Biphasic Sleep


Traditionally, many societies and cultures have adopted a biphasic sleep schedule. As our modern world becomes increasingly fast-paced, it is essential to understand the potential benefits and risks associated with this alternative sleep pattern. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating history of biphasic sleep and explore how our prehistoric ancestors adapted their sleeping patterns.

We will also compare monophasic and biphasic sleep patterns, examining factors that led to a shift from one pattern to another. Furthermore, you'll discover different types of biphasic sleeping schedules as well as the potential cognitive benefits offered by midday napping.

Lastly, we will discuss possible risks associated with adopting a biphasic sleep schedule and provide practical tips for those considering making the transition. By gaining knowledge about biphasic sleep, you can make decisions that are best for your own individual slumber habits.

Biphasic Sleep

The History of Biphasic Sleep

Before the advent of electricity, biphasic sleep was a widespread practice across various cultures. Our prehistoric ancestors likely followed segmented sleep patterns that aligned with natural light and darkness cycles.

Prehistoric Ancestors' Sleeping Patterns

Evidence suggests that early humans slept in two distinct phases separated by a period of wakefulness during the night. This segmented sleep pattern, also known as "first" and "second" sleeps, allowed individuals to engage in activities such as socializing, intimate relations, or simply resting before returning to their second phase of slumber.

Nighttime Wakefulness in Communal Settings

In many traditional societies, people would gather around fires during nighttime wakefulness periods for storytelling or other communal activities. This form of biphasic sleeping can be found in literature such as Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales where characters are described waking up from their "firste sleep."

Beyond historical context, it is essential to understand how modern-day monophasic sleep differs from biphasic sleeping patterns. Monophasic sleep involves one continuous segment typically lasting 7-9 hours per night while biphasic schedules involve splitting nighttime rest into two shorter segments accompanied by an afternoon nap (also known as siesta). Some individuals may even choose more complex polyphasic schedules consisting of multiple naps throughout the day.

Note: The Industrial Revolution played a significant role in shifting human sleeping habits towards monophasic sleep schedules. As work hours became more structured and artificial lighting extended daytime activities, the practice of biphasic sleep gradually declined.

It is essential to weigh the potential health consequences of straying from standard monophasic sleep patterns when deciding if alternative sleeping arrangements are beneficial. The following parts of this article will look into the various biphasic sleeping plans and investigate results from studies regarding their impacts on one's health.

Monophasic vs. Biphasic Sleep Patterns

Understanding the differences between monophasic sleep and biphasic sleep patterns is crucial for those looking to optimize their rest and overall well-being. Monophasic sleep involves one continuous segment of nighttime rest, typically lasting around 7-9 hours, which is considered the norm in modern society. In contrast, biphasic sleep consists of two separate segments per day: a longer period at night and a shorter nap during the day.

Industrial Revolution's Impact on Human Sleeping Habits

The widespread adoption of monophasic sleeping habits can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution when artificial lighting extended working hours into the evening. This shift led to people consolidating their sleep into one uninterrupted block rather than following more natural segmented or polyphasic schedules that had been prevalent throughout history (source). As a result, many individuals today experience chronic sleep deprivation, leading to various health issues such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and impaired immune system function.

Reasons Behind Adopting Biphasic or Polyphasic Schedules

  • Better time management: Some people find that breaking up their daily rest periods allows them greater flexibility in managing work-life balance demands.
  • Natural inclination: Others may have an innate preference for biphasic or even polyphasic sleep schedules, feeling more rested with multiple short naps instead of one long stretch.
  • Health benefits: Research suggests that biphasic sleepers may experience improved memory retention, alertness levels, and coordinated thinking abilities (source). Further research is needed to validate these purported benefits.

In conclusion, it's essential to recognize the individual differences in sleep patterns and consider experimenting with alternative schedules like biphasic or polyphasic sleeping if you're struggling with your current monophasic routine. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your lifestyle habits.

Typical Biphasic Sleeping Schedules

Biphasic sleep patterns consist of two separate sleep periods within a 24-hour cycle. There are common variations in biphasic sleeping schedules that involve afternoon naps alongside shorter nighttime rest periods. These can be categorized into short-nap and long-nap schedules.

