The double day alternative sleeping schedule

Looking at alternative sleep schedules like this: It strikes me that all of them seem to rely on having more, shorter sleeping periods which leads me to wonder if the opposite, fewer longer sleeping periods, has been tried. Since sleep is not homogenous and contains phases which vary in proportion according to which 90-minute cycle you’re at (, this could make a difference.

The most convenient longer sleeping schedule I can think of is to go 36 hours awake and 12 hours asleep. You would be getting both the deepest Stage 4 sleep and long REM sleep. It could even be compatible with a 9-to-5 job.

Surely there must be an eccentric somewhere who’s tried it for a few weeks or months? Is there any data or even anecdotes on this? Would REM sleep keep getting ever longer in the cycles beyond the 5th one?

Preferably, we would distinguish between people feeling badly because a particular habit is bad vs feeling badly because they’re disrupting old habits or demanding more of their body than it’s used to. A lot of the people who do it might be doing it because they’re in desperate circumstances which may also muddy the waters.

If you could control lighting, potentially it might work. But the human body adapts to a 24 hour cycle on the basis of the eyes’ exposure to blue light and the presence of light on the skin. Various hormones are released, based on the 24 hour clock and the time of day that the body thinks it is, to put the body into various stages of wakefulness and sleep. Sleeping and waking in opposition to that, I can attest, just makes you permanently tired. The body doesn’t adapt. If you move to a different timezone, the body adapts on the basis of the lighting, but it’s still on a 24 hour schedule. So, while I am unaware of any such test, I feel relatively confident that attempting to extend the schedule without extending the daylight period to match, would fail.

That said, I’ll post a study if I can find one. It seems like a fairly easily tested scenario, so I would expect someone to have done it (with regular lighting conditions).

Like with high color temperature (5000Kelvin+) light bulbs?

When I first started skipping breakfast, it was a bitch, presumably because my hunger-related hormones were used to me eating around 8AM. After a few days, it seems my glands got the messages and shut up.

I’m not confident, but probably. The Wikipedia is suggesting that your body uses light, social interaction, food intake, temperature, etc. as cues. But, in general, light is the primary factor and the rest would follow if you were able to create an environment in which you could live as though the Sun was just a bit slower to go around.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a scientist named Michel Siffre did a lot of underground studies, isolating himself for sometimes months at a time.

In an interview, Siffre had this to say about his experiments:

Thanks for that lead, ECG.

In the same interview*, he mentions that he couldn’t tell the difference between his 24-hour days and his 48-hour days. He also says that getting +10 minutes of wakefulness results in +1 minute of REM sleep and that more REM sleep results in shorter reaction time, a good thing, in the next phase of wakefulness.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but shortly after that, Modafinil was invented in France which is pretty good at keeping people awake, alert and focused. It’s supposed to keep soldiers operational for up to 96 hours which it’s probably best left to extreme circumstances.
From what I’ve read, staying awake for 24 hours is like having a blood alcohol content of 0.1. I suppose it might be possible to cope with that, especially with a little help from high Kelvin light, exercise and the wonders of chemistry. After 36 hours, things start to go downhill but that wouldn’t be a problem with a 48-hour schedule since that’s when you’d be going to bed anyway.
Might there have been some evolutionary advantage to being able to sometimes adopt a 48-hour schedule? You could be both diurnal and nocturnal.
Does melatonin have an opposite hormone? Aside from high Kelvin light, how do you inhibit it?

I’m not a chronobiologist, but I doubt it. That it’s possible at all is probably a simple aspect that, at the end of the day, the human body is just a machine. If you turn a crankshaft on a pulley it goes slower, if you turn it faster it goes faster. That it can go more than one speed is just an aspect of how the mechanism functions.

But, that said, we should expect that the human body is optimized for functioning on a 24 hour schedule. I wouldn’t be surprised if after a few weeks or months of operating (seeming without issue) on a 36 hour day that you wouldn’t start to feel ill or mentally unbalanced. The awake/asleep cycle is a way for the body to sort of “clean itself out”, as I understand it. The longer you’re awake, the more you’re building up various toxins. And while, yes, you’ll have longer to purge them while sleeping longer, that doesn’t mean that it’s good for you to be having them sitting in such large quantities regularly.

Just a hypothesis of course, and it could be that that’s fine, but that something else will slowly crumple, or that everything will be wonderful. But generally it’s a reasonable assumption that using something outside of the factory recommended specifications is likely to cause damage to accrue faster.

I think I’ve researched it and the closest options are things that have a potential to cause epilepsy-like effects, if I recall correctly.

Might I ask what exactly it is that you’re really trying to find out?

At first, I’d read about alternative sleeping schedules on some comedy website and noted that they only seemed to shorten, not lengthen the timeframes which made me curious. I had difficulty finding info about longer schedules so I figured someone here might know something. ECG’s mention of Siffre piqued my interest further. I prefer not to give myself a definite goal when first exploring a topic because it can prematurely cut off interesting avenues. It might be one of those things like base jumping where I’m happy to learn about it second hand.

As we know, it is all about the pacer cell response to periodic zeitgebers.

This paper, [The effects of self-selected light-dark cycles and social constraints on human sleep and circadian timing: a modeling approach](The effects of self-selected light-dark cycles and social constraints on human sleep and circadian timing: a modeling approach), might be interesting to you. I admit I only briefly scanned it. The “zeitgebers” comes from a cite in the paper.

Don’t offhand know of any research but many people that I work with on the night shift do this every week. Some will wake early afternoon on Friday after their normal 6 hours of sleep then go straight through until late Saturday evening. If I did the 2 on 2 off 3 on 12 hour schedule, I’d be doing it twice a week. I do not know for how long, but I know I’d put on even more weight than I do working nights on a more normal 8 hour shift.

