Everyone we all know, or at least everyone that I know, loves to sleep. I mean, most people just can’t get enough sleep. Aside from the 8 hours a night we are all advised that we should get, we are constantly trying to squeeze in a nap here and there.
The sleep cycle of Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla will probably shock you. This just seems unreal.
Being sleep deprived for a day is not good. Just remember the last time you didn’t get enough sleep and how you felt. Probably lazy, sleepy, eat more, drive bad and your brain probably could barely function.
Mid-day naps are not something we invented. For people in the pre-Industrial age, it was very common to break up their night sleep in two segments. They would sleep, wake up, do chores, and then go back at it for some more sleep.
According to some legends, Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla took this a bit further than the pre-Industrial workers.
Allegedly, they both stuck to a very difficult sleep schedule. They practiced the most intense example of polyphasic sleeping, which means sleeping more than three times a day. The routine of their choice was The Uberman cycle.
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The Uberman Cycle
The Uberman cycle is a sleep schedule consisting entirely of 20 minute naps, spaced equidistant throughout the day. In its traditional form, Uberman is 6 equidistant naps throughout each day.
There is nothing known about the long term health effects of being an Uberman, although there have been people who sustained the schedule for as long as a year with no serious health issues.
Apparantly, da Vinci had a unique sleep cycle. “He would sleep 15 minutes out of every four hours, for a daily total of only 1.5 hours of sleep. Therefore, it appears he was able to gain an extra six productive hours a day. By following this unique regimen, he ‘gained’ an additional 20 years of productivity during his 67 years of life.” says Claudio Stampi in his book “Why we nap“.
Nikola Tesla had a bit different sleep schedule. He never slept for more than two hours in any given 24-hour period, which sounds crazy. Some people connect this to the reason why he had a mental breakdown at the age of 25. The Smithsonian Magazine reported the following: “Professors at the university warned Tesla’s father that the young scholar’s working and sleeping habits were killing him“.
A study published in Work & Stress in 1989 found that polyphasic sleep strategies improve prolonged sustained performance. So, not only do you have more time to do what you have to do, you’ll maybe even get better results when you do it.
That is probably the reason why people would submit themselves to odd sleeping hours and shortened napping shifts; more time in the day means more time to be productive.
I think we can be okay with all those 20 minute naps throughout the day, as long as we get those 8 hours throughout the night as well.