Twice to Sleep

Our standard 8-hour sleep schedule has not always been so standard, though it may be the best option.


digital art by Julia Poppa

More and more people have shown an interest in biphasic sleeping due to the unique conditions of the pandemic.

To sleep, or not to sleep and randomly decide to test out a new sleep schedule — that is the question. Well, maybe not the question, but it’s the question I’ll be answering over the next week. 

What possible “new” sleep schedule could there be? This “new” sleep schedule I’ll be testing out isn’t actually all that new to begin with. 

Before industrialization, when people were forced to fit their lives around a money-driven societal schedule, humans actually slept in two four hour chunks during the day. In 2001, historian Roger Ekirc  published 16 years worth of research, uncovering overwhelming historical evidence that it is our nature as humans to sleep twice a day, not once. He later went on to publish a book titled At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, in which he explores our past relationships with sleep, discovering that segmented sleeping can be seen in Homer’s Odyssey to modern day Nigerian tribes. 

This once-not-so-unconventional sleeping pattern is now referred to by several names, most commonly biphasic sleeping

I’m not just interested in trying out this new sleep pattern for “kicks” or simply because of its various placements in history, but biphasic sleeping is rumored to have some appealing health and productivity benefits as well. Many people who operate their daily lives with a biphasic sleep schedule have said it improves productivity, wakefulness, alertness, and cognitive function. 

However, other than history and word of mouth, there currently is very little to scientifically support these claims. Nonetheless, it’s something I’ve been interested in trying, and I figured it would be a great opportunity to document my experience and share it with anyone who might be interested.  

Julia Poppa

I’d like to note that among factors that contribute to my ability to try out this new sleep schedule — such as the pandemic– I also have academic accommodations this year that allow me to take most of my classes online, save for the first half of the day. I know a lot of students don’t have schedules conducive to the pattern of biphasic sleeping that I tested out, but I’m going to use the opportunity that I have to share my experiences with this somewhat unusual schedule. It’s also important to remember that everyone’s body operates differently, and what does or doesn’t work for me might not work out in the same way for you.

Below are the notes I took as I undertook my experiment in biphasic sleep:


Tonight I’m starting my week-long trial of biphasic sleeping. Not much will be different for me tonight from every other night, except for the fact that I’ll be setting my alarms for 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning. 


My alarms did not go off this morning. It’s either that, or I slept through them. Frankly, it could be either one, and it wouldn’t make a difference. I woke up at about 7:00 this morning, which isn’t too far off from my goal, so I won’t call it a total failure. I plan on getting some work done this morning and heading back to bed around 11:30 for another 4 hour chunk of sleep, but if I’m being honest, I would much rather just go back to bed. 


I did not hear my alarms go off this morning again, but my body woke me up around 6:30 anyway. I wasn’t feeling great today, and all I wanted to do was go back to bed and keep sleeping, hopefully to make myself feel better, but for the sake of this experiment I pushed through and waited until 11:30 to go back to bed. I slept way longer than planned for my second chunk of sleep today, but I expected that much. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. Maybe my alarms will finally go off.


My alarms did go off this morning, but to be honest, I still don’t feel very well. I’m not entirely sure if that’s due to changing my entire sleep schedule, but regardless, I’m sure it doesn’t help. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll start getting used to it, but I also don’t know if one week is a long enough timeline for my body to truly adjust. Hopefully it is, I still have really high hopes for this experiment. Anyway, it’s 11:00 right now, and I don’t have the energy to stay up for another half an hour, so I’ll be heading back to bed. 


Thankfully, I’m back to in-person school on Thursdays and Fridays, so the anxiety of having to go kept me awake a little longer than I anticipated, and woke me up just before my alarms went off. We can all just pretend that’s my body adjusting to this somewhat ridiculous sleep schedule. Safe to say, though — as it usually is — I would much rather be at home and in bed right now. 


I think the sleep schedule is seriously messing me up. I don’t think a week is long enough to determine whether or not it’s something worth implementing in my day-to-day life, especially with school being as hectic as it is right now. The inconsistency of the school schedule right now, combined with this experiment, has put my body through the wringer. 0/10 do not recommend it. 

Saturday and Sunday

I’m going to be completely honest, I wasn’t as fantastic about continuing the sleep schedule through the weekend. My body did seem to adjust to expecting the sleep schedule, though — I woke up around 6am this weekend, when normally I wouldn’t be up until 2am, but I gave in and went back to bed for a bit — why not? It’s the weekend, and when I woke up it was 11am, which is when I would have been going to bed if I didn’t despise this sleep schedule so much. 

Final notes

In theory, biphasic sleep could work. Maybe if I had tried it a different week, over the summer… anything else — maybe it would have been a good fit for me. I do think my body was starting to adjust to the schedule, but I really don’t want to put my body through another week of that, especially if it makes me feel this awful. Perhaps I’ll take another crack at it once things settle down a bit, or maybe I’ll leave this whole dumpster fire of a week for this article, its readers, and nothing more. 

I’m generally prone to migraines, nausea, and some pretty horrible body aches from time to time — all things I’ve been able to handle fairly well for quite a while, but all of those issues were amplified this week. Whether that was solely because of the sleep schedule or not, I’ll never know, but it certainly hasn’t helped. 

On top of only sleeping for four hours at a time, the anxiety of knowing I needed to be up in just a few hours, or that my once-precious nighttime sleep was only going to be about as long as my usual “naps” made it even harder to fall asleep. I often found myself struggling with whether or not I should just suck it up and fully commit to the experiment and pull consecutive all nighters — save for that sweet four hours in the middle of the day — for nearly a week straight, or protect my sanity and physical health and sleep longer than I was supposed to. 

I feel like it’s also important to recognize the aspect of capitalizing on this experience and creating content about a part of my life that is usually quite personal. Each time I woke up or went to bed, I felt obligated to share that part of my life with the world because of the nature of this experiment. Prior to this week, I used to relish in that oh-so-sweet time that I had to myself to just unwind, read a book, and relax before going to bed, and upon waking up I had time to slowly get myself prepared for the day. But this week, filming my experience and concerning myself with documenting it felt so much like a chore that I began to dread anything related to sleep at all. Putting such private parts of your life out into the world is easy for some, but I’m no influencer, and having moments to myself that are all my own is something very important to me. Unfortunately, this week felt like a breach against the boundaries I’ve set for myself, even if I was the one who initially proposed this experiment and was excited to try it out. 

All in all, I respect the people who can operate on a biphasic sleep schedule, but it just isn’t for me. I don’t recommend it for anyone who has pre-existing troubles with sleep or anxiety because it could make matters much worse. Safe to say, I will be catching up on sleep for weeks to come.