I'm not going to say that polyphasic sleep is a proven thing, and that we won't have living proof in five months or five years that it's harmful to the body in the long term. Polyphasic sleep is, like many of the ideas discussed on the forums here, far out of the mainstream. Supermemo's article makes some good points that polyphasic sleepers haven't really been able to answer--in part because as far as I know none of them have the scientific background to do so. Dr. Claudio Stampi (mentioned in the article) is the only person I know of who has done scientific studies of polyphasic sleep.
However, there are some problems with the article which cause me to consider it not necessarily a perfectly reliable source:
In its article on polyphasic sleep, Wikipedia states that "according to Claudio Stampi's book ("Why We Nap: Evolution, Chronobiology, and Functions of Polyphasic and Ultrashort Sleep"), in sleep deprived condition, measurements of a polyphasic sleeper's memory retention and analytical ability show increases as compared with monophasic sleep and biphasic sleep (but still a decrease of 12% as compared with entrained free running sleep)." This is a much different picture than supermemo's article paints (it does mention that free-running sleep is more effective than polyphasic sleep in terms of mental abilities, but none of the rest).
The article dismisses successful polyphasic experiments (such as Steve Pavlina's), saying of them, "I won't quote or link to these as I found them quite disingenuous, and transparently carrying a hidden agenda. These would dilute the truth and hype a potentially hazardous habits." Essentially, the author is saying, "Since I've proven scientifically above that this can't work, anyone saying that it does work is obviously lying and possibly has a hidden agenda." There are plenty of examples in the world of real-world things that cannot be explained by our current understanding of science; why is the author so insistent that successful polyphasic sleep is not one of these (especially given that science's understanding of sleep is so shallow at this point)?
The article attempts to discredit all the allegations that famous persons from the past have done any kind of polyphasic sleep. To the article's credit, I don't think all the claims regarding these people are true, and maybe not even half. But when talking about Buckminster Fuller, he completely neglects to mention the 1943 article in Time that explains Buckminster Fuller's "Dymaxion" sleep system that he claims to have followed for two years. I'm not arguing as to whether the claim of Fuller's polyphasic sleep is true; I'm asking why the author didn't even bother to mention it, much less refute it.
I'm not saying absolutely that polyphasic sleep is feasible and practical for human beings, much less that it's a "better" sleep schedule for anyone. I admit its problems, having failed to adapt to it several times, and wonder myself about the relatively uncharted waters of polyphasic sleep's long-term (i.e. past six months) effects. I'm only saying that I wouldn't take this article as a perfectly reliable source, considering its ready willingness to dismiss reasonably convincing evidence that polyphasic sleep may be feasible and practical under some circumstances and/or for some people.
Last edited by David Hausladen; 11-23-2006 at 06:05 AM.