Short-Nap Schedule Example

A popular example of a short-nap biphasic schedule involves sleeping for six hours at night and taking a 20-minute nap during the day, typically in the early to mid-afternoon when people naturally feel sleepy. This type of schedule allows individuals to maintain their regular daytime activities while still benefiting from an energy boost provided by the brief nap.

  • Nighttime Sleep: 6 hours (e.g., 11 PM - 5 AM)
  • Midday Nap: 20 minutes (e.g., between 1 PM - 4 PM)

Long-Nap Schedule Example

In contrast, some individuals prefer incorporating longer naps into their daily routine. A typical long-nap biphasic sleep pattern consists of approximately five hours of nighttime sleep followed by a more extended midday rest period lasting around one to one-and-a-half hours. This approach may work well for those who have flexible work or study schedules and can allocate sufficient time for both nocturnal slumber and daytime relaxation.

  • Nighttime Sleep: 5 hours (e.g., midnight - 5 AM)
  • Midday Nap: Approximately 1-1.5 hour(s) (e.g., between noon - 2 PM)

Although individual needs may vary, experimenting with different biphasic sleep schedules can help identify the balance of nighttime rest and daytime napping that best suits one's overall wellbeing. Experimenting with different biphasic sleep schedules can help you find the optimal balance between nighttime rest and daytime napping that best supports your overall well-being. Biphasic sleepers may experience improved sleep quality, increased alertness, and reduced daytime sleepiness compared to those who follow a monophasic sleep schedule. However, it is important to note that sleep disorders and sleep deprivation can affect the effectiveness of biphasic sleep patterns. If you have difficulty dozing off or are having trouble returning to slumber after waking, a monophasic sleep pattern may be the better option.

Research on Health Benefits and Risks

The debate surrounding the potential health benefits or risks of biphasic sleep patterns continues, with mixed research findings. Some studies suggest that adopting a biphasic sleep schedule may lead to improved memory retention, increased alertness levels, and enhanced coordinated thinking abilities. This is particularly relevant for older individuals experiencing memory loss issues who might benefit from incorporating midday naps into their daily routine.

On the other hand, some researchers argue that deviating from a traditional monophasic sleep pattern could result in negative consequences such as poor sleeping habits and an increased risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and impaired immune system function due to sleep deprivation.

  • Memory Retention: A study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that participants who took a 60-90 minute nap demonstrated better memory retention compared to those who did not nap.
  • Mental Alertness: Research has shown that short afternoon naps can help improve mental alertness levels throughout the day without negatively impacting nighttime sleep quality.
  • Cognitive Functioning: In a study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews journal, it was observed that elderly people practicing segmented sleep schedules exhibited improved cognitive functioning compared to their counterparts following monophasic sleep patterns.

In contrast to these positive findings associated with biphasic sleeping schedules are potential risks related primarily to poor sleeping habits. Napping too near to bedtime can be a challenge when trying to doze off later on, potentially causing sleep deprivation. Additionally, individuals with pre-existing sleep disorders may experience exacerbated symptoms when attempting a biphasic sleep schedule.

Before shifting to a biphasic sleep pattern, it is important for individuals to consider the potential risks and benefits while consulting their healthcare provider.

Potential Risks Associated With Napping In Adults

While biphasic sleep patterns may seem appealing to some, it is important to consider the potential risks involved when adults adopt this type of schedule. Concerns about inadequate sleep and a disruption in regular sleeping patterns can have serious impacts on one's health.

Poor Sleeping Habits

Adopting a biphasic sleep schedule might lead to poor sleeping habits, such as irregular bedtimes or difficulty falling asleep during designated rest periods. This could result in decreased sleep quality and make it harder for individuals to feel refreshed upon waking up. Additionally, those who take longer naps in the afternoon may find themselves feeling groggy or disoriented afterward—a phenomenon known as "sleep inertia."

Regular sleep deprivation increases the probability of adverse health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and impaired immune system function. When adopting a biphasic sleep pattern that involves shorter nighttime rest periods combined with midday naps, there is an increased risk of not getting enough total daily sleep—especially if one struggles with maintaining consistent nap times or durations.

