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.

*** THIS WEBSITE IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION. SOME PAGES MAY BE BLANK, MISSING OR INCOMPLETE. ***

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.


Polyphasic sleeping experiment notes

General notes and observations for people thinking of experimenting with polyphasic sleeping schedules

Last updated on 13 November 2017

These are my personal notes relating to the polyphasic sleeping experiment (PPSE) and also to sleep in general. I try to update them regularly with new content or to improve clarity. The information contained within may be useful for people who are considering playing with their sleep, and particularly for those attempting or designing a 'polyphasic' sleeping schedule (sleeping multiple times per day). This is in contrast to a normal 'monophasic' sleep schedule (sleeping once per day) which is currently the default pattern practiced in the western world.

DISCLAIMER: While this page was compiled with the intention that it might be helpful or useful to people, a lot of the information contained within has been collated without regard to perfect scientific accuracy, and much of it is a result of direct or personal observation. Some information has also been extrapolated based on data already available. When dealing with polyphasic sleep, it is good practice to be skeptical about what you read, including everything you find in my notes page; 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.


Table of contents


Basic sleep mechanics

Sleep stages

There are 4 different stages of sleep summarized as follows

Light Non-REM sleep (LNREM) stages 1 and 2

These two stages of light sleep act as a buffer to cushion between other sleep stages. It is possible they serve other functions besides acting as a buffer but this hasn't been conclusively proven (see "LNREM2 memory interplay theory" under investigation areas later on this page). Consequently they currently appear to have no essential or critical purpose.

LNREM stage 2 is slightly deeper than stage 1 but both of these sleep stages are still very light and easy to wake from.

Slow wave sleep (SWS)

Primary purpose is bodily repair. Known to be responsible for healing muscles, repairing tissue damage, boosting immune system function, regulating synapses, preservation and consolidation of declarative memories, and restoration of glial cells which provide energy to the brain.

This is an extremely deep type of sleep which is hard to wake from. Brain activity slows to ~75% of normal which results in grogginess and considerable sleep inertia if someone is awakened during SWS since it takes the cerebral cortex time to resume its normal functions.

Rapid eye movement (REM)

Primary purpose relates to functions of the brain. Known to be responsible for preservation and consolidation of procedural, spatial and emotional memories. Also known to provide a boost to creativity - after waking from this stage people have been seen to perform better on problem solving tasks.

During this stage about 80% of dreaming occurs; while this happens the muscles become paralyzed and the eyes move very rapidly.

Sleep cycles

During 8 hours of monophasic sleep the body switches between the four stages of sleep in 'cycles'. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes on average, although the cycle length for each human varies; under normal circumstances it might be anywhere between 80-120 minutes.

Monophasic cycle structure

Before polyphasic adaptation, the initial sleep cycle will be laid out in a structure somewhat like:

L1 - L2 - SWS - L2 - REM - L2

Subsequent cycles of the monophasic sleep block will then follow the following pattern:

SWS - L2 - REM - L2

Approximate total time spent in each stage in an 8 hour mono sleep:

L1 + L2 ~ 60%  (around 5 hrs)
SWS ~ 20%  (around 90-100 mins)
REM ~ 20%  (around 90-100 mins)

Polyphasic cycle structure

As part of a polyphasic adaptation, you endeavour to make a cycle structure alteration to move REM first. This normally happens due to REM rebound but to make polyphasic naps successful this needs to become a permanent change.

After the cycle alteration, the first cycle of each sleep block is consequently expected to change to look like this:

L1 - L2 - REM - L2 - SWS - L2 - REM - L2

Subsequent cycles in a sleep block will continue to follow like monophasic sleep:

SWS - L2 - REM - L2

Circadian and ultradian rhythms

During the day there are two different rhythms responsible for regulating sleep

Circadian rhythm

This is a rhythm which repeats roughly every 24 hours although in some humans the length can differ slightly. It is essentially aligning the body to the time of day, and is self-adjusting, making use of external environmental cues such as light and temperature in order to align itself properly.

In terms of sleep the circadian rhythm affects peak times for REM and SWS gain. The peak time for SWS is just before dusk and the peak time for REM is roughly 9 hours later. The general result of this is that when you engage in monophasic sleep at night, each sleep cycle is NOT equal. Instead in each subsequent cycle the REM quantity typically increases and the SWS quantity decreases.

This is a self-sustaining rhythm which regulates itself automatically and it is possible to adjust and offset the circadian rhythm by use of external cues. It will also adjust itself over time to try to align to core sleep blocks to allow for better alignment of times favourable for REM and SWS.

Ultradian rhythm

Also known as the basic rest-activity cycle (BRAC) this rhythm repeats roughly every 90-120 mins. At the start of each BRAC the brain is focused and alert. In the latter half the brain will slow down, leading to the last 20 mins or so of each BRAC where the brain functions the slowest and feels most tired.

