eating could be an effective way to counter sleepiness which might otherwise occur from having low volumes of sleep. Further research is required in this area.
Some schedules require extremely strict adherence in order to maintain them long term, but it is generally very difficult to avoid real-life interferences to schedules. Real life examples of interferences I've experienced include:
Also, Maddy had her pets mess up her naps quite a few times, including one time where one of her dogs carried her phone away into some other room so she couldn't hear the alarm and consequently overslept.
There may also be some considerations for emergency circumstances occurring during a polyphasic sleep session. Given the increased sleep depth, entering slow wave sleep could prove devastating if there is some sort of emergency (e.g. a house fire, a burglary, etc) which you would ordinarily wake up to deal with. It is plausible that you will not hear the alarm go off and therefore will fail to wake up. This has happened to generalNguyen in the past, although fortunately it was a false alarm. Still, this should be taken into consideration.
In most parts of the world the clocks move forward in the spring and then backwards again in the autumn. This can interfere slightly with polyphasic scheduling. In general you should try to stick to all of your sleep times during the DST changeover, sleep blocks should be kept to the same length and sleep blocks which are near to or overlap the border might need to have their timings tweaked to alleviate excess sleep deprivation. Most polyphasers do not find this to be a considerable issue.
If the DST changeover is just after you start your schedule, you might want to start sleeping on the new timezone early in order to make sure the adaptation period keeps consistent scheduling.