Biphasic sleep: what is it and what are the benefits?

October 16, 2020 5 mins read
Biphasic sleep: what is it and what are the benefits?

Could biphasic sleep be the answer to a more productive life? Sleeping twice in one day sounds like (forgive us) a dream, however, there are two sides to this sleep method.

When we think about going to bed, it’s usually with the desired outcome of one long (and preferably uninterrupted) sleep. Let’s face it; modern times have accustomed us into being monophasic (one good sleep will do) sleepers. But what happens when life gets in the way, and we’re unable to meet our sleep goals? That’s when some of us have a nap to catch up on that lost shut-eye. That’s biphasic right? No. Not really.

Let’s explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of becoming a biphasic sleeper, and we’ll let you decide for yourself whether it’s a sleep method you would like to try.

What is biphasic sleep?

In plain sleep terms, it means that your sleep is done in two stages or phases. Your total daily sleep is composed of two solid periods of rest.

Biphasic sleep comes in a variety of methods, but the two most common biphasic sleep schedules are:

Two periods of sleep in one night

You’ll keep to a standard (slightly earlier) sleep schedule but wake yourself up during the night for a couple of hours before going back to bed for the rest of the night. This is said to limit the time you spend “light sleeping” so you’re able to fall quickly back into restorative sleep (skipping the preliminary sleep stages). During the time you’re awake, it’s reported that you’re more likely to be alert and can get whatever task you want to be done effectively before falling back into a deep sleep.

One night sleep and a daytime siesta

We’re pretty sure this was invented by you, night-owls. In this schedule, you would go to bed a lot later and have a shorter sleep (6 hours or so), and supplement your sleep needs with a 2-3 hour afternoon siesta, making up your 7-9 hours but with a larger gap between them.

What are the differences between biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

Did you know that there are numerous “alternative” sleep practices? We know that monophasic sleep is the societal norm, and that biphasic is a two-phased approach to sleep, but then there’s polyphasic. So what’s the difference between being a bi-sleeper and poly-sleeper?

As we’ve uncovered, biphasic sleep involves sleeping for two sessions in one 24-hour cycle. Polyphasic sleep involves sleeping for many (more than two) sessions in that same time cycle. As a polyphasic sleeper, you may adopt various sleep shift patterns, such as: sleeping three times in 24 hours, sleeping 3-4 hours at night with numerous naps during the day, or having two periods of sleep at night with an afternoon nap.

Is biphasic sleep better?

There are possible pros and more definite cons to this sleep scheme. In some cultures, biphasic sleeping habits are just part of a typical day, wherein others, it’s regarded as a tool to increase productivity. But like everything without known facts (or proven benefits) behind it, it’s up to personal preference, and a full understanding of your sleep needs to create a swing vote. We’ve identified some (please read: possible) benefits and disadvantages below:

Benefits of biphasic sleep

  • It could boost your cognitive function. Getting two-sleeps in one night has been seen to reduce feelings of tiredness and enhance your capacity to focus and concentrate better.
  • Your productivity could increase. As it can enhance your cognitive function and improve your alertness, you may get more done. Plus being able to schedule when you get your sleep could create more flexibility in that work-life balance.
  • You’re getting the power of all power naps. (If you’re a night-owl.) As power naps provide a range of benefits, including boosting your capacity for memory, creative problem solving, logical reasoning, and greater cognitive performance, getting a good sleep boost can aid in overall mental wellness.
  • This sleep schedule could help your insomnia. Waking up at night can help you feel less anxious as you’re not forced to think about why you can’t sleep, but rather exercise your awakeness with something productive. When you do go back to sleep, you’re more likely to have a better, more restful snooze.

Disadvantages of biphasic sleep

  • Limits your overall sleep time. You could find it hard to fall asleep initially, which can cut into your sleep time, limiting the amount of deep sleep you get which is your most restorative sleep.
  • It could cause you to have irregular sleep patterns. If you don’t keep to a proper biphasic sleep schedule every day, you might find that your sleep never entirely feels like it’s enough. This can affect your ability to concentrate and be productive because you are never reaching all stages of sleep to fully rejuvenate your body and mind.
  • Your circadian rhythm could come undone. As your body’s internal clock, your circadian rhythm syncs with your daily light exposure, and disturbing this natural sleep-wake aid will cause potential long-term sleep disruptions such as insomnia.

Sleep, no matter how we get it, needs to cycle through the 5 stages of sleep to assist in our body’s optimal functioning. And although there is no solid scientific evidence that makes one sleeping technique more natural (or better) than the other, it all comes down to your sleep needs and what works for you.

If you’re a monophasic sleeper and are getting quality, restful sleep, trying to adopt a new way of sleeping might not be the best idea. (Don’t try to fix it if it’s not broken, right?) Alternatively, if you struggle with getting good sleep on a nightly basis, bi-sleeping may be a more natural experience.