Sometimes, naps feel like magic, making that 1 p.m. slump disappear and replacing it with a second wind that carries you well through the evening. And others can be the stuff of nightmares, leaving you feeling more groggy-eyed and sleepy than before you laid down.
Unless you’re still in preschool, most of us take naps on an as-needed basis. But there’s actually a type of polyphasic sleep schedule that advocates for taking regular naps every single day.
It’s called Siesta Sleep, and if leveraged correctly, it could just be your key to more energy, productivity, and overall health. Let’s explore potential benefits and risks.
What is the Siesta Sleep Schedule?
Before we start waxing poetic about the benefits of a mini daytime rest, it’s important to understand how polyphasic sleeping works.
Most people are monophasic sleepers, meaning that they sleep for one block of time during the day or night. Polyphasic sleepers will sleep for multiple short periods. Usually, this pattern involves one longer core sleep at night and three or four naps throughout the day.
There are a few different types of polyphasic sleep schedules, but Siesta Sleep (also referred to as biphasic sleep) is by far the most popular and manageable.
The Siesta Sleep schedule is when a person breaks their sleep into two segments, one during the day and one at night. Babies, animals, and even people in preindustrial societies follow a Siesta Sleep schedule. Way back in Medieval times, everyone practiced what was called “two sleeps.” Rest happened once in the evening and once again in the morning.
While society has mostly transitioned into a monophasic sleep schedule—except in some cultures like Spain—many people are waking up to the idea of a daily nap.
Here’s an example of what a Siesta Sleep schedule might look like:
- Sleep: 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- Awake: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Sleep: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
- Awake: 3 p.m. to 11 a.m.
You can break up your two sleeps in any way you like. Whether that’s two, four-hour segments, or one seven-and-half-hour block at night and a 30-minute siesta during the day. As long as you’re getting seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep, you’re golden. But always check in with your doctor to make sure your sleep schedule lines up with your specific needs.
Monophasic vs. Biphasic Sleep
Benefits of the Siesta Sleep Schedule
There are a few key benefits to Siesta Sleep that make it an attractive option for those looking to optimize their snooze.
First, Siesta Sleep can help improve your cognitive function and creativity. A study from the University of California found that napping can boost creative thinking. The research showed that people who took a nap long enough to go through REM sleep did better on a creativity test than those who didn’t nap at all.
Research also points to Siesta Sleep as a way to boost your physical health. According to an older 2007 study, people who engaged in the “siesta habit” had a “37% reduction in coronary mortality.” Interestingly enough, cultures where Siesta Sleep is more commonly practiced also happen to have some of the lowest mortality rates of coronary heart disease in the world.
Napping can also be an effective tool to help your mood and emotional well-being. A University of Michigan study showed that nappers were less impulsive and demonstrated a strong tolerance for daily frustrations than those who skipped their siesta time.
As you can see, the benefits of Siesta Sleep are pretty hard to ignore. If you’re looking for a way to improve your productivity, creativity, and physical health—not to mention your emotional well-being—Siesta Sleep might just be the answer.
Siesta sleep can:
- Improve cognitive function
- Boost creativity
- Lower your risk of coronary mortality
- Increase tolerance for daily frustrations
- Improve mood and emotional well-being
Risks of the Siesta Sleep Schedule
While pro-nappers love to paint a daytime snooze as the solution to all of life’s problems, napping isn’t for everyone. Some people can’t make it through the day without their afternoon power nap, and others find that Siesta Sleep makes them feel groggy and disoriented.
More research needs to be done to determine who benefits the most from Siesta Sleep and who might be better off sticking to a monophasic sleep schedule. However, there are a few potential risks associated with Siesta Sleep that you should keep in mind before making the switch. The biggest one being that it can disrupt your bedtime.
Naps longer than 20 minutes can cause sleep inertia, which is the feeling of grogginess and disorientation you experience when you wake up from a deep sleep. This can make it difficult to fall asleep at night, disrupting your natural sleep cycle. Long daytime naps—lasting longer than 60 minutes—were also found to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
While there are some potential risks associated with Siesta Sleep, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. The best way to figure out if napping is right for you is to experiment and see how you feel.
Siesta Sleep may:
- Disrupt night-time sleep
- Cause sleep inertia
- Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease
Adapting to the Siesta Sleep Schedule
Want to give Siesta Sleep a try? Here are a few tips to help you make the switch:
- Start small. If you’re not used to napping, start with short 10-minute power naps. You can gradually increase the length as you get more comfortable, just don’t sleep longer than 20-30 minutes.
- Schedule it in. Just like you would with any other appointment, set aside time in your day for a nap. This will help you stick to a regular napping schedule and avoid oversleeping.
- Find a comfortable place to sleep. Comfort is key. Find a place to nap that’s dark, quiet, and cool—this will help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep. Eye masks and noise-canceling headphones can help create a more restful environment.
- Make sure to get at least seven hours of total sleep a day. Siesta Sleep is only effective if you’re getting enough sleep at night. Otherwise, you might find yourself feeling more tired than before.
It’ll take some trial and error to find your napping sweet spot, but consistent Siesta Sleep can offer some benefits. Give it a try and see how you feel—you might just be surprised at the difference a nap can make.
Siesta Sleep is a popular sleep schedule that involves taking a nap in the afternoon. It isn’t for everyone, but if you’re struggling to make it through the day without a nap, it might be worth giving it a try. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be napping like a pro in no time.
Just let your doctor know if you experience any new symptoms or adverse effects.
Abrams A, et al. (2017). 9 Sleep Habits From Around the World. https://time.com/4713813/sleep-habits-napping-siesta/
Ekirch AR. (2016). Segmented Sleep in Preindustrial Societies. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/39/3/715/2454050?login=false
Goldschmied J, et al. (2015). Napping to modulate frustration and impulsivity: A pilot study. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886915003943
Hirshkowitz M. et al. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary [Abstract]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/
Kain D. (2009) Let Me Sleep on It: Creative Problem Solving Enhanced by REM Sleep. https://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/archive/newsrel/health/06-09Mednick.asp
Trotti LM. (2017). Waking up is the hardest thing I do all day: Sleep inertia and sleep drunkenness. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5337178/
Wehr T. (1992). In short photoperiods, human sleep is biphasic [Abstract]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10607034/
Yamada T, et al. (2015). Daytime Napping and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality: A Prospective Study and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4667384/
Zaregarizi M, et al. (2007). Acute changes in cardiovascular function during the onset period of daytime sleep: comparison to lying awake and standing. https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00474.2007
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