Huberman & Walker: Optimal Sleep for Health & Performance

How to Structure Your Sleep for Optimal Health and Performance

Huberman and Walker discuss how to structure your sleep for optimal health and performance. They cover monophasic sleep schedules, where you sleep in one bout at night, and polyphasic sleep schedules, where you sleep in two or more bouts.

Naps are also discussed, including how to nap, how long your nap should be, and whether or not they’re good for you. This varies according to the individual, and your needs for sleep and naps change across your lifespan.

Body position during sleep is critical for ensuring that the sleep you get is optimally restorative. The episode is filled with both the science of sleep and practical tools you can use to improve your sleep.

The Different Types of Sleep: Monophasic, Biphasic, and Polyphasic

Walker discusses the different types of sleep patterns people can engage in: monophasic, biphasic, and polyphasic sleep.

Monophasic sleep involves having a single bout of sleep within a 24-hour period, while biphasic sleep involves having two bouts of sleep, either split evenly during the night or with a longer period at night and a shorter nap in the afternoon.

Polyphasic sleep, commonly seen in infants, involves having multiple bouts of sleep within a 24-hour period. The term polyphasic sleep has also been used in the biohacker movement, which Huberman and Walker may discuss later in the conversation.

The way people sleep in terms of these different phases changes throughout the lifespan, and understanding these patterns can provide insights into how individuals should approach their sleep habits.

Sleep Stages Across the Lifespan

In the first year of life, infants sleep in a polyphasic pattern, waking and sleeping every 2 hours. This pattern is driven by their need to feed frequently and the lack of a fully developed circadian rhythm. By age two or three, sleep begins to consolidate more into the night, with a few naps during the day, known as a biphasic sleep pattern.

Most kindergartens around the world have a designated nap time, and teachers note that children who miss this nap can become emotional and difficult to manage. By age five or six, children typically shift to a monophasic sleep pattern, sleeping for long periods at night and staying awake during the day. This pattern generally continues throughout adulthood and into old age.

In utero, fetuses are primarily in a sleep-like state resembling REM sleep. However, the muscle paralysis that typically accompanies REM sleep in adults has not yet developed, which may explain the kicks and movements felt by the mother. In the first six months of life, infants sleep between 14 to 17 hours a day, which is comparable to some of the longest-sleeping animals, such as the little brown bat.

Here is a short H2 title for the section: The Changing Stages of Sleep From Infancy to Adulthood

Walker explains that infants spend about 50% of their sleep time in REM sleep, compared to only 20% for adults. REM sleep acts as an “electrical fertilizer” to stimulate the growth of brain connections during early development. Depriving animals of REM sleep can stunt their brain development and lead to abnormal social behavior.

As infants grow from six months to 18 months, total sleep time and REM sleep decrease, while non-REM sleep increases. There is a peak in stage two non-REM sleep, which is associated with sleep spindles that play a role in improving motor skill learning. This coincides with the time when infants start to coordinate their limbs and begin walking.

By age five or six, the ratio of non-REM to REM sleep stabilizes to about 80% non-REM and 20% REM, which remains throughout the lifespan, provided one is getting sufficient total sleep at the right times. However, there is some debate about whether the way we sleep in modern times aligns with how we were designed to sleep.

The Many Phases of Sleep: Monophasic, Biphasic, Polyphasic, and Naps

Walker and Huberman discuss the different phases of sleep, including monophasic, biphasic, and polyphasic sleep, as well as the role of naps and caffeine.

They emphasize the importance of these topics at the conceptual, mechanistic, and practical levels, providing actionable tools for listeners to apply.

Huberman reminds the audience about the previous episodes in the series and expresses excitement for the upcoming fourth installment, which will focus on the relationship between sleep, memory, and creativity.

He appreciates Walker’s insights on the developmental shifts that occur with sleep, addressing common questions about sleep in various age groups.

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