Biphasic Sleep Patterns

For good mental health, thou shall tackle thy bedtime.

What is biphasic sleep?

Biphasic sleep refers to portioning a day to include two segments of sleep instead of one. Most folks I know only do one.

Why choose biphasic sleep?

For starters, without going into too much detail, I can say that I am entering into an incredibly stress-heavy period of life at the moment. Experiencing symptoms of general “blah” feeling, perhaps even a little depression, have prompted me to pay some extra attention to my current state of mental health.

Biphasic sleep is a term I encountered when researching the biopsychology and behavioral science of leisure, learning, and brain health. I do plan to make my discoveries a part of my Masters program; but in the meantime, I could certainly see the benefit for my personal life first.

Biphasic sleep is a sleep pattern that was common to most people before the Industrial age. Folks who did not have electric lights in the home (aka most everyone) followed the patterns of the sun for their day-to-day activities. This meant they would naturally go to bed when the sun went down, and would also naturally wake with the dawn, without the use of alarms or artificial light to help them get going.

In other words, for thousands of years, humans went to sleep this way. It’s only in the past sneeze of the human timeline that people have been going to bed when they say so, forcing themselves to wake by literally surprising themselves with blaring alarms and lights.

From what I’ve read, there would also be naturally-occurring times of wakefulness during the night. How wonderful this information would be to an “insomniac”–to know that may be it’s actually ok, and even good, to wake up in the middle of the night?! People used to use this time to write, meditate, pray, spend time being intimate with their spouses, reading if they were educated, or simply looking out at the stars. And since children and teens naturally need more sleep and would likely sleep through the whole night, the adults experiencing these adult sleep patterns had natural times of quiet and parental “downtime” built into each and every day.

Don’t get me wrong; I never thought biphasic sleep would be a cure-all for all my problems. Still, when endeavoring for health, wellness, and healing, it never hurts to stack the deck in our favor, right? So I figured I would give it a try.

Trying it for a week

I wanted to know if my life would improve in these areas:

  • Sleeping through the night
  • Enough energy for daily demands
  • Extra energy for working out and/or tackling projects
  • Relief from depression-like symptoms
  • Appetite (not over- or under-eating)
  • Naturally-occurring pattern of two phases of sleep per day
  • Peaceful time of wakefulness during the night where I could spend time in prayer and meditation without distraction
  • Productivity; in other words, the amount of work I am able to accomplish every day
  • Memory; the amount of information I am able to retain
  • Synthesis; the quality of my ability to think about what I am learning in school, and to synthesize ideas and discussions from it

I’ll definitely post a follow-up as I continue to learn about this pattern of sleep. It definitely feels counter-cultural, which is so interesting since this used to the the normal way people ran their lives. Maybe there are important things we can learn from the past!

Until next time!



Margaret Nelson is the founder and contributor to Maggie O’the Valley, and author of THE TEN MINUTE QUIT, now available on Amazon!

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