What Do Scientists Really Know About Polyphasic Sleep? | Summary and Q&A

June 21, 2018
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What Do Scientists Really Know About Polyphasic Sleep?


Polyphasic sleep, the practice of breaking up sleep into multiple periods, is not well-studied and lacks scientific evidence to support its benefits over monophasic sleep.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Is there scientific evidence that polyphasic sleep is better than monophasic sleep?

No, there is currently limited scientific evidence to support the superiority of polyphasic sleep over monophasic sleep. The practice is not well-studied, and extreme polyphasic sleep schedules can have negative effects on cognitive function and overall well-being.

Q: How does the two-process model explain the regulation of sleep?

The two-process model suggests that sleep is regulated by two processes: process C, which is influenced by circadian rhythm, and process S, which reflects the body's need to maintain homeostasis. Process C makes us sleepier at night, while process S increases sleep pressure the longer we are awake.

Q: Can adjusting sleep schedules help shift workers improve productivity?

Research suggests that shorter work shifts with shorter rest periods, such as 6 hours on and 6 hours off or 4 hours on and 8 hours off, may improve productivity for shift workers. However, it is crucial to ensure that an adequate amount of sleep is obtained to avoid sleep deprivation and associated health risks.

Q: What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, poor reaction times, and long-term health risks like high blood pressure and diabetes. Recent studies show that cognitive function declines with less than 7 hours of sleep, contrary to early research findings.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Conventional wisdom recommends 8 hours of continuous sleep for optimal cognitive performance, memory storage, and overall health.

  • The two-process model explains the regulation of sleep through circadian rhythm (process C) and homeostasis (process S).

  • While historical evidence suggests humans naturally had a biphasic sleep pattern, extreme polyphasic sleep schedules like the Dymaxion and Uberman are not well-supported and can be detrimental.

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