Researching Polyphasic Sleep (warnings & sources)

So you want to know more about polyphasic sleep schedules…yay!  They're really interesting, and also very good to research before attempting.

Unfortunately your "Internet research" phase is going to be tricky, and laden with bullshit.  :/  I have done my best to offer good information, but I can't out-yell the hucksters:  and in recent years, polyphasic sleep has seen growing popularity, which means growing attempts at commercialization.  It also hasn't been popular enough for long enough to garner much scientific research, especially when you consider that:
–  studies on sleep schedules have to be in-depth and long (at least a month), i.e. expensive, to get good post-adaptation information;
–  sleep itself has only been seen to merit scientific study for a bit over 100 years (during which time monophasic has been the norm); and
–  the whole process by which the body adapts to and controls/is controlled by a sleep schedule is still largely mysterious to us humans.

–So if your usual source is "scientists", well, even sleep scientists don't have a whole lot to report on when it comes to polyphasic sleep…yet!  My fond hope is that this will change, of course.  But until it does, there's still a huge and valid category of information to be purused, including stories from people who've done it, and especially tips about how to do your OWN experimentation and learn what works for you.  The trick is just to sift through the unreliable sources, like always.

Here are some tips for doing so.  (These are just mine; I encourage you to use the best methods you know for checking the quality of information.)

STEP ONE:  Look for ACTUAL SOURCES for all claims that are made to sound bigger than personal experience — and if they're personal, that's fine, but remember sleep is VERY individual.  (In fact, even if someone shows you a scientific paper, remember that.  It's *your body*, and the best-best information is going to come from how you feel.) 

Just as if you were researching a diet, stories from people about what it's like and whether it worked for them can be VERY helpful, as long as you remember that they're stories.  Testimonial evidence is a type of evidence — just remember that that's what you're looking at, whether it's mine or anybody else's. And if the stuff you're reading claims to be more than that, then look for whether they can adequately explain how they got to that claim, from what data / experiments (more than one, right?) and using what logic.  

Then RUN AWAY if people are misusing scientific language.  For the most part, that includes almost ALL claims that science supports OR does not support polyphasic sleep — to repeat the above, there just is not a lot of scientific work done yet on polyphasic sleep (though it's worth pointing out, there is enough to know for sure that it CAN work).  But the absence of good science is one thing, and the presence of bad science is another!  I take someone's willingness to MISUSE scientific terminology, which includes claiming scientific backing for something that doesn't have it, as a very good sign that whatever they have to say is biased crap.

STEP THREE:  DO NOT BUY AN APP.  I've tried most of them, and they're garbage, frankly.  You also don't need one — it can not help you decide on a sleep schedule, and normal alarms and timers and simple lists can do everything you need with regards to an adaptation, and are much more adaptable to your individual needs.  I might say an app would be helpful for a long-term polyphaser at certain things, but of course long-term polyphasers aren't a big market, so people keep trying to make apps that will help you "become polyphasic", and they're uniformly awful.  …Sorry if that's disappointing, but on the upside, maybe I just saved you some money.  :)  

STEP FOUR:  DON'T BELIEVE PEOPLE WITH NO EXPERIENCE.  And experience means *adapting* to a schedule, not just trying it for a couple days, getting tired, failing to sleep on-schedule, and then deciding that either it can never work for anyone, or that it's magic and you're the new guru of how to do it.  Adaptation takes A MINIMUM of 30 days — sleep patterns are very much habits, duh — so anybody telling you what's up who hasn't gotten past that point is some combination of "full of it" and "giving you useless advice".

That step winds up being a big one, especially since long-term polyphasers are thin on the ground, and not prone to writing much about it.  (And I can't blame them; I can attest from over a decade doing it that writing about your sleep gets pretty boring after a while!  Dear diary, today I had three naps.  Again.  ;))

Also, it may go without saying, but I feel responsible for pointing it out:  Reddit, and the polyphasic subreddit especially, is a marvelous source for the writings of people with no experience.  Take everything there with a bucket of salt, as always.

Where websites discuss specific schedules, start/wake times, nap and waking durations, schedule-tweaking and adaptation methods, it's a good idea to be EXTRA CAREFUL of this one, and to also remember Step One:  You don't want the schedule advice of someone who's never adapted; probably you're just reading the sleep-deprived ramblings of someone who decided to experiment with not sleeping for a couple days and had a productive spurt.  :)  Also, while it's good to start with a broadly-sensible schedule (which is largely based on individual experimentation too), remember that again, your body is your body, and it's going to have its own quirks.  Be aware of yourself, and even with no research (hey, it's not like I had any! you couldn't even get a google result for the word "polyphasic" when I started!), you'll do great!

Good luck!

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the wall).
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