Four Benefits (and Three Drawbacks) of Biphasic Sleep (Sleeping in Two Separate Cycles)

Biphasic sleep is characterized by sleeping in two separate shifts instead of one long uninterrupted hunk of time.


The standard advice for sleeping a certain amount of hours per night is to go to sleep before peak darkness around 10 p.m. and to sleep at least eight hours, allowing your body to go through all five main stages of sleep.

For millions of people, such advice is short-sighted and doesn’t take into account the various stages of our lives, emotions, lifestyles and mindsets.

The intersection of sleep idealism and sleep realism is where alternate sleep styles like Bisphasic sleep strategies come into play.

How long has Biphasic sleep been recognized by medical professionals, and what benefits (and drawbacks) does it provide? Let’s investigate further.


What is Biphasic Sleep and How Can It Help?

Described as a sleep pattern during which a person sleeps in two separate ‘shifts’ per day, biphasic sleep is for people who simply don’t have have the attention span or concentration to sleep in one large chunk of time alone.

Biphasic sleep differs from the scientific consensus of how a person should recharge their batteries overnight, but there are people who swear by its effectiveness.

According to the Sleep Foundation, the two sleep periods of Biphasic sleep typically include a longer nighttime sleep (between 3 to 6 hours) and a shorter nap.

This allows for increased flexibility (Benefit #2) of lifestyle and sleep schedule allowing a person to take advantage of peak physical, mental and creative states at the times that are most convenient to them.

Those who utilize Biphasic sleep state that it can help to increase productivity and adaptability (Benefit #2). 

According to Dr. Michael Breus, aka ‘The Sleep Doctor,’ Biphasic sleep may help to address insomnia (Benefit #3). 

Biphasic sleep can also help a person to remember their dreams (Benefit #4), which can pay long-term dividends in the form of a healthier, more adjusted human being who is able to make sense of their deepest, innermost feelings and visual or emotional instincts.

Most people instinctively know that the way each individual human being sleeps varies wildly from one to the next. Some people fall asleep suddenly and don’t recall their dreams. Others take 30 minutes to three hours or more and remember their dreams from the beginning of the dream to the end of the dream.

Others are somewhere in the middle.

By embracing unique sleep constructs like Biphasic sleep and even its cousin, Polyphasic sleep (which breaks the sleep process down to multiple phases throughout the day and nighttime cycles), a person can find the right sleep schedule that works for them without the added pressure of having to conform to an allegedly ‘ideal’ sleep paradigm.

More information can be found in the New York Times best-seller ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker, during which he makes a strong case for Biphasic sleep from a historical and scientific perspective.



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Potential Drawbacks to Biphasic Sleep 

Biphasic sleep is typically practiced by people who have no choice but to employ different techniques to cope with their unusual work or life schedules.

Examples of those who may use it often include university students, especially those in Masters degree programs, military personnel, security guards, doctors who are on call 24/7 including emergency surgeons, emergency room operators and cardiovascular specialists, and police officers or stakeout officers.

Some of the drawbacks these and other groups of people may experience during biphasic sleep include the following:

-A confused, groggy feeling upon waking: 

Those who engage in Biphasic or Polyphasic sleep might not complete all of their sleep cycles since each one takes a considerable amount of time and Biphasic and Polyphasic sleepers tend to separate their sleep cycles into different time periods that are shorter than the recommended eight consecutive hours.

-Slower reaction times during the day: 

This is something that we’ve all felt while going about our day-to-day lives after less than eight hours of sleep. Many people function well on six hours of sleep or less for short periods of time but eventually the lack of long-term sleep catches up to them. This is a well known potential side effect of sleeping in multiple phases.

-Disrupted Circadian Rhythm: 

A human being’s circadian rhythm is designed to nudge us toward sleeping immediately after the onset of darkness and to wake up with the sun.

Following the rhythms of nature allows us to receive adequate sunlight exposure during waking hours and adequate darkness during resting hours.

If we choose to sleep at odd hours such as early in the am (between 1 to 4 am for example) or during the afternoon we are missing out on the important qualities of natural light cycles that enable balanced and consistent sleeping patterns.

Side effects of a disrupted or stunted circadian rhythm include decreased alertness, reaction time, excessive sleepiness during the daytime and other odd hours, memory problems and trouble making decisions. We become less assertive and feel as though the day is running us rather than the other way around.


Biphasic Sleeping is Not For Everybody, But It Could Help 

Whether Biphasic or Polyphasic sleeping works for you depends on your individual needs and experiences with sleep and how you react personally to sleeping at different times or in different phases.

Taking a nap during the day is also classified as Biphasic sleep and can be quite helpful as shown in the short experimental video below.

Many people report that Biphasic sleeping works for them as it has been practiced by humans for centuries. The prevailing opinion is that it is better suited for children whose batteries so to speak tend to deplete quickly and unexpectedly during the day.

One minute they’re running around the living room causing havoc and the next they’re sound asleep on the couch.

Adults are much more in control of their energy expenditures which is just part of the reason why we tend to plan our sleep cycles with our naturally given circadian rhythms.

As always, consult with a health professional if you have any questions as they have tools that can help to measure your sleep and how it may be affecting your overall health on a day-to-day and month-to-month basis.

Thanks for reading as always! 

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About Nick Meyer

Nick Meyer is a journalist who's been published in the Detroit Free Press, Dallas Morning News and several other outlets. He founded AltHealthWORKS in 2012 to showcase extraordinary stories of healing and the power of organic living, stories the mainstream media always seemed to miss. Check out Nick's Amazon best-seller 'Dirt Cheap Organic: 101 Tips For Going Organic on a Budget' by clicking here, as well as its sequel Dirt Cheap Weight Loss.