So I’m unhappy with my sleep patterns and already suspected it would feel more natural to have a 26-28 hour day-night rhythm (which would make me a Non-24 guy). Then a friend pointed me to the Da Vinci sleep schedule instead. Reading back and forth on the Internet, I found euphoric posts (see comment 13 on this one 😀 ) but also a ton of failed attempts and cautious resummées (here, here, here, here). And I found no well-documented case of any person doing the Uberman (that is, Da Vinci’s 6 x 20 min) sleep pattern permanently.
So I thought, well maybe the Uberman thing is not best for me, as I doubt I will ever have the motivation to keep that strict schedule (lack of bedtime discipline is a major ingredient for Non-24 people, I suspect – so I’m one of the last ones to try Uberman).
Great sources for my and your further learning and inspiration:
And these are my sleep experiments and their outcome:
(1) Just-in-Time Sleep with REM alarm clock, for rhythm finding
I bought ElectricSleep for my Android phone, which seemed like the best sleep-phase sensitive alarm clock app to me (there are alternatives and an article on the theoretic basics, actigraphy). I intend to go to bed whenever I’m tired enough, with no need to feel bad if I miss a certain bedtime – there is no fixed one any more, no pre-fixed rhythm at all. The only difference to Non-24 is that I want to sleep for only one REM phase and want to wake up at the end of the next one. For that, I set the alarm clock to a window of +1.5 – 2.5 hours, and it will use that window to wake me during light sleep (i.e. REM sleep).
The advantage is that, without a monolithic block of sleep, atypical sleep patterns are more compatible with society.
Note however, that this initial experiment is just to find out a “natural” 24-hour polyphasic sleep rhythm for me. Because in the long term, a sleep rhythm not aligned to nature’s day-and-night cycle can be hazardous by causing cancer. This seems associated to the suppression of melatonin production during disruptions of the circadian rhythm. As it was studied among nurses working night-shifts, it seems that the “disruption” refers to the transition periods at the start and end of a night-shift period, while within it and within a day-shift period, the circadian rhythm would function properly and melatonin production would work normally [source]. The contributing scientists compares animal experiments where animals’ circadian rhythms were disrupted by exposing them to light at night [source]; so it seems that melatonin production is blocked by exposition to light [confirmation]. However, right within a night shift people would have a rhythm where they are only exposed to light for a part of the day (darkening the room for sleeping during the day), so the circadian disruptions would be indeed the “hazardous” times, confirming my above supposition.
However, I will have to look that up more exactly in the original source. But if this assumption turns out true, a circadian rhythm of any kind should not be carcinogenous if it is indeed a rhythm (maybe even a non-24 rhythm, using artificial lights, or a polyphasic sleep rhythm). It is explicitly said that “[a] number of studies have concluded that a short period of sleep during the day, a power-nap, does not have any measurable effect on normal circadian rhythms, but can decrease stress and improve productivity.” [source]. Only not having a rhythm at all in sleep/wake times would equal to constant disruptions of having a rhythm and therefore to potentially increased risk for cancer, and potentially other risks. And maybe a polyphasic sleep technique without one “main” block of sleep might have adverse effects on the circadian rhythm / melatonin production [TODO].
(2) My natural polyphasic sleep pattern?
I woul be glad if it turns out from the last experiment that the napping technique of the Italian Air Force is my natural sleep pattern, maybe a bit modified to make one block of sleep the main one (as a precaution against disturbing melatonin production):
04:00 – 08:00 main sleep
08:00 – 18:00 main wake time
18:00 – 19:30 sleep
19:30 – 23:00 wake
23:00 – 0:30 sleep
0:30 – 04:00 wake