Polyphasic Sleep

I’d love to get more time to do everything than other people. Here’s a recent discussion between a friend and I about polyphasic sleep. Darn him if he doesn’t make excellent arguments against the possibility of me (or most people) ever doing it.

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From Lee
When we were together, I spoke to you about polyphasic sleeping. It was my impression that you believed polyphasic sleeping couldn’t be done because people just aren’t capable of doing it for more than a short period of time (IE like the breatharian argument – no one is a breatharian for more than a few weeks because they die).

Morgan Engel presented at the September 2009 5 Minutes of Fame “A Primer on Polyphasic Sleeping”.
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2180170 25 minutes into the video. At 29:00 he says (paraphrased ) “I did it for 6 months and it was great. I taught myself many things with the extra time. I had to stop because my girlfriend thought it was weird”. But also… “it’s really hard to do because to have to live a regimented lifestyle.” That is a popular refrain I’ve seen from others.

If this page (http://trypolyphasic.com/map) is any indication, there are maybe 100-1000 people in the world who say they have successfully done polyphasic sleep.

There’s lots of resources and community around it… this is a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphasic_sleep

That said, I think a good simple summary would be:
Polyphasic sleep is certainly possible. However, it takes at least as much personal effort as going to a gym regularly. The awkward social aspects add to the difficulty.

Since I’ve never been able to make it to a gym on a regular basis despite trying and knowing that there are many personal benefits (having more energy, improved physical strength, needing less sleep), and I don’t feel a serious desire to attempt this, I’m not going to. At least not right now… ;-)

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From my friend
Yeah, I should qualify that a little. I think *most* people can’t do it, but I’m not going to bet against outliers (given 5×10^9 people, lots of room under the tails of the Gaussian.) But I’d really like to see something more objective than self-reporting of “successful”
polyphasers. I think the physical is harder than the social (though the latter is a convenient excuse).

But who knows what’s “normal,” actually:
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Slumber%27s+Unexplored+Landscape-a056458799

-J

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From Lee
> But who knows what’s “normal,” actually:
> http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Slumber%27s+Unexplored+Landscape-a056458799

Wow. The big thing I got from that article was, “You think you know about sleep? You don’t know ANYTHING about sleep!” Wow. Thanks.

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> I think the physical is harder than the social (though the latter is a
> convenient excuse).

Ummm. If the article you quoted had a summary, it would be something like, “While scientific documentation is tentative on the subject, clearly the parameters of sleep are wildly flexible and depend to a great extent on social context.” The social aspect is clearly not “a convenient excuse”, in fact it is a keystone.

There were several examples of polyphasic sleep in the article, though it’s interesting to note that no mention of people getting LESS sleep, just DIFFERENT sleep. Yeah, maybe I’m just trying to split hairs to my advantage; what I want to see is a way to lose less of my life to nonproductive sleep and what the article talks about is getting different sleep. Phoey, if only I could hack sleep to my advantage…

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> But I’d really like to see something more objective than
> self-reporting of “successful” polyphasers.

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a782431473~db=all

Dr. Claudio Stampi’s research
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myi2sRph69A http://www.sleepingschedules.com/understanding/researchers/stampi/ (in the video a test subject tried the Uberman sleep cycle for 2 months. After a while it started getting hard to wake him but once awake he worked almost at 100% ability and attitude. He was glad to have finished the experiment)

This is possibly telling…. about the same number added as removed from the list each month…
http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/october-and-november-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/
http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/september-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/
http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/august-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/
http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/july-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/

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From my friend

> There were several examples of polyphasic sleep in the article, though
> it’s interesting to note that no mention of people getting LESS sleep,
> just DIFFERENT sleep.

Exactly. When = social, how much = biological.

> Yeah, maybe I’m just trying to split hairs to my advantage; what I
> want to see is a way to lose less of my life to nonproductive sleep
> and what the article talks about is getting different sleep. Phoey, if
> only I could hack sleep to my advantage…
>
> ————————————————–
>
>
>> But I’d really like to see something more objective than
>> self-reporting of “successful” polyphasers.
>
> http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a782431473~db=all

Thanks for data. Wow, N=99 might actually be statistically significant.

Still not buying this one, though: “prolonged sustained performance” = only the duration of the race, right? And a mean reduction of total sleep time of a little more than an hour? That’s not particularly rare or novel: we did it during SWARM crunch time, and of course naps will help when you are sleep-deprived for other reasons.

> Dr. Claudio Stampi’s research
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myi2sRph69A
> http://www.sleepingschedules.com/understanding/researchers/stampi/ (in
> the video a test subject tried the Uberman sleep cycle for 2 months.
> After a while it started getting hard to wake him but once awake he
> worked almost at 100% ability and attitude. He was glad to have
> finished the experiment)

This just tells me that the study author has skin in the game. The “Founder and Director of the Chronobiology Research Institute” needs to
have some kind of angle, and his looks like polyphasic sleep.

See http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195383427/ for more detail on institutional bias.

> This is possibly telling…. about the same number added as removed
> from the list each month…
> http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/october-and-november-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/
> http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/september-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/
> http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/august-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/
> http://jorel314.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/july-2009-polyphasic-bloggers/

I still don’t trust self-reporting. Look: if Lance Armstrong can have a resting pulse of 42 when average males are 70, I have no doubt that there are sleep ninjas that can make do with only a few hours. I just haven’t seen any convincing examples that normal chumps like us can “hack sleep” for any length of time while remaining alert, happy, and sane.

So bust out the modafinil and snort that orexin-A

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From Lee
First, thanks for a stimulating conversation. :-)

You’ve made some excellent points.

Polyphasic sleep – Possible. Hard. Not fun.

“Possible” – SOME people gain SOME advantage over the course of a FEW months “Hard” – Takes time and training, detracting from the overall effect. Causes real social detriment “Not fun” – Over the course of months and years, people want to do what feels good. Putting desires like sleep and food on hold for long periods wears at a person.

I want to write and think more about the subject but there are only so many hours in a day. Heh, get it? ;-)

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