Sleep is the most important part of one’s schedule. Not eating will make a man hungry but not sleeping will make him mad. The importance of sleep is well-emphasised in defence forces. In Air Force, one is not allowed to fly if the person has not had adequate sleep. We often overwork but still fall short of our targets, as we overcompensate by sacrificing sleep.
David Heinemeier Hansson, Founder of Basecamp, and creator of Ruby on Rails says,
Forgoing sleep is like borrowing from a loan shark. Sure, you get that extra hours right now to cover for your overly-optimistic estimation, but at what price? The shark will be back and if you can’t pay, he’ll break your creativity, morale, and good-mannered nature as virtue twigs.
Lack of sleep often slows us down. What we can do is instead optimise our sleep. And better utilise the time we have when we are awake. It is often said that highly productive people, like Nikola Tesla, used to sleep for very few hours. How did they make it possible? Were their body functions rewired a bit differently to ours? To understand this better we need to understand how sleep works. Our sleep consists of two phases -
- NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement)
- REM (Rapid Eye Movement)
NREM sleep is divided into four stages. These four stages do not occur sequentially. We generally enter stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, stage 4 and then back from stage 4 to stage 1 before going into REM sleep where most muscles of our body paralyses and dreaming occurs. REM sleep has not been researched completely. However, it has been proved that REM sleep helps us recharge our body.
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When it comes to sleeping patterns, there are mainly five different kinds of sleep cycles. Most of us utilise only one - monophasic sleep cycle. The other four sleep cycles are known as polyphasic sleep cycles. In monophasic sleep cycles, we sleep only in one phase, while in polyphasic sleep cycles we split our sleeping schedule into different phases to make for more waking time and to utilise that.
Here are the four polyphasic sleep cycles -
- Biphasic Cycle - Biphasic cycle consists of two sleeping cycles, one core nap of 4-5 hours in the night and another nap of 90 minutes in the afternoon. This is probably the easier cycle to adjust to once you move out of a normal sleeping cycle. Many people are already adopting this cycle without even being aware of the fact that they are using this cycle.
- Everyman Cycle - The Everyman sleep cycle is tougher than the Biphasic cycle as it consists of one core nap of three hours and three naps of 20 minutes each to make up for the lack of sleep. The three naps of 20 minutes enables us to get into REM sleep directly.
- Uberman Cycle - Uberman Cycle is very hard, in comparison, as there is no core sleeping time involved. The Uberman Cycle consists of six naps of 20-30 minutes every four hours. Initially, it becomes very hard to get into this cycle and it leaves people very tired. A blogger Steve Pavlina tried this cycle for few months before getting into the monophasic sleep to match his cycles with that of his family members.
- Dymaxion Cycle - This is similar to Uberman Cycle, but here the number of naps is shortened to four instead of six. One is required to sleep for 30 minutes every six hours instead of the usual four hours in Uberman Cycle, thus reducing the sleep time to two hours. This cycle was invented by Buckminster Fuller, who tried this cycle for two years before reverting to normal schedule as his business associates could not keep up with him. He also suggested this sleeping cycle to United States as a strategy to win World War II.
It might be extreme to go to the full Dymaxion cycle to improve on the sleeping schedule. However, ignoring your sleep could also prove costly in the long term. If you are someone who needs to get a lot of work done, you must consider changing your sleeping.