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I recently read an article on polyphasic sleep and I'm quite interested in experimenting with it. The article advises the Uberman approach which advocates 20-30 minute naps every four hours, meaning that you sleep about 2-3 hours per 24 hour period. I'm also interested in trying the Dymaxion approach which advocates 30 minute naps every 6 hours. The interesting thing is that eventually, you reach the point at which you get a full REM cycle every time you take a nap. It seems that from mouths of the people who do this and establish polyphasic sleep patterns, they have more energy and higher alertness.

The first and foremost question is whether one is allowed to do this out of the possibility of self-harm. For this and for the other questions, I'll be consulting my Rav.

Next comes the halachic aspects of berachos and the like. Since I'll only be sleeping 20 to 30 minutes each time, here's where the questions come in.

  1. If I'm only sleeping for 20 to 30 minutes, do I wash my hands when I wake?
    • I remember there being something about the minimum length of sleep required in order to wash, and I'm not really sure what that minimum is.
  2. When it comes to only sleeping for two or three (depending on sleep schedule) short periods in the night, when should I make my birchos hashachar and birchos hatorah?
    • I'll probably be studying Torah and doing other Torah-related things during the night, possibly before and possibly after chatzos. Let's give an example of this for clarity:
  3. Do I just say Krias Shema Al Hamita only the first time I go to bed during the night?

Nap Schedule

  Nap Start Time | Nap End Time 
-----------------|---------------
| 7:40pm         | 8:00pm       |
| 11:40pm        | 12:00am      |
| 3:40am         | 4:00am       |
| 7:40am         | 8:00am       |

Zmanim Schedule

  Zman Name     | Zman Time     
----------------|----------------
| Nightfall     | 8:00pm        |
| Midnight      | 12:00am       |
| Dawn (Alos)   | 4:00am        |

Of course, the contrived example above is overly simplified and isn't necessarily real, but it should help to serve as an example. Can one give an answer on my three questions above given the above example? I'd like to be able to try this, but I need to be clear on what the halacha is so that in my sleeplessness, I don't transgress.

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This is definitely an interesting topic to discuss here and sort through sources about, but if you're considering this practically, I recommend that you discuss the issues presented in this question with your Rabbi as well. This concern is especially relevant here, since it involves applying halacha to an apparently novel situation. –  Isaac Moses Sep 23 '11 at 20:43
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The gra had such a sleeping schedule –  simchastorah Sep 23 '11 at 21:19
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@simchashatorah Indeed! When I found this, everything made sense to me about how the Vilna Gaon was able to do it. –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay Sep 23 '11 at 21:22
    
@Isaac Moses: of course. This is kind of a big life change and seems complicated from a Halachic point of view, to say the least. –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay Sep 23 '11 at 21:26
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This sleep cycle is known to cause health concerns. I suggest asking a rabbi if the health concerns are small enough for you to experiment with the cycle. menshealth.com/spotlight/sleep/8-hours.php livescience.com/7449-cheat-sleep-dreams.html –  avi Sep 24 '11 at 17:28
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You wash your hands before davenings and with a bracha only before the shacharit one (assuming you have gone to the bathroom since davening maariv which seems highly likely)

You never say Birkot Hatorah as you never really take a break. Ideally you can have someone be motzi you in them after olot hashachar.

You can say Birkot HaShachar starting from chatzot except Hanotein Lesechvi Vina which should only be said after olot hashachar.

You will never need to say Kriat Shema al HaMitta.

This is all assuming that you sleeps are under 30 minutes.

If they are more than 30 minutes, you will wash your hands each time, but only say a bracha on the one closest to davening shacharit.

You can say Birkot Hashachar after the last sleep that occurs before olot hashachar.

You say Hamappil before the first sleep that is after tzeit hakochavim.

You say Birkot HaTorah after each sleep.

Sources SA OC 4:15 47:13 92:5 and MB 4:30 47:25 47:23 and BH 4:13 and probably some other stuff that I can't find inside right now :)

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Note that not everyone holds that way about Birkat Hatorah: torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5764/bamidbar.html and chabadlibrary.org/books/default.aspx?furl=/adhaz/sh/sh1/6/47/7 (the last paragraph, and also see footnote עז which is even more clearcut) note also that it says that even according to the opinion that Birkat Hatorah is not said again, this is only as long as he has not diverted attention from his learning. –  Ariel Feb 12 '13 at 7:12
    
@Ariel Which of my two points are you arguing against? That if you stay up all night without sleeping you don't say a bracha? I agree there are those that differ (in both directions), but common Ashkenazi practice (in my experience) is to be machmir for both sides and that's why I suggested having someone else be motzi you. –  Double AA Feb 12 '13 at 7:17
    
That you "never say Birkot Hatorah". According to the sources I listed you say it in the morning whether or not you slept. (I am aware there are differences of opinion, but you wrote it as an absolute.) You say "ideally....", but I believe the more common custom is that if you can't find anyone to say it for you then you say it yourself. i.e. 3 opinions: a. Say it in the morning. b. Find someone, but if you can't then say nothing. c. Or find someone, but if you can't then say it yourself. You wrote opinion b, but I believe opinion c is more common. (And you should have mentioned opinion a.) –  Ariel Feb 12 '13 at 7:50
    
@Ariel Don't forget opinion d. Don't bother finding anyone because there's no reason to say it. I challenge you to find a Rishon (who isn't immediately rejected by the source he is quoted in) who explicitly says not like this. –  Double AA Feb 12 '13 at 7:59
    
@Ariel Incidentally, I only claimed to be providing the psak of Mishna Berura/Biur Halacha which I think I did accurately. If there are other opinions (and of course there are) then they are more than welcome in other answers. –  Double AA Feb 12 '13 at 8:02
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I am not commenting on Halacha,

however I recal reading that whilst there is a time in which one must sleep before requiring him to wash their hands. I do recal reading that there are poskim who say that if one changes into his pjs. during the day even if he sleeps little he still requires to wash his hands.

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+1. Any idea where you might have read that last point? –  msh210 Nov 30 '11 at 15:55
    
I thought it was halachically speaking but just checked and it is not. I will have a look for you –  Moshe Yitzhak Nov 30 '11 at 16:45
    
msh210 sorry I havent been able to locate it again –  Moshe Yitzhak Dec 1 '11 at 13:41
    
@MosheYitzhak Many people change at least a little for an afternoon nap, especially on Shabbat. So this would be quite practical. –  Ze'ev Felsen Sep 14 '12 at 8:40
    
@msh210 I believe you wash simply because you touched a part of the body that is normally covered. –  Ariel Feb 12 '13 at 7:55
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