I more or less did this when I was in the Navy. Ships don’t have a lot of windows, and I’m a non-smoker so I never had a reason to go to the smoke deck to see the sun or not. Also, looking at the ocean is pretty boring after like the thousandth hour, so no reason to go out at all.

So, when we went underway for extended periods of time I’d end up on a 30 hour awake, 12 hour sleep schedule. 30 was about the max I could do, I was pretty tired near the end there and would go and crash/sleep for the 12 hours.

Doesn’t the Navy set a sleep schedule for sailors? Even if it’s a big enough vessel that you don’t need to hot-bunk (I don’t think anything but subs still does that), don’t they still need you awake for set duty shifts?

Does this mean that they have variable schedule? I.e.: Sometimes they have the usual circadian rhythm and sometimes a bicircadian rhythm? That ought to mess people up.

How did you notice your performance/cognition/emotions changing through the 30 hours?

Did you exercise? Were there blue/high Kelvin lights?

I knew a guy in college who went to a weekly schedule of six 28-hour days for the better part of a quarter. His class schedule worked with it- he basically procrastinated himself into it, then made it official for the rest of the term.

I’ll figure out multi-quote one of these days…

In response to Chronos… when you’re on a ship, there’s really no place to go. In homeport, unless you had duty you quarters every morning. In-port while deployed, we had 12-hour watches so we were basically mustered/had quarters every 12-hours, no real need to wake up for the next one unless they needed you.

Underway, no place to go unless you really like to swim. They’d just send someone down to berthing to check on you, and that’s it. I more or less was able to swing being at morning quarters though most of the time.

It was me and a few others who had the non-normal sleep schedule because we were the “A-Team”. As in, we had the most training and hands-on experience with our equipment suite. Seniority is a double-edge sword here, we didn’t have to do any bitch work, because we had a lot of work.

For the most part, we were pretty solid for the first 24-hours. Depending on the workday and what not and other stressors, that last six hours could be a chore, but not much more than a normal workday, which was 12 hours anyways. If I had the rare watch where I’d be carrying a weapon, I’d cut out early to be sure I was 100% when I was on watch. One of the advantages of that type of schedule is that I’d cycle through with people around to get those things that required them, then a quiet watch with no one to bother us and we’d get all kindsa shit done. Then, we’d crash when everyone else was awake as then berthing was super quiet and I could actually sleep.

We had normal fluorescent lights, I know that in order to have a uniform appearance, the entire ship had switched to the more blue color temperature versus the more warm temperature.

I did not exercise in the gym often, but, despite being in a very technical roll, we had a lot of physical activity. Imagine being an IT guy with a mixture of new and out-dated equipment, in various states of functionality, in a fifteen-story building and equipment on every floor, with no elevator. And some of that stuff was heavy, like four-man lift heavy.

I have been peripherally involved with research looking at the effects of 12 hour shifts, day/night/mid, on sleep, emotions, cognition, and reaction times. I did PVT (Psychomotor Vigilance Testing) on nurses. The nurses tested were mostly working three 12 hour shifts in a row. The day and mid shift nurses had little change from the first of their shifts to the last shift. The night shift nurses had more decline in reaction time. Not all of the night shift nurses had declines. Single nurses with no children at home had the least decline. The nurses also wore Fitbits and kept a sleep log. The single, no children staff were able to transition more gradually to being up in the day on their days off. They were also able to sleep more and later prior to their first night back on shift.

Blurb Abstract

I may be the exception, but if I was told I had to sleep for 12 hours, it wouldn’t work at all. After 4 hours max, I would be staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, for the next 2-3 hours. Which is why I often get out of bed in the middle of the night, like right now, and work for a few hours. If I’m going to be wide awake, I might as well make it productive.

Trust me, if you’ve been up for 24+ hours, you’ll sleep. However, I did not always sleep the full 12. But, I always slept well and had some lucid dreams.

In contrast to electronbee’s shipboard experience, when I was in the Navy my entire career was ashore at direction-finding stations*. As you might expect, these were running 24/7 and had to be staffed accordingly. About half of the complement, officers, senior NCOs, and other administrative types worked regular ol’ hours, 8 to 4 five days a week but were also subject to standing watches on the quarterdeck and the like when they were nominally off. They were referred somewhat disparagingly as day-beggars by the “watchstanders.”

The other half, those who operated and maintained the equipment, were divided into four sections with interlocking 8-hour shifts. The usual pattern would be two day watches (8-4) then eight hours off, two mid watches (4-Midnight) then eight hours off, two eve watches (4-M) then eighty hours off. That way at the end of your string you could go out and party or head for bed, as you preferred. This was referred to as two-two-two-eighty.

Watchstanders did not have to stand any additional watches, but OTOH, any holidays like the 4th of July were just another day on the calendar and the two shifts separated by eight ours off (called doublebacks) tended to be a bit wearing by the end of the second shift. In effect, you worked six shifts in five days and got three days off. Since it was an eight day cycle, your string would start on Monday, the next on Tuesday and on down the week.

If the station was in a place like Adak or Diego Garcia where eighty hours off would hand really heavy on your hands, then the one-one-one-fifty-six plan would be used where you worked three shifts in two days, then got two days off, mostly sleeping. I never experienced that but I was told that your tour goes by really fast,

I don’t have any image sharing accounts but if you go here you can look at a pdf that shows how the four sections mesh; I drew it up for a relative who was unable to grasp my verbage.

*I would tell people, “I am in the Navy; I am not a sailor.”