If you’ve never heard the term polyphasic sleep before, you’re in good company. Most folks are unaware that our modern sleep patterns differ dramatically from the sleep/wake cycles of our ancestors. Of course we know that back before indoor lighting became so commonplace, people called it a night soon after darkness fell because it was tough to play Parcheesi by firelight alone.
During the college years, students tend to rediscover polyphasic sleep through necessity – long hours of study interrupted by a brief period of sleep, then the surge of endorphins that pushes your eyes open in time to cram for organic chemistry.
There was a time when polyphasic sleep patterns were common, although I don’t know if that was the case on a global scale. In fact, there a number of terms used to describe how many periods of sleep occur in a single 24-hour cycle and a growing number of controlled studies that evaluate the usefulness or potential risks of altering our natural sleep state.
I’ve always been a napper by design. I usually sleep in three to five hour stretches and then stay awake for a while. In college I slept in late night and late afternoon cycles. Now I sleep less and am usually awake for some period of time between three and five in the morning. If left to our natural cycles, unencumbered by schedules and alarm clocks, I wonder how many of us would discover our natural rhythms are entirely different than the constraints leveraged by the world we find ourselves living in?
Want to know more about this subject?
It turns out that there’s this modernist movement to return to polyphasic sleeping. You have to sort through a lot of ideas to figure out if any of it makes sense to you. I dunno if I’d opt-in but you might want to check it out, so here is a helpful link to the Polyphasic Society. Yes, you can be part of a sleep society. Who knew?