Polyphasic sleep – How does interval sleeping work?

Sleep several times a day and only a few hours a night? We explain what's behind the polyphasic sleep trend and whether interval sleeping is really positive for your health and performance.

Table of Contents

  1. Sleep patterns at a glance
    1. Monophasic sleep
    2. Biphasic sleep
    3. Polyphasic sleep
  2. How does polyphasic sleep work?
  3. How healthy is polyphasic sleep?
  4. Which sleep pattern is best?
  5. Conclusion

Normally we are awake during the day and sleep at night. However, some people swear by dividing their sleep into several short sleep intervals and integrating them into their daily routine according to a certain pattern. The so-called interval sleeping is intended to increase performance and energy levels and has therefore become particularly established among (competitive) athletes.

Sleep patterns at a glance

Our sleeping habits change naturally over the course of our lives. Infants and small children need a lot of sleep and it is completely normal for them to sleep again and again during the day. With age, sleep behavior adapts more and more to the natural day-night rhythm. Daylight acts as a natural clock for our internal clock, which controls numerous biological processes in our body, metabolism and the sleep-wake rhythm. Sleep is then increasingly shifted to the night and no longer takes place in many short sleep intervals, but rather in one long one. This so-called monophasic sleep is the most common sleep pattern today.

Schlafmagazin: Monophasischer, biphasischer und polyphasischer Schlaf

Monophasic sleep

Monophasic sleep corresponds to the natural sleep pattern of adults and consists of a waking phase of approx. 16 hours and a nightly sleep phase that lasts an average of 8 hours.

Biphasic sleep

Here, in addition to a slightly shortened night's sleep phase (approx. 6 hours) a short nap or a power nap takes place in the afternoon. Sleep is therefore divided into a longer and a shorter interval.

Polyphasic sleep

In polyphasic sleep, sleep is divided into several short sleep phases, which can also shorten the total sleep duration. There are various methods, some of which do not require a longer night's sleep phase and, for example, sleep is divided into six 20-minute or five 90-minute sleep intervals. This also reduces the total sleep duration, which in extreme sleep patterns is only 2 hours per day/night. Well-known methods are Everyman, Überman and Dymaxion sleep.

How does polyphasic sleep work?

The aim of polyphasic sleep is to reduce the total duration of sleep so that the waking phase can be extended and used more productively. The goal of short sleep periods is to guide the body through a sleep cycle during naps, thereby increasing concentration and performance.

So you go to sleep several times a day at certain times and set an alarm clock in order to get up again after the specified time. You should stick to the specified sleep windows of the respective sleep pattern, avoid coffee and alcohol and start with a change or Expect an adjustment period of up to 3 weeks.

How healthy is polyphasic sleep?

Our natural sleep need is usually between 7 and 8 hours of sleep, most of which occurs at night in accordance with our biological timing. The fact that sleep takes place in a single long sleep period is also related to our sleep structure. While we sleep, we go through several sleep cycles, which in turn are divided into a specific sequence of light, deep and REM sleep phases. As the night progresses, the initially high proportion of deep sleep decreases and we spend more and more time in REM sleep. For the regeneration and performance of body and mind, it is important to spend enough time in deep sleep and REM sleep and also that the sleep phases take place in their natural sequence.

Many polyphasic sleep patterns do not provide sufficient deep sleep and coherent sleep cycles. However, this is essential for numerous regenerative processes and crucial for healthy body function. Various experts are also of the opinion that the extremely limited sleep intervals during the day are too short for sufficient regeneration and the desired effect is not achieved.

In addition, we humans are not actually nocturnal and, in addition to our sleeping behavior, numerous other biological processes also follow a circadian rhythm, i.e. the day-night cycle. Orientate light-dark rhythm. If the sleep window is drastically reduced during interval sleeping and sleep phases are planned during the day, our entire biorhythm is disrupted and the body cannot regenerate naturally. We suffer from lack of sleep and become tired, lose energy and performance and damage our health in the long term. The risk of sleep disorders, cardiovascular diseases, depression and other illnesses increases.

Intermittent sleeping also changes the structure of the day and is difficult to implement in today's social or social environment. You need a suitable place to sleep every few hours and you have to stick to the set sleep windows.

A polyphasic sleep pattern is rather unsuitable in everyday life and should only be used in exceptional cases when night sleep has to be reduced in special performance phases and is less than 6 hours, for example in competitive athletes in the competition phase.

Which sleep pattern is best?

Experts usually recommend monophasic or biphasic sleep behavior, as this most closely corresponds to the natural, biological rhythm of our body. In many cultures, a second, short sleep phase in the afternoon has already been established - the classic afternoon nap or the famous Spanish siesta. It has been scientifically proven that a Power Nap lasting a maximum of 30 minutes can help to overcome daytime tiredness in the short term and increase performance. Ultimately, it always comes down to your personal sleep needs and listening to your own sleep needs.


  • Monophasic sleep is the most common sleep method, which consists of a long period of wakefulness and a period of sleep at night.
  • Biphasic sleep includes a nighttime sleep phase and a short sleep interval at night.
  • Polyphasic sleep occurs in many short sleep windows spread throughout the day and is intended to increase energy and performance while shortening the total sleep duration and lengthening the waking phase.
  • Interval sleeping does not correspond to the natural human sleep rhythm and is only recommended in special exceptions.

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