Sleep is for most of us a holy and critical night ritual and if we don’t get enough sleep we might feel tired for no reason for the next few days. Still, some consider sleep to be a waste of time. Even if this is you, trust me it won’t last for too long. Sooner or later, you will realize the importance of sleep. Still, someone like Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla would disagree. Allegedly, two genius minds who lived centuries apart followed the Uberman Sleeping Cycle, a sleep schedule that was exhausting and so aggressive that we would not recommend it to anyone.
In the 21st century, there is nothing controversial when you say that sleep matters. We know that lack of sleep will make you eat more, you will drive like a drunken fool if you don’t get enough sleep. We know that lack of sleep has an impact on our learning abilities and it can literally eat your brain.
Today, we even have trendy millennial workspaces where people can take a nap in the afternoons or mid-day. That’s a new concept and not every working environment would be excited to have their employees sleeping at work. That’s now but in the pre-industrial age, things were different. In those days, people would break up their nights into two sleeping segments: first and second sleep. Some of the greatest minds in history took this sleeping cycle one step further.
Two great examples according to some historians are: Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla. Hitting a pillow twice a day doesn’t sound like a terrible idea but what Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla did is not something that everyone could (and should) follow. They followed what’s known as the Uberman Sleeping Cycle which consists of taking six naps in 24 hours where each cycle lasts only 20 minutes. Claudio Stampi wrote the book “Why We Nap,” in 1992, where he said about Leonardo da Vinci’s sleeping habits:
“One of his secrets, or so it has been claimed, was a unique sleep formula: 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.”
While Tesla allegedly never slept for more than two hours in a 24 hours period. Again, we would not suggest for anyone to even try to mimic this. Some believe that this sleeping pattern is something that led him to mental breakdown at the age of 25. According to reports from the Smithsonian magazine:
“Professors at the university warned Tesla’s father that the young scholar’s working and sleeping habits were killing him.”
The main reason why people would have these crazy sleeping patterns would be to increase productivity. A study from 1989 which was published in Work & Stress magazine found that those who practice polyphasic sleep can improve their performance, meaning they not only had more hours in a day but their performance was better. Still, it’s a study from 30 years ago and we don’t recommend anyone to sleep only a few hours a day on a few occasions.
Sleep is crucial for our health and our mental health as well. Many of us could not even afford to sleep every two or three hours for 15 minutes or so. Our cycle matches our lifestyle. Today, if you want to be productive and feel rested in the morning, you should hit the sheets early and forget about the snooze option on your phone.
Stay rested and stay healthy.