If you are asking yourself “What is average sleep? What should I be aiming for? And how does polyphasic sleep compare to average monophasic sleep?” Then this will give you some numbers to go by.
Age 20 Averages
7.5h Total Sleep Time, 16min Sleep Onset Latency
90min SWS (20%TST), 99min REM (22%TST)
Age 40 Sleep Averages – (the oldest age before we start to see major hormonal changes)
7.1h Total Sleep Time, 17min Sleep Onset Latency
64min SWS (15%TST), 85min REM (20%TST)
From these averages, we can layout a spectrum of sleep type totals for us to compare to. SWS is more valuable than REM in terms of restoration, the zeo scientists value SWS 3x as much as REM. On the other hand, there should likely be a minimum amount of REM to remain healthy which might be about an hour. The closer you are to a minimum REM, the more SWS you need. There is also probably a maximum before we start to see problems like mortality or depression, too much of either SWS or REM (probably over 2h). So we have a range of each stage, between 1-2 hours. If we want to be most efficient we are going to weight it toward the SWS heavy side of the spectrum, for reasons explained below.
Sleep type totals are not going to be the only factors … sleep continuity interruptions (flickering sleep stages), or awakenings (total disruption of sleep stages) are going to lower your sleep health score compared to the normal, the more interruptions or awakenings you have the more it will drop.
Here are a few sws/rem sleep totals you can compare yourself to if you around the age of 20:
SWS / REM (mins)
100 / 70
95 / 85
90 / 100
85 / 115
80 / 130
If your SWS / REM values fall close to any of these categories, you are sleeping average quality. If your SWS / REM is higher than these values, you are doing better. It means that your sleep is healthier than a normal person’s 7.5-hour sleep!
Older adults get significantly less SWS, so here are a few sws/rem sleep totals you can compare yourself to if you are around the age of 40:
SWS / REM (mins)
70 / 67
65 / 82
62 / 90
60 / 97
55 / 112
You should be aiming to get the average 20-year-old sleeping pattern if you are aiming for ideal health. You should be aiming for your age-related average if you simply want to avoid any health detriments when altering your sleeping pattern.
You can calculate your own sleep quality for comparison we can follow a formula outlined here.
Fitting Sleep Averages into Polyphasic Sleep
It is inevitable someone is going to ask ‘then what is perfect sleep?. There is no perfect sleep, but there is a perfect spectrum of sleep … If you were aiming for sleep efficiency and average health, then perfect efficiency (assuming you were doing uberman or something similar) would look something like 100min SWS + 70min REM. Minimum average sleep totals are not a true minimum, because some light sleep is required for transitional states and you can expect to get at least 10% light sleep … so add 10% to your “minimum average total” to make a “realistic total.” 10% of 170min is 17min light sleep, which means a realistic minimum sleep total is 187min or 3.1h.
If you were aiming for perfect sleep health (scoring 25% higher than average on my sleep health scale), then you could probably go for 120min SWS, and 90 min REM and let’s say the 24min of light sleep, which is achievable in a 4h total.
Let’s fit that ‘perfect sleep health’ sleep stage totals into the DC1 model:
120min SWS and 30min REM and 60min Light in your 3.5h core sleep
45min REM and 30min Light in your second core
15min REM and 5min light in your midday nap
A 5h total, with 40% SWS, 30% REM, 30% Light.
Someone could do much better, obviously, but most people should be able to achieve this.
Average Sleep and Adolescents/Teenagers
There is nothing to say polyphasic sleep should be unhealthy for adolescents and teenagers, but both need much more sleep than an average adult. They are still learning a lot in school and in life, and therefore require more REM: SWS than an adult.
Teens, on average, get more total sleep (475min) while keeping the same % of REM (~22%), which increases their REM total from an average of 100mins to 105mins. Their % of SWS increases quite a lot (due to the requirement for more hormone production for growth, and memory consolidation for learning) to 30%* which increases SWS total from an average of 90 minutes to 142 minutes!
*Calculations are dependent on different data analysis to the one in the journal cited above.
An example 15-year-old teen has a minimum average sleep total of 142min SWS + 105min REM (= 247min)! Again, minimum average sleep totals are not a true minimum, because some light sleep is required for transitional states and you can expect to get at least 10% light sleep. Therefore a realistic minimum sleep total for a 15-year-old teenager is 272 minutes or 4.53h.
I hope this makes you better understand why we discourage kids and teens from doing a severely reduced sleep schedule. Minors should NOT do a polyphasic sleep schedule unless under the supervision of a parent or doctor with a sleep recording device like a Zeo.
It is reasonable for any healthy person of any age to do polyphasic sleep, from babies to adults to geriatrics, but ONLY if you are getting your required SWS: REM totals.
No matter what schedule you will design, there are some things to consider before making choices. The BRAC Gap Rule If periods of sleep are too close together, it seems that the body cannot distinguish between different periods of sleep and will act as though the two periods of sleep were one disturbed sleep. This […]