Sleep cycles appear to be a manifestation of the ultradian rhythm which expresses itself while sleeping.

Area of further research: Need to investigate relation between BRAC and sleep cycle length.


General observations

Monophasic sleep is not very efficient / Light sleep is not very useful

It would appear that since ~60% of a monophasic sleep cycle is spent in light sleep (LNREM stages 1 and 2) which don't seem to do anything except act as a buffer, this is a really inefficient way to sleep.

The body would tend to agree; after a session of sleep deprivation it has been shown the body compensates by prioritizing REM and SWS in subsequent sleep blocks, ditching the LNREM. (In one study there was a total regain of only 7% LNREM versus 68% SWS and 53% REM regained)

Depth and compression of sleep cycle / BRAC while operating on reduced sleep

After sufficient sleep deprivation the body appears to sleep more deeply. Keeping a consistently reduced level of sleep will subsequently lead to sleep cycle compression where the body gets used to deeper sleep being normal and subsequently the length of sleep cycle / BRAC is reduced.

These changes appear to be temporary and not learnable. Increasing total sleep leads to these changes being reversed (sleep depth is reduced and cycle length extends again). More significant total sleep increase results in greater reversion of these changes and a major increase in total sleep can lead to changes in these areas being fully undone.

First sleep cycle may be shorter and deeper than others

It has been observed over EEG that the first sleep cycle might be shorter and deeper than the others. When aiming to reduce total time asleep it may therefore be more beneficial to avoid sleep blocks which consist of multiple cycles.

REM and SWS have different levels of pressure

After being sufficiently REM deprived (usually after 2-3 days) there is an immediate REM rebound by the body where it will find REM so important that it will shunt it to the very start of the sleep cycle instead of placing it at the end; it will then push for a very deep REM block to compensate for missed REM sleep.

SWS has a similar rebound, but pressure of SWS builds more slowly so the SWS rebound usually takes much longer to occur, often around 7-10 days to show itself. After SWS rebound a "crash" or "oversleep" is extremely likely because of reduced brain activity during SWS sleep stage. Consequently people in this stage are likely to miss alarms or zombie them off.

Beginning of SWS in sleep cycle

During a normal level of sleep cycle compression with ~90 minute sleep cycles the SWS stage of sleep normally begins around the 25/26 minute mark. This seems to hold true even after REM rebound. Given that SWS is harder to wake from than other stages, it might be warranted to avoid waking up during this stage.

Waking up during/after SWS does not favour dream retention

If you wake up during/after a session of slow wave sleep it is hard to remember dreams. Consequently if you are designing a schedule where dream retention is preferable this should be avoided.

Automatic positioning of light sleep at wake time

After sleeping for a specific duration consistently, it appears the body will get used to the sleep length and will automatically try to position a block of light sleep at the approximate wakeup time. This phenomenon is useful because it allows for training of schedules with sleep blocks that do not complete a full cycle.

Placing separate sleep blocks too close together is counted as interrupted sleep

If you place two different blocks of sleep too close together, the body fails to distinguish between them as separate sleep blocks and instead treats them as a single block that was interrupted. Consequently the benefits of having a shorter and deeper first sleep cycle are lost. In particular, if the aim is to have separated REM naps, having them treated as an interrupted block of sleep will cause the second "nap" to follow from the first and will result in SWS after only a few minutes, at complete odds to what is actually desired.

Normal practice is to leave at least 2 hours of waking time between sleep blocks to ensure the body identifies them separately.

Area of further research: It has been hypothesized that the total safe separation time might be 1 BRAC. Has this been proven?

Sleep quantity affects total time you can stay awake

When sleep quantity is reduced, the amount of time that the body can stay awake without needing to sleep again is also subsequently reduced. While 8h mono sleep seems to allow someone to stay awake all day, in general people on reduced sleep schedules seem to be able to stay awake only around 6hrs without feeling exhausted.

A short nap lasting ~20mins seems to have roughly the same effect as a full ~90mins sleep cycle in terms of restoring wakefulness/alertness and providing a boost to stay awake, but this only seems to apply if the person is sufficiently close to being tired/exhausted.

Aligning naps with the end of a BRAC

In general because the brain is slowest and most tired in the last 20 mins of each BRAC, it makes sense to try to align naps so that they match up with the end of a BRAC.

Exercise increases daily SWS need

When engaging with activities that are very physically strenuous (e.g. heavy sports, gym, etc) the daily SWS requirement is increased (because additional time is required for muscle and tissue repair, etc). Light sleep is typically replaced with SWS to accomplish this and extra sleep in general may be beneficial. 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.

Underage increases daily sleep need

People who are underage have higher daily REM and SWS requirements because the brain and body are still developing and have not fully matured yet. Extra SWS time is spent on bodily growth and extra REM time is spent for learning and memory. For people in this age group 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.


