I’ll have to take my geek hat off for a second and play doctor. One of the current hot topics in the blogosphere is polyphasic (or Uberman’s) sleep. The basic idea is by taking multiple small naps throughout a 24 hour period, a person can get by on less sleep. The experience suggests that these people immediately fall into REM sleep and will eventually become acclimated to an overall shorter sleep time. The idea is that less sleep time equals more productive time. The bull continues and continues.

Certainly a person can alter their sleep pattern in this method. I have no doubt. I see people with crazy sleep schedules all the time. Let me tell you why you should not do this.

You increase your chances of having a car wreck. tes says “I hit a wall” if staying awake more than 5 hours. The normal sleep pattern allows a person a good buffer of sleep time. A person is able to go several hours longer than expected if needed. Polyphasic sleep seems to take this buffer away. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that alters people’s natural sleep patterns. Thousands of car wrecks a year are attributed to obstructive sleep apnea. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by sudden onset of REM sleep (sound familiar?). Untreated patients with narcolepsy have a ten times more risk of car accidents than normal subjects.

Your health will suffer. Sleep restriction in healthy volunteers causes multiple physiological abnormalities. This includes increased inflammation, activation of the sympathetic nervous system, hypertension, and glucose intolerance. Epidemiologic research suggests that people who report short sleep duration have more symptomatic diabetes, more ischemic heart disease, and decreased survival. Source.

Less sleep equals more fat. tes’s “appetite is substantially larger.” Lack of sleep is associated with abnormalities in the hormones that control food intake. If you want to
give up sleep for a bigger waistband, this is a good way to do it.

People who sleep normally, live longer. This abstract in sleep medicine discusses how “short sleep over a prolonged period may be associated with an increased risk of mortality.” Read the research; is it worth the risk?

Granted these are not the most hardcore research studies in the world; however, I could find no medline searches dealing with polyphasic sleep in humans. Searching for sleep deprivation, however, yields a few thousand articles for one to read through.

We do so much to try to prolong our lives and protect our health. In theory, slow wave sleep is when our cellular system best repairs itself. This sleep system takes away that restorative slow wave sleep. Please forgive the geek analogy, but… why would one overclock your life and burn out sooner?

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