  • Obesity: Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain due to hormonal imbalances that affect appetite regulation.
  • Diabetes: Insufficient sleep can impair glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with increased blood pressure, inflammation, and other risk factors for heart disease.
  • Impaired Immune System Function: Lack of quality sleep can weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infections and illnesses.

In conclusion, while biphasic sleeping may offer potential benefits for some individuals, it is crucial to weigh these advantages against the possible risks. To minimize negative outcomes when experimenting with a new sleep schedule, consult a healthcare professional or sleep specialist for personalized guidance and support.

How to Start a Biphasic Sleep Schedule

If you're interested in trying out a biphasic sleep schedule, it's essential to approach the transition mindfully and gradually. Here are some practical tips for incorporating biphasic sleep into your daily routine:

Scheduling Afternoon Naps Effectively

To optimize your energy levels throughout the day, consider scheduling your nap around mid-afternoon hours when many individuals naturally experience energy dips. For optimal energy levels, experiment with 20-minute power naps or 1-1.5 hour long sleep cycles to find the best fit for you.

  • Shorter naps: Aim for a 20-minute power nap that allows you to feel refreshed without entering deep sleep stages.
  • Longer naps: If opting for longer daytime rest, ensure it lasts between one and one-and-a-half hours to complete an entire sleep cycle without waking up groggy.

Reducing Exposure to Artificial Light Sources

Maintaining healthy sleeping habits is crucial when adopting a new sleep pattern like biphasic sleeping. One way of doing this is by reducing exposure to artificial light sources during nighttime wakefulness periods. Wearing blue light blocking glasses, especially while using screens at night, can help regulate melatonin production and improve overall sleep quality.

In addition to these strategies, consider maintaining regular exercise routines and eating habits as you transition to a biphasic sleep schedule. Incorporating calming bedtime rituals, such as reading or practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation, can also help you fall asleep more easily during both nighttime and midday rest periods.

Remember that each individual's sleep requirements differ, so it is critical to pay attention to your body and make necessary modifications to your biphasic sleeping pattern. If you find yourself struggling with the new routine or experiencing persistent sleep deprivation, consult a healthcare professional for guidance on finding the most suitable sleep pattern for your lifestyle.

FAQs in Relation to Biphasic Sleep

Can Biphasic Sleep Be Healthy?

Yes, biphasic sleep can be healthy for some individuals. It involves sleeping in two separate phases throughout the day, typically consisting of a longer nighttime sleep and a shorter midday nap. This pattern may provide benefits such as improved memory and increased alertness. However, it's essential to listen to your body and ensure you're getting enough total sleep.

Why Did Humans Stop Biphasic Sleep?

Humans shifted from biphasic to monophasic sleep patterns primarily due to societal changes brought on by industrialization. The rise of artificial lighting extended work hours into the night, while urbanization led to more structured schedules that prioritized continuous daytime productivity over restorative napping breaks.

How Many Hours of Biphasic Sleep?

The optimal amount of total daily sleep varies among individuals but generally falls between 7-9 hours for adults. In a typical biphasic schedule, this might include 5-6 hours during nighttime and an additional 1-2 hour nap during the day. It is crucial to adjust these durations according to individual needs and preferences.

When Did Humans Stop Biphasic Sleep?

The shift from predominantly practicing biphasic sleeping patterns towards monophasia occurred gradually with increasing industrialization starting around the late 18th century through early 20th century. Artificial lighting played a significant role in altering human behavior surrounding bedtime routines and wakefulness at night.


Overall, biphasic sleep has a rich history and offers potential benefits such as memory improvement and enhanced alertness levels. However, adopting this sleeping pattern can also come with risks such as sleep deprivation and adverse health outcomes. If you are interested in trying out a biphasic sleep schedule, be sure to schedule naps effectively and adapt slowly.

Considering a biphasic sleeping pattern might be worth exploring if you find yourself fatigued or having difficulty focusing during the day. Take care of your body by getting enough restful sleep each night!

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