Schedule design notes

By using information about sleep that has been previously observed and noted above, it is plausible to conclude that it should be possible to make use of observed bodily mechanisms and rhythms in order to 'hack' sleep and improve its efficiency. In particular we want to try to design sleep schedules which reduce the total amount of LNREM since this is apparently not very useful.

Initially one might assume we can continue to sleep monophasically and just reduce total sleep time, and that the body might eventually adapt by prioritizing the SWS and REM and ditching LNREM (since we previously noted the observation of this phenomenon). Unfortunately this does not work. After you pay attention to the observation that sleep quantity affects total time you can stay awake, and that in particular, one of the tenets of successful sleep time reduction is the ability of a sufficiently padded 20min nap to replace a 90min cycle, you realise that trying for 4 hour mono and expecting to be fully alert all day every day is a futile endeavour. You will simply be unable to get through the entire day after sleeping for that smaller quantity in one go.

Instead, if we want to reduce total sleep and improve sleep efficiency, we will have to replace some of the full sleep cycles with sufficiently padded naps. Consequently we can't sleep in one go; instead we will have to sleep multiple times per day. This is "polyphasic sleeping".

Below are some additional considerations when designing a schedule.

Core sleep length

A sleep block which completes one or more full cycles is known as a 'core sleep'. In general, when designing schedules including core sleeps, the length of a core sleep should be tailored so that it is an exact number of cycles in length (i.e. a multiple of 90 minutes). However some care should be taken because not everyone has a 90 minute sleep cycle length, and also because the first cycle of each sleep block might be shorter than others. In general the best thing to do to find the perfect core sleep length is to try various different lengths which are roughly around the 90 minute multiple mark, and then track to see which lengths of time result in the least sleep inertia.

Nap length

The traditional length of a nap is 20 minutes. The reason for this is because a 20 minute nap usually avoids entering the SWS sleep stage that normally begins around the 25/26 minute mark. Reasons for this are obvious when considering previously noted information - until the body has adapted to the sleep length by engaging in automatic insertion of light sleep, it is much harder to wake from SWS and can leave you feeling very groggy with high level of sleep inertia that takes a long time to dissipate. On top of that the SWS stage does NOT favour dream memory retention. Also waking after a REM block can lead to a euphoric mood, which is often cited as a benefit by polyphasers, provides a boost to mood which can help with schedule preservation, and which would be completely missing from a nap that ends in SWS. Consequently it is generally considered better to leave the SWS stage to core sleeps and to keep daytime naps for REM, by ensuring they are short enough that the body does not enter SWS stage.

However it may be argued that in some cases (e.g. before or after extreme sports) it might be beneficial to prioritize certain actions of sleep (such as healing muscles and repairing tissue damage) rather than euphoria or dream retention. In these circumstances a slightly longer nap (usually 30 minutes) allows for a small amount of SWS for these purposes.

In general however the consensus is usually that naps ending in SWS should be avoided unless there is a good reason for them, and that subsequently 20 minute naps are better.


Types of schedule and schedule naming conventions

Currently schedules can be categorized into the following groups:

Biphasic schedules

There are three schedules currently in this group:

Everyman, dual core and tri core schedules

For these schedule groups, the name of a sleep schedule will be determined by using the group name followed by the number of naps. For example, a sleep schedule with 1 core and 3 naps would be Everyman 3, because Everyman means 1 core, and 3 means 3 naps. Similarly a sleep schedule with 2 cores and 2 naps would be Dual Core 2, and a sleep schedule with 3 cores and 1 nap would be Tri Core 1, etc. These can be further shortened as required to E3, DC2, TC1, etc.

Interestingly, while Everyman 1 is obviously an everyman schedule, it is categorized under the biphasic schedule group because it consists of only 2 sleep blocks.

Additional note: In the past when the only known viable schedules were Everyman and nap-only, it was common to call the Everyman schedules by the core length instead of the nap length (e.g. Everyman 3 would be Everyman with a 3 hour core). This naming convention doesn't work with DC/TC schedules and consequently was dropped in favour of the nap count naming scheme. Some people still prefer to use the old naming scheme so this should be watched out for.

Additional shorthand for nap-only schedules

The two traditional nap-only schedules are Uberman (6 equidistant 20min naps) and Dymaxion (4 equidistant 30min naps). It is common practice to shorthand these to U6 and D4. You can extrapolate from here to come up with naming conventions for other schedules; e.g. a schedule of 8x 20min naps could be named Uberman 8 or U8.

Special schedules with dumb/inconsistent names

A schedule with 3 equidistant single full length cores (3x90min) is known as 'Triphasic'. This is arguably just Tri Core 0.

A schedule with 4 equidistant 20min naps is known as the 'Tesla' schedule. This should arguably just be called Uberman 4.

A schedule which follows Dymaxion rhythm but where 2 naps are replaced with single full length cores (2x90min, 2x30min equidistant) is known as the 'Bimaxion' schedule. This is arguably just a shortened DC2 with 30min naps.

