No, Extreme Power Napping Doesn’t Really Cut It

Power napping doesn't work if you don't sleep.

If you think you can sleep for five hours a night, relying on power napping to keep you smart, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you’re totally dreaming.

Historical sleep

You’ve probably heard all about the totally ancient but now trendy sleep schedule that humans who lived before us maintained.

People used to engage in a “first sleep,” also known as “beauty sleep” or “deep sleep,” when the sun went down. Then, they’d wake up around midnight and live like fully functioning people for about three hours; around 3 a.m., they’d call it a night and have a second sleep until the sun came up.

You can imagine the interest modern humans have in this schedule, especially considering that so many of us are getting less and less shut-eye these busy days. In fact, some people have amended that ancient sleep schedule even further into a sleep pattern that can best be described as extreme power napping.

When naps don’t cut it

One of the more prolific power nappers out there was Buckminster Fuller, an American architect. He followed the relatively flexible “Dymaxion sleep schedule” for a few years. During this period, “he would work for several hours, nap briefly, then work again, around the clock,” The Atlantic reports.

“He marveled at his productivity within a 22-hour daily waking life.”

Well, leave it to modern humans to take that schedule to the very edge; people have since created the “Uberman schedule.”

The Uberman allows for twenty-minute naps every four hours. The lame “Everyman schedule”—probably similar to the schedule you keep—allows for core sleep with naps in between.

Well, sorry Ubermans—science has proven that that sleep schedule is quite terrible.

Keeping a bare-minimum sleep schedule can:

– Suppress the release of a growth hormone.

– Kill cognitive functioning. “Sleep is the most powerful cognitive enhancer we know of, and without it people are much more impaired than they realize,” The Atlantic reports.

“Just as a drinker emerging from the bar is not the best judge of his ability to drive, many of society’s four-hour sleepers should not be operating heavy machinery.”

But worry not, kind of funky sleepers. You can try a different sleep schedule as long as you get enough sleep.

“That’s not to say that sleeping in blocks is unhealthy,” The Atlantic adds.

“Following the biphasic (two-block) pattern of our ancestors is a fine idea if one can fit a day’s aspirations into ten daytime hours and a midnight anti-nap. Likewise, a siesta in the early afternoon fits with a natural dip in our body’s arousal levels. As long as there are long stretches where sleep cycles can proceed undisturbed, the brain will awaken ready to learn again.”

Whew.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.