Sleep Pattern Abnormality: Unproductive, Lazy and Unenergetic a Social Bias
By Yen Hyoung Cho
Looking through the morning classrooms of Universities, there are generally two types of students. Those who seem to arrive ahead of time and are always ready to start an early day, and those that are always either late or falling asleep during the lectures. It is all too easy to label the differences between the two types of people as a “morning bird” or a “night owl”, and judge the latter as an abnormal lifestyle because of social standards. Because of the fact that the day starts early for many people, late night sleepers always seem sleep deprived and lacking in concentration when subjected to early morning routines. Most people would overlook the situation as having a bad sleeping habit but never consider that perhaps it is a chosen lifestyle that allows them to be most efficient during their own waking hours.
As a “night owl” myself, I have commonly been referred to, or rather falsely diagnosed by my peers as: an insomniac, being lazy, having a bad biological rhythm or lacking an internal clock. It is true that I sleep at the most ungodly hours of dawn and need a scheduled nap during the afternoon to make up for my lack of sleep, but this is a choice of lifestyle I have continued since middle school that has never failed me since. This routine, as what most people would refer to as being irregular, is actually a known form of sleep cycle called the “Biphasic sleep pattern”— a common sleeping pattern many nocturnal people adopt to fit into the early waking society we live in today.
The most widely known form of sleeping pattern is the Monophasic sleep, where a person sleeps an average of 8 hours a day. This pattern allows a person to stay awake throughout the day and maintain an early sleeping cycle according to the rising and setting of the sun. It is the form that is more commonly recognized amongst the public, and it is the time frame our lives rotate around.
A Biphasic sleeper, however, chooses to sleep twice a day; once a regular sleep (around 5 hours) and the other a power nap (usually 90 minutes). This system has been proven to work because it gives the body time to complete a full REM cycle, so when it is time to wake up the person would feel naturally awake and refreshed. Although it is not considered all that common in many areas, some countries such as Spain and many Latin American countries practice this form of life cycle to maximize productivity in a person.
Just like there are benefits for Monophasic sleep, Biphasic sleep is not without its advantages. Monophasic people need an average of 8 hours to stay functional, and even the slightest change in their sleeping hours can be the cause of fatigue and unproductivity during the course of the day. But for the Biphasic sleepers, not only is sleep time reduced to 6.5 hours a day, but it also becomes flexible as long as the scheduled nap is kept at constant intervals. Also, allowing the brain to relax for even an hour or so helps to organize thoughts and produce more energy during the day with the small disadvantage of not being able to fall asleep early.
Some comment that the Biphasic sleep pattern is a luxury only University students with flexible schedules can have. But, there exists one more sleep pattern known as the Polyphasic sleep pattern. Dymaxion sleep, which is the most recommended out of all the existing Polyphasic sleep patterns requires a 3.5 hour major sleep and three powernaps throughout the day; a more suited lifestyle for the busy businessmen who can afford a few minutes of shut-eyes on their office desk.
Many societies are designed around Monophasic sleep patterns and as a result it is easier for Monophasic sleepers to adapt to work and socializing conditions. But, people who have chosen to adopt the Biphasic form of sleep should not be judged for their lifestyle selection. After all, the reason for choice remains the same for both sleep cycles— to optimize performance during their respective waking hours.
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