A schedule which follows Dymaxion rhythm but where 1 nap is replaced with a single full length core (1x90min, 3x30min equidistant) is known as the 'Trimaxion' schedule. This is arguably just a shortened E3 with 30min naps.


Schedule specific remarks

SWS on Uberman

With Uberman, it was once commonly believed that the naps would be REM only (due to being truncated after 20 minutes) and that there is no SWS in the schedule. People also believed this was healthy. Unfortunately this is flat out wrong - you can't survive without SWS!

In fact what happens is traditionally that you spend some time with REM deprivation, then enter REM rebound and the body moves REM to the start of naps. After this point you feel better for a while because you are getting REM. Following on from this is the traditional 'SWS crash' which normally happens on around day 7 or so, whereby you crash from lack of SWS sleep. People then enter a vicious cycle of crashing from SWS deprivation every few days and fail to adapt to the schedule.

Based on extrapolation of other known information and also observation of EEG data from Uberman sleeping attempts, the expected and intended goal with sleep schedules like Uberman and Dymaxion (which are very extreme with only 2h total sleep) is probably to train the body to fall asleep almost instantly (hopefully within 1 or 2 minutes) and to achieve an extremely high level of sleep compression and sleep depth, so that SWS and REM total around 60 minutes each, and that they are deep enough to be a roughly reasonable substitute for the normal 90-100 mins that you would get of REM and SWS on a normal monophasic sleep cycle. Obviously this is very difficult to accomplish and requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. It is probable that there are biological and other factors at play which limit the number of people who can be successful with these extremely rigorous schedules.

It has been suggested that an 8-nap Uberman (sleeping 20 mins every 3 hours) or an Uberman with 30-minute naps (which would technically be Dymaxion 6) might be a more sustainable nap-only schedule due to the extra 40-60 minutes of sleep time. The theory behind this is pretty sound; you would be gaining an extra 40-60 minutes of sleep time per day and that can translate to maybe 80-90 minutes each for SWS and REM if the sleep latency can be cut down far enough. The total level of sleep compression and depth required compared to a traditional Uberman schedule would therefore be reduced and easier to pull off. Unfortunately these have the disadvantages either of having waking blocks of only 2h40m at a time (which is a very short time span) or the disadvantages of 30min naps which would consistently be ending in SWS. Consequently, while these sorts of schedules might be notably easier to adapt to, they don't seem to have many attributes that would make them desirable to live on long-term.

SPAMAYL

This schedule, short for 'Sleep Polyphasically As Much As You Like' was invented by Rasmus and involves taking 20 minute naps whenever you feel tired. The only criteria is that there must be at least 20 minute waking block between naps and that during this waking block you must sit/stand up and clearly make a distinction that you are awake so that the body distinguishes the naps as separate sleep blocks.

In practice it is probable that the 20 minute waking block rule is probably too short; typically a gap this small has resulted in the body treating the gap as interrupted sleep. It is plausible that a full BRAC length or even 2+ hrs would be a better minimum gap length although this is theoretical and untested.

While SPAMAYL may work successfully it is unlikely that the body would fully adapt to the schedule because there is no programming of 'sleep time' vs 'wake time'. Consequently sleep latency is probably increased and sleep quality is probably reduced compared to other nap-only schedules like Uberman which is likely to lead to an increased nap requirement. This is observed with an average of 7 or 8 naps per day on SPAMAYL versus 6 naps on Uberman.

3h vs 3.5h core length for Everyman 3

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether a 3h or 3.5h core length would be better for new adopters of the Everyman 3 schedule. In honesty this is a tough call. Assuming that the target is to wake up at the end of the second sleep cycle, the variance between people is large enough that either could be a plausible length. Given the huge variation in natural cycle length of 80-120 minutes, and also the observation that the first cycle may be shorter than the second, it is easily understandable that while a 3h core might work better for some, a 3h30 core might be better for others. Indeed any value in-between might also be plausible (as well as huge outlying variations like 2h50 or maybe even 4h5/4h10 in some extreme edge cases). Generally the best thing to do is just to pick a length and try it to see what happens. It actually seems quite common find that somewhere in the region of 3h5 or 3h10 is a good length, but in reality you are best just to try different lengths until you find one which works well.


Adaptation period

After adopting a new sleep schedule it takes some time for the body to adapt. In general, assuming no mistakes are made, it takes around 1 month to properly get used to the schedule and probably several months after that for it to become fully entrained.

In the past, people such as Puredoxyk and Steve Pavlina have suggested that it might be possible to adapt to a schedule like Uberman in only 1 week. In reality it seems they were very lucky and had atypical experiences. 1 week is an incredibly optimistic time frame. Given the fact that the first SWS crash requiring avoidance normally doesn't happen on these schedules until around day 7 or 8, and is likely to hit hard again on around day 10, the idea of being adapted in 1 week is fanciful. In reality extreme schedules like Uberman or Dymaxion are more likely to require AT LEAST 3 weeks of persistence before sleep deprivation symptoms start to dissipate.

