Ryan Bergara’s Polyphasic Sleep Journey: Can Naps Replace A Good Night’s Sleep?

Polyphasic Sleep

Most people’s default sleep pattern is known as shut-eye or monophasic pattern, which involves getting sleep in a whole 7 to 8-hour night chunk. In contrast, polyphasic sleep is a pattern that involves sleeping in multiple instances a day. This article will explore the risks of replacing a good night’s sleep with naps throughout the day.  

Who Slept 20 Minutes Every 4 Hours?

In 2016, a Buzzfeed Motion Pictures staff member, Ryan Bergara, decided to leave his usual sleep schedule behind for a week and experiment with polyphasic sleep. He specifically chose the so-called “Everyman” schedule, which involves sleeping for four and a half hours in the evening and recharging energy levels by taking two 20-minute naps during the day. 

This sleep technique is common among people with busy work schedules that restrict their sleep time or those who engage in extensive physical activities to keep their minds active. In order to gain insight into this method, Bergara talked to Jackson Nexhip, who has written a book on polyphasic sleep and actively followed the "Everyman" sleep schedule.

As you observe Bengara throughout the week, you can notice the slow deterioration of his mental state. His lack of sleep managed to hinder his productivity at work and even his sense of reality. On the fifth day, he was experiencing uncontrollable laughter and could not speak properly during his video diary entries.

At the end of the week, he finally reached his limit and collapsed. He advises avoiding doing the same, even though it is possible to function with less than five hours of sleep.

Is Polyphasic Sleeping Safe?

Sleep experts concur that obtaining sufficient sleep is crucial for maintaining good health. The recommended amount of sleep for most adults is 7-8 hours per night, whereas teenagers require around 9 hours, and pregnant women may need to rest even more. Failing to obtain enough sleep can lead to various health issues.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises adults to get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Most polyphasic schedules do not provide the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. Therefore, these sleep patterns can harm your mental and physical health.

Your circadian rhythm affects your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. If your circadian rhythm faces disruptions, it can not only affect the quality of your sleep but also increase your chances of experiencing health issues. Having an irregular sleep schedule can lead to sleep deprivation, which puts you at a higher risk for the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke 

Making drastic changes to your sleep schedule without consulting a specialist is highly inadvisable. Make sure you talk to an expert to help you find a balanced sleep routine according to your needs and everyday tasks.

Does Polyphasic Sleep Actually Work?

There is little to no data in medical research studies that show any clear benefits of polyphasic sleep schedules. People who indulge in fragmented sleep patterns end up sleeping less overall, which can have a wide range of adverse effects on their health. These disadvantages include memory loss, cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of accidents.

Crises and other extreme situations can prevent people from getting the optimal seven to nine hours of sleep during the night. In these cases, napping can be a necessary coping mechanism. Thanks to his passion for long-distance solo boat racing, sleep researcher Claudio Stampi decided to explore the systematic timing of naps as a tool that enables optimal performance in situations that inevitably lead to sleep deprivation. However, he does not recommend taking very short naps regularly.

Unless your current work environment or lifestyle requires a nontraditional sleep schedule, experts don't recommend polyphasic sleep. If you are determined to spend less time sleeping, you should seek assistance from a sleep specialist to adjust your circadian rhythm in a healthy and balanced manner.

Final Thoughts

Since everyone's sleep needs are different, it is crucial not to make assumptions about polyphasic sleep on the basis of personal stories. If you want to try changing your sleep schedule, make sure to do it with the guidance of a specialist. 

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