The Alternative Sleep Schedule — Hack Your Brain Like Tesla and da Vinci
What if you were told that you are sleeping the wrong way and that sleeping once a day is not the only way to sleep? The eight-hour recommended sleep schedule most people follow is actually a myth. For thousands of years, humans had an alternative sleep schedule. Even more intriguing is that many famous scientists, philosophers, and geniuses never slept for a usual 8-hour period. They used one of eight alternative sleeping schedules. If you learn to adapt to one of these, perhaps you as well can tap into your own spark of genius and become the new Nikola Tesla or Leonardo da Vinci.
How Humans Used to Sleep
Scientific research suggests that people never used to sleep for a one solid period of 7 to 9 hours (otherwise called monophasic sleep). Instead, they slept for two segments of about 3 to 4 hours. This is called the bi-modal sleep pattern, also known as biphasic or segmented sleep. A person who chooses this alternative sleep schedule sleeps about 6 to 8 hours a day.
This alternative sleep schedule was discovered during an experiment in the 1990s which put a group of people into 14 hours of complete darkness every day. After a few weeks of adjusting, all of them started falling asleep twice for about 4 hours.
The findings of the experiment were later confirmed by historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech who studied sleep schedules for 16 years—humans used to sleep twice each night. This segmented sleep schedule is aligned with the sunlight hours. The person falls asleep after the sunset and wakes up from their second sleep with the sunrise.
In between the two sleep segments, there are two to three hours of waking hours. Often, people would wake up at midnight and perform activating referred to “the watching.” These included spiritual work, socializing, and even chores. Segmented sleep schedules existed in Central America into mid-20th century and are still practiced today in parts of Nigeria.
In North America and Europe, this practice started dying out during the 18th century due to artificial lighting and industrialization. Segmented sleep started to be looked down upon as lazy. This switch did not happen without negative health effects. Rates of insomnia started rising and so did anxiety, stress, depression, and drug and alcohol dependency.
Researchers are still torn about which sleep schedule is the healthiest. However, what we do know is that for the majority of human existence, people did not sleep for a solid 8 hours, instead relying on segmented sleep. There is also a long list of geniuses who have adopted either a segmented sleep schedule or one of seven other known alternative sleep schedules.
The Alternative Sleep Schedule
Monophasic sleep—most people in the world
This sleep schedule is the most common one. It is sleeping once a day between 7 and 9 hours. It is not the most natural way to sleep, but the sleep schedule that came out of the industrial revolution and the 9-to-5 workday as well as cultural influences.
Segmented sleep—two periods of sleep
This sleep schedule was the most popular one for thousands of years until industrial revolution took over and completely changed the way of life. Segmented sleep was sleeping two times per night for less than 4 hours with a few hours of waking time in between.
Siesta sleep—Winston Churchill
Siesta sleep schedule was used by British politician Winston Churchill. It incorporates one sleep a night for about 5 or 6 hours and one nap a day between 20 and 90 minutes. Churchill slept between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. and napped between 4 and 6 p.m. for a total of 7 hours of sleep a day.
This schedule aligns with the natural circadian rhythm or the internal biological clock and may be the healthiest choice for sleeping.
Triphasic sleep—three naps
Triphasic sleep schedule allows a person to sleep for just 5 hours a day, providing extra 3 to 5 hours a day of being awake. It is also related to the circadian rhythm. Triphasic sleep consists of three naps—first one before dusk, second before dawn, and the third in the afternoon.
This sleep schedule was made popular by a man Leif Weaver. Sadly, he passed away from cancer at 45 years old and never finished his experiments with sleep reduction.
Everyman sleep—most successful
This schedule is the most successful one out of all of the options for an alternative sleep schedule. It consists of one sleep of 3 to 4 hours and three mini naps of just 20 minutes.
Everyman sleep relies on both the circadian rhythm and the ultradian rhythm—the natural cycle in the body that is repeated throughout the day. This rhythm can help avoid running out of energy and keep high levels of awareness and focus the whole day.
Dual-core sleep—varied sleep time
Dual core has a few variations. The original dual-core sleep is sleeping for 3.5 hours at dusk, napping for 1.5 hours at dawn, and napping for less than 30 minutes in the afternoon. Total hours of sleep amount for about 5 per day. Another variation of this alternative sleep schedule is taking two 1.5 hour naps and three 30 minutes naps for a total of 4 to 4.5 hours of sleep a day.
Uberman sleep—Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Tesla
The Uberman sleep is one of the hardest schedules to follow but the most intriguing one as it has been used by Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci and in a way even Nikola Tesla.
The first two famous historical figures—American inventor Edison and Italian polymath of the Renaissance da Vinci—both slept for a total of just 2 to 3 hours a day by taking six short naps. It is a known fact that inventor Tesla also slept for only 2 hours every day most of his life. His sleep schedule is also classified under uberman sleep, even though he slept for 2 hours at one time instead of taking naps.
Dymaxion sleep—2 hours a day
Dymaxion sleep schedule is similar to uberman in a way that it only allows for a maximum of 2 hours of sleep a day. Instead of six naps, a person takes only 4 for 30 minutes each. This sleep schedule was created by Buckminster Fuller, a 20th-century inventor, and visionary.
SPAMAYL—the youngest one
SPAMAYL (Sleep Polyphasically As Much As You Like) is the youngest of all the alternative sleep schedules that were inspired by Uberman schedule. It was created by a man named Rasmus, who was the only person successful using it long term so far.
SPAMAYL is the most modern and less researched out of all the alternative schedules.
The ones that are most accessible and adaptable by an everyday person are segmented sleep, siesta sleep, and everyman sleep schedules. To learn more about these schedules and how to adapt them into your daily life, study more from the Polyphasic Society.
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