Recently I decided to try changing my sleeping pattern from the standard 8-ish hours a night to a biphasic sleep cycle. I was intrigued by a news article that described people - in times past - sleeping twice every night. Taking a nap is nothing new, but this article mentioned two distinct and prolonged periods of sleep specifically at night.
Previously, we may not have naturally slept for 8 hours every night. Indeed, the lifestyle changed over time and the body may have adapted to 'recover' in a different way: with one long period of sleep. Either way, I am open to putting into practice ideas from our past. I believe that people used to be a lot more in touch with 'natural' patterns of living.
So last week I started sleeping around 5 hours at night and then another 2-3 hours in the afternoon. The first two days were understandably tough, considering I'm used to a full night's sleep. I got into it though after the third day. The early morning tiredness became almost pleasant, like the subtle underlying tension gave me more focus. Ironically, I even felt a bit more energetic.
After a week of doing this, however, it became harder to keep up. The early tiredness was far less pleasant and I needed more sleep in the afternoon. During the last day my nose started running a bit. It could of course be part of the body's adjustment process. Nevertheless, something like this requires balance and attention, especially if most of the time spent awake is taken up by a draining activity (in my case: programming).
So for now I'm taking a break from the biphasic sleep cycle and letting my body recover. I will try again within a few days, but I will start off less extreme this time. Something like 6-7 hours at night, with another hour or two in the afternoon. Forcing a different sleeping cycle after being used to a standard one your entire life isn't an easy thing to do. I will also try the pattern mentioned in the news article: two separate sleeps per night.
Granted, this sort experimentation is not for everyone. It certainly clashes with a job that requires you to go to an office every day. I have some flexibility in my work, so I am able to experiment. It's worth trying out new (or in this case old) things and seeing what you are capable of.