The understanding and intricacies of sleep has fascinated many scientists over the decades and possibly centuries. Many theories and ideas have stemmed from countless research projects with many having the goal of improving wellness, quality of life and productivity.
The Uberman Sleep Cycle is one such theory gaining momentum among many productivity devotees. The thought of manipulating one’s sleep schedule has many jumping on the bandwagon while others scratch their heads.
What is the Uberman Sleep Cycle?
This odd-sounding idea of highly scheduled sleeping is actually a part of a larger group of cycles known as polyphasic sleep. In layman terms this polyphasic programming is simply splitting your sleep into phases throughout the day. Think of it as taking numerous naps per 24-hour period.
Other polyphasic cycles include Monophasic (what most individuals of the world are used to and practice – one period of sleep), Biphasic (one period of sleep with one nap added), Everyman, Dymaxion and Uberman.
Uberman (from the German Ubermensch, meaning super-human) consists of 6 equally spaced 20 minute naps throughout a 24-hour period. This will sum up to 2 hours of total sleep with 4 hours spaced between naps.
Other variations of the Uberman sleep cycle exist such as increasing up to 8 naps per day every 3 hours. Many think sustaining such a sleep schedule will increase productivity giving the body just enough rejuvenating sleep to stay healthy.
Why split your sleep?
Many theorize that our sleep patterns can shift and might even be different depending on where you live. For example, some who live in parts of the world with more or less sunlight per day may require a phasic type sleep schedule. Others may need 2 phases of sleep while others may need many more.
Of course, productivity is the first thought that comes to mind when one talks of getting less sleep in this accelerated world of constant change. Some have credited notable figures throughout history adapting to similar sleep patterns like Leonardo da Vinci and Napoleon (although that has never been proven).
Of course, experts of this type of system stress the importance of slowly coaxing the body to adapt to this type of schedule. 3 to 4 weeks is a common timeframe to allow for moderate changes in sleep patterns without switching habits overnight (literally).
Foregoing the recommended adaptation phase will have most individuals experiencing what is referred to as a “zombie mode” where your normal cognitive function can be compromised due to overall lack of sleep.
Although many individuals that have completed the adaptation phase will believe they are done transitioning to this new mode of sleep, it may take significantly longer to completely finish the conversion. The body will want to naturally return to its normal sleep patterns.
Another recommendation is to lengthen certain naps when the effects of sleep deprivation kick in. For example, two of your 20 minute naps can be extended to 1 or 1.5 hours to help “catch up.”
Once you have established a solid sleep schedule, it is a necessity to have some form of an alarm system in place. The body will not naturally wake up on time on such a schedule so either an electronic device or, even better, another person should be available to help keep you on schedule.
Exercise on Uberman
Even though many have touted the sufficient recovery abilities while participating in cardiovascular training, the act of weightlifting or any other extreme sport practices is not recommended due to the lack of rejuvenation sleep and recovery ability.
If you do decide to participate in weightlifting or any other related activity, keep the volume low as black outs have been reported later in the night hours due to the intensity levels. Try keeping the volume low, but frequency high and intensity low to moderate in order to fully recover from training.
The Uberman schedule (possibly being the most popular of the polyphasic schedules) may be recommended for around 5% of the population due to the fact that around 5% of the population can be productive on just 6 hours of sleep per night. That small group may be able to pull off the Uberman sleep cycle with some success.
The remaining population may be able to better adapt to an alternative version of the Uberman making slight adjustments such as slightly longer naps, more number of naps and/or a combination of both.
Although there is little if anything known about the long-term health benefits of the Uberman sleep cycle or other polyphasic methods, there have been those who have kept the schedule for significant periods of time without any serious health concerns.