Split sleep, or biphasic sleep, is a segmented sleep method that involves breaking your total sleep time into two periods of sleep during a 24-hour period. You will be sleeping twice per day instead of all at once.
There are claims that our current eight hours a night all at once method of sleeping is a modern invention that came about during the industrial revolution and the invention of the light bulb. Other cultures and societies have sleep in two sleep periods with their first sleep lasting about four hours, then be awake for a couple of hours, then have a second sleep of three to four more hours.
But similar cultural influences that are attributed to our modern sleep schedule can also explain earlier cultures having a split sleep schedule, in that it’s just what many of them did at the time, because it was expected of them.
Many people do split sleep because they have to, not necessarily because they want to. It’s either required by their job, or in the case of monks or nuns of a religious sect, required to remain a card carrying member of their little gang.
Truck drivers, pilots, astronauts and mission control ground crew have at times been required to split their sleep into two periods.
But any time a group of people have switched to a split sleep schedule, they have only done so for a relatively short period of time as it was necessary to get over a mission critical period. After the crisis has passed, they almost always abandoned the split sleep routine and returned to a conventional period of one continual sleep period.
Shift workers on the night shift can split their sleep into two periods so it allows them to have more time with their family and friends and to run errands during the day, but once they switched back to the day shift they almost always abandon split sleep.
Getting a second sleep later in the day is often difficult because light, heat, noise and other distractions increase as the day goes on.
Trying to continue a split sleep has the problem of what are you going to do at 3am? Noise will wake other family members and I don’t think power sanding the hull of your boat will win you any points with your neighbors either. There is also a boredom factor as not many of your other friends are awake at 3am and there is not much on TV other than info-stupids.
Some studies have suggested that there is no difference between getting a full eight hours of sleep all at once verses a split sleep of two four hour periods. The more important factor is that the total amount of sleep in the same.
Using split sleep to reduce your total amount of sleep to an amount that your body finds to be insufficient will result in accumulated sleep debt and increasing levels of fatigue will result.
Many restorative functions of the body occur at different periods of sleep. Memories are solidified not just during a single REM period but over several and the more vivid dreams of REM sleep occur during the later phase of the sleep cycle of a single sleep period.
At different times during the night your body releases hormones, your body temperature changes and your muscular structure is repaired. All of these changes occur in regular times in the sleep cycle.
If split sleep was truly a better way of sleeping or more efficient, more people would voluntarily be doing it. But as it is now, split sleep just seems to be a temporary method of fitting their sleep in and around their work schedule.
Some people suffering from delayed sleep phase disorder have found relief using split sleep, but as a lifestyle change for everyone else, it isn’t a viable option.
Have you every tried split sleep? Leave a comment below.