Can you cheat the sleep system with a smart napping schedule?
David Zach/Getty By Sean O'Neill THINK snoozers are losers? Then why not join the world of the sleep hackers, people who have ditched full nights of shut-eye in favour of microsleeps. Marie Staver is one. She was 19 and worried about fitting in all her college work when she attempted the Uberman sleep schedule (see graphic). For the next 6 months, Staver never slept for more than 20 minutes at a time, napping every 4 hours, totalling just 2 hours sleep a day. It’s one of a number of sleep schedules that promise to maximise our waking hours. But can messing with sleep to such an extreme be a good idea? According to historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, breaking sleep into more than one bout is entirely natural. Pre-industrial civilisations around the world are known to have naturally segmented their sleep into two distinct phases, with an hour or two of “quiet wakefulness” in the middle of the night, he says. We’ve done away with this practice, but by this logic, people who experience middle-of-the-night insomnia simply have the natural urge to wake. That idea was challenged last year when Jerome Siegel at the University of California, Los Angeles, investigated how humans might have slept in the pre-industrial era. His team visited three tribes of hunter-gatherers in the African and South American tropics. Much like the rest of us,