What is Biphasic Sleep and Its Effects?

This type of sleep pattern or habit entails that an individual sleep in segments of two every day. One common example is sleeping during night time and napping during midday.

An elderly woman sleeps on her side

Basically, the sleep cycle known as biphasic sleep is a pattern of sleeping. It is also called divided sleep, segmented, diphasic, and bimodal sleep.

Biphasic vs Monophasic 

This type of sleep pattern or habit entails that an individual sleep in segments of two every day. One common example is sleeping during night time and napping during midday. Generally, people undergo a monophasic sleep cycle.  This means that for most people, a single segment of sleep is enough, which usually happens during the nighttime. It is believed that monophasic sleep was brought about by the working hours of the industrial revolution where workers are expected to work from nine in the morning to five in the afternoon.

Monophasic sleep is the norm for the majority of the population. There is evidence to suggest though that polyphasic and biphasic sleep patterns can be observed to occur naturally to some people.

Polyphasic Sleep vs Biphasic Sleep

The words divided sleep or segmented sleep can also be applied to refer to polyphasic sleep. As you now know, biphasic sleep is a type of sleep pattern that is divided into two portions or segments. Polyphasic sleep patterns, meanwhile, entails multiple segments.

Some individuals will gravitate towards a biphasic and polyphasic sleep pattern because they believe that the said sleep patterns can greatly increase their productivity. This is because it opens up some time slots for other activities within the day while maintaining the same number of sleeping hours as that of monophasic sleeping especially for sleep during the night. Some individuals can also gravitate towards the biphasic and polyphasic sleep patterns naturally.

There are some instances, though where polyphasic sleep patterns may be the result of certain disabilities or sleep disorders. One type of polyphasic sleep pattern is the syndrome known as Irregular Sleep-Wake syndrome. People with the said syndrome will tend to wake up and fall back asleep during intervals that are irregular. Individuals with irregular sleep-wake syndrome will also have the tendency to feel insufficiently rested and will have a hard time staying awake.

Types of Biphasic Sleep 

Individuals can do different types of biphasic sleep. People can take siestas or afternoon naps, which is a more traditional form of biphasic sleep. In fact, people from certain countries and cultures regularly observe siestas such as people from Greece and Spain. Individuals can go for short naps that can be a combination of six (6) hours every night with some 20-minute nap mixed in midday.

People can also take long naps which will comprise of five hours of nightly sleep with one to one and a half hours of sleep midday. In a lot of online forums, some individuals reporting the great benefits of biphasic sleep patterns. They claim that biphasic sleeping schedules can help them stay alert and get things done better and much more efficiently.

What is the Science Behind Biphasic Sleeping Patterns?

While a lot of anecdotal evidence points to the benefits of biphasic sleep patterns the evidence for the said benefits or advantages is considered mixed. A study conducted in 2016 showed that sleep patterns that are segmented can be greatly favored by people the world over. The study also showed that artificial lighting and the development of the regular 9 to 5 workday may prove to be detrimental for the said favorable polyphasic sleep patterns and led modern society to more monophasic sleep patterns.

An earlier study completed last 2010 which showed that brief naps scattered throughout the day may have health benefits as well as its significance in terms of culture and habit. The study also noted that taking 5 to 15-minute naps were found to have cognitive benefits similar to that of taking thirty (30) minute naps. The study also noted that further research will is needed to further look into the possible deeper benefits of the said sleep cycles.

On the other hand, evidence suggests that that frequent napping in children may adversely affect their growth and development especially if the frequent naps are already affecting the main nighttime sleep of children. In addition, napping in adults has been shown to elevate the risk of developing sleep deprivation and negative sleep patterns. Once sleep deprivation happens on a regular basis, there is an increased risk in developing certain medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cognitive difficulties, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

Some Considerations

Other sleeping patterns such as the Biphasic and polyphasic sleeping cycles can provide an alternative way of sleeping and can be considered as a break from the traditional monophasic sleeping cycle. People claim to get certain health benefits once they shifted to the biphasic sleep cycle. Some evidence and the traditional observations of different people from across the globe can support the claim that there may indeed be benefits to biphasic sleeping. There are also reports that it can help people become more alert and efficient throughout the day.

However, further research is needed to establish the abovementioned claims. This is particularly important since the biphasic and polyphasic sleeping patterns are obviously not for everyone. For most people, maintaining a monophasic sleep pattern can still be the best option for a good night’s sleep.

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