Sleep: More Information

To understand sleep properly, you need to know about:

  • Biorhythms: how your energy levels change during the day
  • Brain States: The different Brain States
  • Sleep cycles: How these states are involved in sleep
  • Biofeedback: How to change from one state to another


Biorhythms are the periodic happenings in your body, including sleep cycles. They can be subjectively measured using the Stanford Sleepiness Scale.


Circadian is Latin for "about a day". These cycles range from 19-28 hours long, and are the cycles that monophasic sleepers are in sync with. This is what makes them tired at 4am and awake at 8pm (although there seems to be an afternoon dip).

Tetrahoric: 4-hour Ultradian

Ultradian just means less than a day. Tetrahoric means 4 hours (and may be bad Greek; let me know).

90-120 minute cycle

This is a cycle that occurs in monophasic sleep.

Brain States

While devices to read people's minds are a long way off, the one thing it is possible to determine is a person's state of alertness. This can be done with an EEG (Electroencephalograph). The recognised states are:

Brain wave
Speed (Hz) State
Delta 1-4
  • Deep, dreamless sleep (NREM)
  • trance
  • unconscious
  • Theta 5-8
    Alpha 9-14 REM Sleep
    Beta 15-35 Active
    Gamma 36+
  • High-level information processing
  • Good memory
  • Sleep cycles

    Sleep goes in cycles.

    Graph showing sleep cycles as they occur during the night

    You can see from the diagram (with hours along the bottom axis) that REM sleep doesn't normally begin until about 90 minutes after you fall asleep.

    What polynappers traditionally want to achieve is lots of REM sleep without spending much time in NREM sleep. So what they need to do is learn to produce alpha waves on demand. This sounds like a trial and error process, but the certainty (and hopefully therefore, usefulness) of the feedback can be greatly increased with biofeedback (see below).

    However, an article by Dr. Claudio Stampi in Outdoors suggests that it's actually the opposite.

    As support for Stampi's position, I quote the following from Cavendish:

    I've made this comment before, but it has been a while, and it feels like I ought to do so again.

    Polyphasic sleep is not all REM sleep.

    This seems to be a common misconception, and it goes back to both the Everything2 article and the kuro5hin story on uberman sleep. I'm not sure which was first, so I'll blame both of them equally. The truth is that all of the sleep phases are represented in hexaphasic sleep. To my knowledge, the only objective data on sleep phases during a polyphasic schedule is found in Stampi's book. To quote:

    "The nap mean overall percentage composition of stages 1 (18.9%), 2 (32.8%), SWS (27.4%), and REM (20.9%) was very similar to that of baseline sleep (13.5, 38.6, 26.1, and 21.8%, respectively; see Figure 12.2). The total daily amounts of each stage, however, were considerably and proportionately reduced.

    "Despite such striking percentage similarity, nap sleep structure was radically different from baseline monophasic sleep. REM sleep and SWS rarely occurred together. This happened for only 8 naps, during most of which the subject overslept beyond the scheduled 25 min. When REM sleep was present, it showed the usual circadian effects, with peaks between 0000 and 1200. REM sleep frequently occurred in close proximity to nap onset, generating 15 sleep onset REM episodes (SOREMPs) out of 19 naps with REM. Mean SWS latency was 10 min. SWS was present in 50% of all naps."

    So, to sum up: is REM important to someone on a polyphasic schedule? Yes. However, so are all of the other sleep phases. Focusing on getting enough REM, or substituting something else (such as meditation) for REM isn't likely to lead to an understanding of how polyphasic sleep works, or how one can make it work.


    You can train yourself to produce alpha, or theta, or any other required waves via Biofeedback (ie. you can train yourself to go to sleep). You can also achieve Mental results by training in different ways.

    There are various ways to learn biofeedback. The cheapest way is to build your own with the information at the OpenEEG Project, however, it is suggested that you read their WARNING first.

    You may also enjoy one man's personal experience with Biofeedback and brainwave training

    Other sleep information

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