Monophasic Sleep

By: Shannon Ullman

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You don’t need a dedicated bedtime routine to stick to a sleeping schedule. Even if you sacrifice slumber for a Netflix binge or wake up before the crack of dawn to catch a flight, your body is still cyclically following a pattern.

For most people, that pattern is referred to as monophasic sleep. And it’s just one of many sleeping schedules you can leverage for better rest.

What is a Monophasic Sleep Schedule?

Monophasic sleep refers to a single, unbroken period of sleep. While every person is different, most of us feel the most rested and ready to take on the day after at least seven hours in bed. It’s considered the “normal” pattern of slumber—and the gold standard for catching enough Zzzs and avoiding sleep debt.

Here’s what a monophasic sleep schedule usually looks like:

  • Sleep: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Awake: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Of course, there’s some wiggle room here. Some people may naturally be night owls or early birds and need to adjust their sleep schedule accordingly. But getting at least seven hours of sleep allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.

The monophasic sleep schedule is considered to be the most natural because evidence points to it being similar to how our ancestors slept as we evolved. That’s not to say monophasic sleep is perfect. In fact, it can be quite the opposite for some people.

The traditional monophasic schedule can interfere with workflows, especially if you’re a shift worker. When alternative lifestyles and careers don’t align with monophasic sleep, that’s when other patterns—like polyphasic sleep—may be more ideal.

Polyphasic sleep is a pattern that divides sleep into three or more periods throughout the day and night. It’s often used by people who need to wake up feeling rested but are in temporary situations where getting eight hours isn’t possible, like students cramming for a test or parents staying up late with their newborn.

While those who regularly practice polyphasic sleep claim that it’s the secret to their boundless energy, the evidence says otherwise. Many polyphasic sleep schedules allow for as little as two to four hours of sleep, which, if experienced regularly, can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

Benefits of the Monophasic Sleep Schedule

Enjoying a long, seven-to-nine-hour period of rest is not only considered the most natural sleep pattern—it’s also the healthiest.

Studies have shown that getting enough sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. However, the quality of the sleep you get is just as important as the quantity.

That’s where monophasic sleep comes in. This pattern allows you to enjoy an average of four to six full cycles of light, deep, and REM sleep. These different stages of slumber are crucial for everything from memory consolidation to tissue repair.

By sticking to a monophasic sleep schedule, you’re more likely to get the recommended amount of rest you need. That means you’ll enjoy the following benefits

  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Improved your mood
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved memory and cognitive function
  • Lower risk of car accidents
  • Improved immunity (and therefore getting sick less frequently)
  • Ability to maintain a healthy weight easily
  • Lower risk for health conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
  • Enhanced athletic ability and performance

As you can see, getting enough quality sleep is essential for leading a healthy and productive life—no matter what sleeping pattern you follow. However, monophasic does give you the best chance of meeting your sleep needs and reaping all the benefits that come with it.

Risks of the Monophasic Sleep Schedule

While oversleeping (sleeping for more than eight hours) and undersleeping (sleeping for less than seven) both come with their own set of risks, monophasic sleepers tend to fall around the recommended eight hours. So if you’re adhering to a monophasic sleep schedule, you’re likely not putting your health at risk.

In fact, you’re likely reducing your risk of metabolic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes and cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

It’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor if you’re having any issues sleeping or have symptoms you can’t identify.

How to Optimize a Monophasic Sleep Schedule

If you’re struggling to get a full eight hours of sleep, here are a few sleep hygiene tips to help you optimize your monophasic sleep schedule:

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it as much as possible. This means relaxing for 30 minutes to an hour before actually getting into bed. During this time, you can do things like reading, taking a bath, or stretching.
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillow, and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. These are all optimal sleeping conditions that will help you fall asleep—and stay asleep—for the full eight hours.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed, as they can all disrupt sleep.
  • Limit napping during the day. Napping during the day can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. If you need to nap, do so for no more than 30 minutes and before 3 p.m.
  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bed. Getting your heart rate up during the day will help you sleep better at night.
  • Practice techniques that can reduce stress like deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.
  • Drink chamomile tea or other natural sleep aids before bed. Chamomile has been shown to improve sleep quality, and cherry juice helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Both of which are crucial to a good night’s sleep. Always check in with your doctor before starting any supplements, though.

It may take some experimenting to find what works best for you, but following these tips should help you get the most out of your monophasic sleep schedule.

Takeaway

While there are many different sleeping patterns out there, monophasic sleep is still considered the most natural and healthy option. This sleep schedule allows you to enjoy four to six full cycles of light, deep, and REM sleep—which are all crucial for things like memory consolidation and tissue repair.

If you want to improve your focus, concentration, mood, productivity, and overall health, stick to a monophasic sleep schedule. Your body will thank you for it.

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