During the adaptation period it is pretty much guaranteed that the person going through adaptation will experience sleep deprivation. Below are some of the normal sleep deprivation symptoms that can be expected:

Sleep deprivation symptoms will typically come and go during adaptation. On average from onset, it is normal for them to appear several times per day and last 1-2 hours at a time. The symptoms will typically be more severe if the sleep quantity has been reduced more significantly.

Methods to alleviate symptoms

Eye ache/pain

If you are experiencing eye pain while looking at electronic displays such as computer monitors, tablets, phones or the TV, and you find your eyes constantly wanting to close out of exhaustion, this is very common. Suggestions to help include:

Headaches

If you are experiencing headaches the most common cause of these is dehydration. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids.

Recommendations to fight sleep deprivation

While adapting to a polyphasic sleep schedule you need to keep yourself busy. One way to help yourself do this is by the creation of a "Big Fat List", an idea originally introduced by Puredoxyk in her Ubersleep book. The concept is that prior to adapting you come up with a long list of things that you might plausibly be able to do while sleep deprived. Then, when you are sleep deprived and your brain is too exhausted to come up with things to do, you can refer to the list and pick something to occupy your time. This way, you avoid getting bored, and you help to keep your mind off the intense sleep deprivation, which, if you succumb to it, will make you fall asleep outside of schedule and fail your adaptation.

In particular it is good practice to include on this list anything that can be done at night (when you might have to be quiet or operate in a low light environment), anything which doesn't require much brainpower to do (because when extremely sleep deprived your brain will not be working properly), and anything which helps you to move around (because sometimes when very sleep deprived, moving around is the only viable way to stay awake).

If you can come up with some major task to work on which will keep your mind or body active but which doesn't require a lot of brain power to execute, that is a particularly good candidate for inclusion.

The more items you can put on this list the better, but you should avoid putting anything on the list which you're unlikely to be able to do while sleep deprived.

Good ways to stay awake

Bad ways to stay awake

In general any method to stay awake is considered 'bad' if it doesn't require much concentration and you're just sitting around and not moving. Examples include:

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is essentially when you uncontrollably start to fall asleep, for seconds or minutes at a time. During periods of extreme sleep deprivation it is likely you will have sudden bouts of narcolepsy at any time and most polyphasic adapters experience it at least once.

If you are starting to experience narcolepsy you should AVOID DRIVING because you are likely to fall asleep at the wheel and crash the car. (In general, driving while sleep deprived is probably a bad idea.)

Ways to combat narcolepsy if you feel it starting

Zombie mode

Zombie mode traditionally occurs if you try to wake from SWS or while extremely sleep deprived. When you are in zombie mode, it is normal to sleep through alarms regardless of how loud they are. The mind will subconciously want to give up the battle because of the insane amount of sleep pressure you will be under, and will do whatever it can to convince you to stop.

You cannot trust your zombie, because they will eventually try to sleep or fail to wake up. If you provide any avenue at all by which you could mess up and not recover, your zombie is bound to hit that and fail. As a result, you have to go to extra effort to stop your zombie from sabotaging your schedule.

Good tips include:

In general you are most likely to be successful (especially with extreme sleep schedules with total sleep time of less than 4 hours) if you have a human supervisor to watch you during the adaptation, forcing you to stay awake during waking blocks and to sleep during naps. The human supervisor should physically be in the room with you, because they will probably have to drag you out of bed at least once, which is hard to do from a remote location. (Many people who successfully adapted to very hard schedules were only able to do so because they had a partner who did it alongside them.)

Oversleeping / crashing

Sleeping at any time which is outside of the desired schedule (either by falling asleep at the wrong time, or by failing to wake up from a nap or core on time) is known as 'oversleeping' or 'crashing'. In particular, a crash caused by SWS deprivation and rebound is known as an SWS crash.

Any form of oversleeping is detrimental to schedule adaptation for multiple reasons. In addition to the fact that the body fails to learn the schedule, normally an oversleep results in unhelpful consequences. For example, after a typical oversleep you are not completely cured of sleep deprivation, so you end up being more sleep deprived overall (and thus your sleep deprivation symptoms get worse without making any progress on your adaptation). Your subconcious also learns that it can recover from deprivation by oversleeping/crashing, rather than learning to do so by adapting to the schedule, which results in it attempting an oversleep/crash more frequently. Also, the increase in total sleep time leads to a reduction in sleep depth and extension of cycle length which is explicitly unhelpful.

Consequently any oversleep of any kind should be expressly avoided wherever possible, and any which are encountered should be learnt from so as to avoid a repeat incident being triggered.

