Monophasic, biphasic or polyphasic: Amid stress brought on by pandemic, different sleep patterns come with many advantages

A disturbed sleep pattern is one of the main reasons behind sleep disorders, like insomnia and hypersomnia. But there are many types of sleep patterns and each one has its own benefits and disadvantages

Myupchar June 30, 2020 16:41:19 IST
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Monophasic, biphasic or polyphasic: Amid stress brought on by pandemic, different sleep patterns come with many advantages

Sleep is one of the basic necessities and also one of the many routine activities to be deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting a good night’s sleep has become difficult for some, while others have taken to napping as a way to escape reality when they feel stressed. A disrupted sleep pattern is one of the main reasons behind sleep disorders like insomnia and hypersomnia. But did you know that there are many types of sleep patterns and each one has its own benefits and disadvantages?

Types of sleep patterns

A study in the journal Sleep in 2016 indicates that sleep patterns may have been dictated primarily by the presence or absence of light, i.e. day and night, in the pre-industrial era - but even before the electric light came and started messing with our circadian rhythms, there were cultures across the globe where segmented sleep patterns existed and were, in fact, ritually recommended for their benefits.

The following are the three broad types of sleep patterns you should know about:

1. Monophasic sleep

This basically refers to the one sleep per day pattern, where a person sleeps for around eight hours per night. Monophasic is considered to be the normal sleep pattern and is most commonly adopted across the world.

2. Biphasic sleep

This pattern refers to the system where a person sleeps twice a day - one longer sleep during the night and a nap, usually in the afternoon. Biphasic sleep is not only popular in the Mediterranean and Latin American countries, but also in parts of India, like West Bengal and Goa, where afternoon siestas are considered to be good for health.

3. Polyphasic sleep

This is the most interesting sleep pattern of all, with multiple sleep sessions per day consisting of four to six separate sleep periods. While you might think this is a crazy sleep pattern, some experts believe that polyphasic sleep can work more efficiently than monophasic sleep patterns. There are basically three types of polyphasic sleep:

  • Everyman pattern: This includes a core sleep period of three hours followed by three 20-minute naps for refreshment during the day. The core sleep period actually allows for both non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
  • Uberman pattern: This pattern has six naps of 30 minutes each at regular intervals throughout the day. Uberman is not flexible, is more difficult to implement and allows for only three hours of sleep in a day.
  • Dymaxion pattern: This is the most difficult sleep pattern to both adopt and maintain because it requires you to take a nap of no more than 30 minutes every six hours, leading to just about two hours of sleep overall.

Which is the best sleep pattern?

You might naturally assume that only monophasic sleep is the best, but the fact is that biphasic and polyphasic sleep have their own benefits too. Current research suggests that adopting biphasic or polyphasic sleep patterns can have the following benefits:

  • Reduced number of sleep hours, which gives you more productive awake hours.
  • Increased quality of sleep due to more time spent in NREM and REM sleep.
  • Improved dream recall or the ability to remember your dreams.
  • Increased energy levels throughout the day.

Given these benefits, you might want to try out these sleep patterns - especially if you’re a shift worker with erratic work hours or have a cultural predisposition to biphasic sleep. But remember to consult a doctor before you do, in case you have underlying health issues that don’t go well with such changes. No matter which pattern you select, you should stick to it properly for at least half a year to find out if it suits you.

For more information, read our article on How to fall asleep.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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