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Can I cheat by sleeping

Napin bits?
Nap time, all the time
time, all the time
Some people try to hack their sleep by splitting their
nightspeople trymultiple
rest into to hack their sleep
shorter by splitting their

nights rest into multiple shorter bursts
HINK snoozers are losers? Then why Asleep Awake our brain to cycle several times through
notjoin the world of the sleep hackers, Asleep Awake a number of phases, each with their own
people who have ditched full nights of restorative properties. We might be able
shut-eye in favour of microsleeps. Monophasic Biphasic Everyman
to cheat time, but what about these health
Marie Staver is one. She was 19 and worried Monophasic Biphasic Everyman benefits?
about fitting in all her college work when she Fragmenting sleep across the night has
attempted the Uberman sleep schedule (see been demonstrated to be as deleterious

graphic, right). For the next 6 months, Staver as total sleep deprivation for some health
never slept for more than 20 minutes at a outcomes, such as metabolism as well as
Dymaxion Uberman Chase
time, napping every 4 hours, totalling just Dymaxion Uberman Chase
emotions and moods, says Matthew Walker

2 hours sleep a day. Its one of a number of atthe University of California, Berkeley.

sleep schedules that promise to maximise We know, for instance, that shift workers
our waking hours. But can messing with Nap time, all the time and others who sleep outside of their normal
sleep to such an extreme be a good idea? Some people try to hack their sleep by splitting their
light-dark circadian rhythms are at a high
According to historian Roger Ekirch of nights rest into multiple shorter bursts risk of numerous diseases.
Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, breaking sleep This body clock does not offer a lifestyle
Asleep Awake
into more than one bout is entirely natural. Much like the rest of us, these peoples choice; it is a biological reality, and departing
Pre-industrial civilisations around the world preferred to stay up at least another 3 hours from it can and does have very serious
are known to have naturally segmented their after sunset and they all slept in one big health consequences, says Colin Espie at
sleep into two distinct phases, with an hour Monophasic
chunk. Biphasic
Im not saying that biphasicEveryman
sleep the University of Oxford. And people who
or two of quiet wakefulness in the middle doesnt happen, but its not a natural form regularly dont get enough sleep die younger.
of the night, he says. Weve done away with ofsleep, says Siegel. So for the extra hours you save, you might

this practice, but by this logic, people who What about more extreme sleep schedules? end up losing years from the end of your life.
experience middle-of-the-night insomnia After about a week of deeply unpleasant Besides, if Stavers Uberman experience
simply have the natural urge to wake. adjustment,
Dymaxion which included
Uberman headaches, chills,
Chase was anything to go by, those extra hours
That idea was challenged last year when tremors and anxiety, Staver said her energy might not be all theyre cracked up to be.
Jerome Siegel at the University of California, returned, and after a month she felt normal. I started off with a huge to-do list, but it went
Los Angeles, investigated how humans She wasnt even tired between her naps (read away in days. So I scrubbed my baseboards
mighthave slept in the pre-industrial era. His more on her story at with a toothbrush, reorganised and darned
team visited three tribes of hunter-gatherers One big perk was gaining 5 hours a day. all my socks. With that in mind, you might
in the African and South American tropics. Even so, we know a full nights sleep allows be better off asleep after all. Sean ONeill

The drive to sleep

inresponse to a flu vaccination. says Dijk. Thats one way to recalibrate
Fortunately, these immediate effects your assessment of what is optimal.
The drive
Two forces towhether
control sleep we should be awake or asleep were reversed when the students caught But theres a more serious concern. The
Two forces control whether we should be awake or asleep up on the hours of sleep they had lost. COPY
jury is still out on whether naps and lie-ins
Sleep pressure builds up the longer you are awake. It is balanced by the
force of circadian alertness (although a plateau in the afternoon can So if your sleep pressure is high, the simple can mitigate the long-term health effects
Sleep pressure builds up the longer you are awake. It is balanced by the
make you feel sleepy). As night falls, however, circadian alertness drops
force of circadian alertness (although a plateau in the afternoon can
solution is to repay the debt as soon as you PAGE
oftoo little sleep. We know that shift work
off more quickly and you enter the land of nod can with a lie-in or a nap (see How can I and jet lag, which mess with our body
make you feel sleepy). As night falls, however, circadian alertness drops
off more quickly and you enter the land of nod
nap like a pro, page 38). You certainly
can recover from the immediate effects
OK for
for press
clock, also cause havoc with our health.
Regularly sleeping at the wrong time can
of insufficient sleep by then sleeping lead to diabetes, obesity and cancer, among
longer, says Derk-Jan Dijk of the University other problems. Now, it seems, catching up
ofSurrey, UK. Many of us do it every onsleep at the weekend, a phenomenon
weekend. known as social jet lag, might cause
Sleep However, this requires you to recognise thesame kinds of health problems as
Sleep you need more sleep, and the more sleep shiftwork.

deprived you become, the more you So, although anyone can recover from the

underestimate how tired you actually are. If short-term effects of the odd white night,

you are suffering from chronic sleep loss a long-term habit of catching up on sleep at

9am 3pm 9pm 3am 9am after a hectic period of work, for example COPY SUB
the weekends may well catch up with you in
9am 3pm 9pm 3am 9am take a proper holiday to break the cycle, the end. Catherine de Lange

28 May 2016 | NewScientist | 35

G_Biphasic_sleep OK for press