Things you should absolutely not do (because if you do them, you are 99% likely to fail)


Adaptation strategies

Here are some adaptation strategies which have been suggested in the past. How successful any one approach is likely to be is entirely debatable.

Going straight in ("cold turkey")

This strategy involves just switching to the intended schedule straight off. There isn't any significant sleep deprivation to begin with, so the likelihood is that it will take some time to start falling asleep in naps because it will take time for the sleep deprivation to build. However this has the advantage of spending longer programming the schedule into the brain.

Staying awake before starting

This strategy involves staying awake 24-36 hours until reaching 'second wind' after which point you start sleeping on schedule. This is essentially the opposite of going straight in; it gives the advantage of being sleep deprived so you will fall asleep more easily but the schedule is adopted for less time before symptoms start.

Naptation as a precursor to the desired schedule

This strategy involves doing a naptation (napping every 2 hours at the end of a BRAC) in order to have a lot of chance to nap; the theory behind this is to help entrain the 20 minute nap length more quickly, and also to aid in learning how to fall asleep quickly. After doing naptation for a certain amount of time you switch into desired schedule.

Uberman as a precursor to Everyman

This is a once-recommended strategy where you do Uberman until you hit the SWS rebound and crash, after which point you switch to Everyman. This is a similar theory to using Naptation as a precursor schedule where you are trying to entrain your body for REM napping so that when you switch into Everyman you are already used to doing that.

Gradual reduction in sleep time

This is a method by which you start out with something simple (such as a biphasic schedule) and then slowly switch to harder and harder schedules with more and more reduced sleep time. The theory behind this is that instead of having a huge shock by massively reducing sleep, instead you do the transition gradually. Some people claim to have been successful with ultra hard schedules like Dymaxion by doing this. However the biggest downside is that, even if this approach works, the total planning time required to reach the desired schedule this way is enormous; you end up with constant mild sleep deprivation possibly for many months. Whether this is better than a short burst of severe sleep deprivation is debatable.

Rhythmic preservation

This is a hypothesized method based on the 'gradual reduction in sleep time' theory by which it might be easier to switch to reduced sleep times by maintaining schedule rhythm. An example of this is Quadphasic -> Trimaxion -> Dymaxion. Another example of this is DC4 -> E5 -> U6. Both of these sleep groups keep the same number of sleep blocks and preserve sleep times; the major difference here is that with each reduction in sleep time, you replace 1 core with 1 nap and keep the rest the same. By preserving total number of sleep blocks and also sleep times, the body should learn to feel tired at specific periods of time; when you switch to the next schedule on the path, you are only replacing 1 core with 1 nap which should theoretically be easier than switching cold turkey to the hardest schedule. However this suffers from the same issue as the 'gradual reduction in sleep time' theory (since it is a more elaborate version of that theory). This also has the problem of the fact that with each alteration, the body has to adjust the light sleep total in order to account for the reduced sleep time, which essentially leads to the rebalancing of all naps anyway. The premise of only altering the dynamics of 1 sleep block is therefore somewhat flawed.


Other notes and areas for investigation

Mechanical differences between Uberman and Dymaxion

Dymaxion, with 30min naps, results in all of the naps ending in SWS without any effort, because the nap length is 30 minutes. Thus, even without any cycle compression, you're going to hit the SWS that starts after the 25/26 min mark right from the beginning. In contrast, with a 20 min nap only schedule like Uberman, you have to wait either for SWS pressure to hit a peak or for the sleep cycle to compress enough that the naps are able to get SWS, so you get none at all to start with, which means more severe sleep dep symptoms that appear more quickly. In contrast, on Dymaxion, the naps are harder to wake from because they ALL end in SWS from the beginning, which results in groggy wake up from every nap until the body gets used to the nap length and begins to insert the light sleep at wakeup time. Also, because the naps are further apart, you've got to push an extra 2 hours between naps while sleep deprived. And, because the compression still needs to happen, but the SWS deprivation initially isn't as severe, the body doesn't push as hard to compress the sleep cycle, but the SWS tank will still eventually run out because you're not getting enough. This results in adaptation taking longer. Dymaxion also has the disadvantage of a significantly reduced chance of remembering dreams, due to all naps ending in SWS which does not favour dream memory retention.

Which one is easier/harder or better/worse is debatable, as there are pros and cons of each schedule with regards to both adaptation and long term sustainability, as well as personal preference and scheduling.

Commercial sleep tracking devices are snake oil

Most of the commercial devices on the market which claim to do sleep tracking have very low accuracy. In one study accuracy of Fitbit was only 19.8%. In addition the reviewed metric was NOT the REM/SWS detection required for polyphasic sleep analysis; the accuracy was only in sleep/wake detection i.e. recognizing whether or not the user was asleep. The only device which showed to have any reasonable accuracy (~80% accurate) was Zeo Sleep Manager Pro, a device which has been used for data collection by polyphasic sleepers in the past. However the company that makes this product has now gone bust and it is no longer possible to get hold of.

The only real way to currently get any accuracy in sleep tracking is to use EEG based equipment. Me and Saska have been using OpenEEG device manufactured by Olimex for this purpose with good results. In general though everything else is snake oil and the data provided through commercial sleep tracking devices should be taken with skepticism.

Eating time versus nap time

It is generally suggested that it is better to eat just after waking up from a nap 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.

Room temperature when sleeping

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.

30 minute REM naps

It was suggested by generalNguyen that 30 minute naps which are aligned with peak time for REM could end up being 100% light+REM and not contain any SWS. The justification behind this seems plausible but so far no EEG readings taken by either myself or Saska have shown evidence to support this. (Saska was on 30 min naps during his Quad/Trimax/Dymax adaptation attempt, and never observed this phenomenon, he concluded that in general 30 min naps were just flat out bad)

Low carb / Keto diet

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.

REM sleep and depression

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.

Caffeine

Caffeine antagonizes 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. In general caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours and increased dosage leads to more significant effects.

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 built up a tolerance and dependence on caffeine, so 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.

Puredoxyk mentions in her Ubersleep book that she was given soda to stay awake during her initial Uberman adaptation however, and has been known to drink coffee and other things while sleeping polyphasically, which would be in contrast to the general advice normally given.

It might 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. Further research is required in this area.

Alcohol

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. 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 naps which are intended to be REM-focused. It might be okay to drink a small amount prior to SWS cores without significant schedule damage. Further research is required in this area.

Modafinil

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 naps. Further research is required in this area.

DEC2 mutation

There is an uncommon mutation in the DEC2 transcriptional repressor (hDEC2-P385R) which occurs in roughly 1% of the population whereby a C changes to G in the DNA sequence of DEC2. This is predicted to cause a proline-to-arginine alteration at amino acid position 385. Subsequent study has shown that this genetic mutation is associated with a human short sleep phenotype (6.25 hour average mono, in contrast to 8 hours). The mutation most likely results in a higher level of sleep compression as a baseline value which subsequently favours reduced sleep total quantity.

Some people who are believed to have this mutation have shown to be fine after monophasically sleeping for 3 or 4 hours of sleep per day, which is definitively shown not to be traditionally viable. Consequently these people are likely to find extreme schedules such as Uberman or Dymaxion much easier than the average person.

It is even possible that the only way to achieve the level of sleep compression required for a successful Uberman or Dymaxion adaptation is through genetic advantages such as this one, although that has not been conclusively proven or disproven. It is very intriguing to note however that the ~1% of people with this mutation is roughly the same percentage as the estimated success rate of Uberman and Dymaxion adaptation attempts.

Meditation versus sleep

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

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 napping. 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.

Long-term metabolic effects

It appears that even after successful adaptation there are likely to be long-term metabolic effects of polyphasic sleeping, especially on extreme schedules such as those which are nap-only. 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. Further research is required in this area.

LNREM2 memory interplay theory

The role of LNREM2 in sleep, along with the reason for it taking up such a huge chunk of an 8 hour monophasic sleep session, is unclear. It has historically been seen as just a buffer sleep. Given that polyphasic sleeping explicitly targets LNREM2 as a candidate for removal, and that many long term polyphasers have successfully slept on schedules with low amounts of LNREM2 without any significant problems, this would seem to suggest that LNREM2 itself has little purpose. However, it is very unlikely that humans would evolve to waste 5 hours a day on a largely useless function. So then what?

Recently, some scientific studies have hypothesised that the LNREM2 sleep stage contributes to the process of transferring new memories from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex. But this still doesn't explain why polyphasic sleepers can seemingly delete such a huge chunk of LNREM2 from their daily lives and function adequately, some even having better memory than before.

We already know that SWS and REM have a significant impact on the memory-related processes of the brain. Given the fact that LNREM2 is apparently also responsible for helping with this, and that sleep is operating in cycles, it seems plausible that there is some form of interplay going on between LNREM2 and SWS/REM sleep phases in order to effectively promote memory storage, with the LNREM2 sleep phases organizing through the pending information and sorting it for permanent storage, and with each sleep cycle processing a chunk of that day's pending memory storage jobs.

We already know that the longer you are awake, the more memories you will accumulate and thus the more you must attempt to store in subsequent sleep blocks. It has subsequently been theorized that the LNREM2 sleep stage has a variable level of efficiency which depends on how much data has been accumulated to write to the brain's memory, with memory storage becoming an exponentially more complex task as you increase the amount of memories that have been accumulated and must be stored.

If we go along with this theory, then by napping frequently you would be able to cut down on the total amount of memories that have to be retained when you next sleep, and consequently much less LNREM2 would be necessary to achieve the same level of memory retention. This would explain why polyphasic sleepers can pull off schedules with much lower sleep quantities than would have been considered manageable on monophasic.

Currently this is just a theory. Further research is required in this area.


Debunked / disproven theories

Zoidberg schedule

The concept behind this schedule hypothesized by the user dr.zoid was to create "z-cores" by splitting a core into lots of small 20-min naps, waking for a few minutes in between each nap.

Unfortunately the evidence would tend to suggest this schedule is completely unviable nonsense. In reality what happens on this schedule is that the body considers this to be a long, continually interrupted sleep session, and after each interruption is over it just continues the core from where it left off. There is absolutely no advantage to interrupting sleep in this way and the only resulting effect is that the sleep quality of the core is notably reduced due to the frequent interruptions.


Interspersing naps with the waking world

Some schedules, especially nap-only schedules, require extremely strict adherence to schedule in order to maintain it long term. It is generally very difficult to avoid real-life interferences to schedules.

Real life examples of interferences I've experienced:

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 overslept.


Current problems which damage the credibility of polyphasic sleep

SuperMemo and Dr Piotr A. Wozniak

The website SuperMemo is often cited as one of the web pages debunking polyphasic sleep. The author of this website appears to hold a grudge against the polyphasic sleeping community, and has taken it upon himself to try to debunk the theories behind polyphasic sleep by misconstruing facts and twisting evidence to support his claims.

While some of his arguments are good the majority of the content on this website is extremely biased. It probably doesn't help that his primary arguments for sleep scheduling are in line with his SuperMemo flash card software and help to support the sale of the software (he supports free-running sleep and his software is built to take advantage of that).

Unfortunately while a lot of quality information on polyphasic sleep has failed to get onto Wikipedia, the wiki article does reference Dr. Wozniak. Google also tends to promote his web pages and quotes him directly in response to common polyphasic sleep queries. This is really helpful in boosting his apparent credibility while simultaneously lowering the credibility of the polyphasic sleep community.

In general the information on the SuperMemo website is not credible and consequently should be avoided by any wannabe polyphaser. The fact that this information source has penetrated the literature on the subject so badly is very damaging and unhelpful.

The 'try a really hard schedule, fail, and quit forever' approach

It is extremely common for people to be tempted to try an extremely hard schedule (such as Dymaxion or Uberman) as their first schedule, typically due to the huge amount of free time gained from doing so. It is also very common for those people to initially be ultra-excited about their schedule, and thus to blog about it, either with a written blog or as a vlog on YouTube. Unfortunately, these schedules are ABSURDLY DIFFICULT and probably only have a 1%-2% success rate due to their extreme difficulty. But the people looking at these schedules tend to be extremely arrogant, stubborn, and adamant that they're going to be different - that THEY will be the one who succeeds where others did not. Following this, they usually fail within the first week or two, due to being unable to get past the sleep deprivation, the REM rebounds or the SWS rebounds. They then come up with a summary which debunks polyphasic sleep entirely or states it's not possible. Even worse, they often then find SuperMemo and quote that as proof of unviability.

These people don't even bother to try any easier or more sustainable schedules most of the time.

This is probably not helped by the fact that many early polyphasers read the Ubersleep book by Puredoxyk, or Steve Pavlina's blog, both of which seem to massively understate the difficulty and adaptation timespan.

PolyphasicSociety.com

The website PolyphasicSociety.com is one of the few sources of information relating to polyphasic sleeping currently on the internet. PolySoc used to be run by Forevernade, who is the author of a lot of the content there. Sadly, when he stopped being active in the community, the site ended up being taken over by some less-than-reputable individuals who, while leaving the apparently useful content on the site, have also loaded it with 'scammy marketing' such as trying to sell sleep mastery e-books.

It is very regretful and unfortunate that this happened, seeing as PolySoc is one of the only websites still out there which has a reasonable amount of information on the subject; it is still listed on the sidebar of the subreddit for that reason because right now there isn't really anywhere else to send people.

I would suggest that at the moment you treat some of the content at PolySoc with skepticism. While much of the info on that website is known to be reliable, other parts are theoretical and experimental with very minimal proof for the validity of said info. The site presents the content in such a way that it's hard to tell the reliable and experimental data apart. Thus you should try to remain critical of the information that's presented there.

For the time being at least, the community's new home is Discord and I would strongly recommend and advise that you take the time to join our chat server there. It is certainly a lot more active than the subreddit and you are likely to get answers a lot faster over there.

The other community hub that exists is the Ubersleep Slack which is run by Puredoxyk. Currently however this is very quiet and doesn't have a very large number of active participants (although it's a good way to get in touch with PD if you want to do that).

In the long term, there is a plan to build a better and more credible-looking website for the community, but all the people currently involved with running the polyphasic sleeping community have lives of their own outside of polyphasic sleep so the progress on this is quite slow. In the interim, I would personally recommend that you avoiding purchase any e-books from said scammy marketers ;)