Polyphasic sleeping babies?

As you might know, I’ve been curious about polyphasic sleep for a couple years now. It’s something I’ve casually experimented with but still haven’t devoted any serious effort to trying out.

Sometime, I’ll write up a more in-depth description, but for those who don’t know, polyphasic sleeping is the practice of sleeping multiple times each 24-hour period instead of just once. The idea is that if you break up the number of times you sleep, you can reduce the overall amount of sleep you need. Like I said, I’ll get into more details some other time. Google it if you’re really interested.

For now, I’ve been curious about a specific situation, one that’s perhaps even more insane. Or at least sounds that way at first. It’s involves babies.

When babies are born, they naturally sleep multiple times in each 24-hour period. In fact, that seems to be one of the big issues with having children: getting used to sleeping while they’re sleeping or just being ridiculously exhausted all the time (yes, more than the usual “just had a baby” exhaustion).

One of the first things parents try to do then is train their children to sleep through the night. That’s a big accomplishment, almost a sign of the baby’s maturity.

But here’s my question (and I’m not the first to ask it): what if we didn’t train our children out of polyphasic sleeping? What if instead we encouraged them to continue on the cycle, sleeping briefly multiple times throughout each day?

Tons of questions go along with this. Would it be sustainable? Would the kids grow up and lose their minds? Would they adjust well to society? Would there be any major downsides?

Taking that even further, is this even legal? I mean, at what point does this become child abuse, or seem too much like it? Or even if it’s not child abuse, at what point is it just wrong anyway, using your kids as test subjects in such an untested experiment?

Maybe I’d be a horrible parent. Because I’m having trouble seeing how it would be bad. Here’s how I’d do it, hypothetically: 🙂

  1. Experiment on myself first, before my baby is born. I’d try all the major variations: sleeping 30 minutes every six hours, 20 minutes every four hours, keeping a core sleep period in the middle of the night (one that’s longer than the usual naps during the day), and so on. And I’d want to try each for at least a couple months straight.
  2. I’d study how babies generally sleep when they’re first born, see if I could find any regular pattern at all across many different children. I’m guessing I wouldn’t find much of a pattern, but I might be able to figure out roughly how far apart each nap is and if and when they naturally take any kind of core nap.
  3. From there, I’d try to see which already-established pattern of polyphasic sleeping seems to best fit with the natural sleep patterns of babies. For example, do they sleep eight times per day or four times per day or three times per day with a core sleep period?
  4. Let’s assume I’m married, so I’d get my wife pregnant. I take a year off from any obligations and mentally prepare as best I can for insanity. Oh, and by the way, once I experimented myself, I might run my wife through some of the crazy polyphasic sleeping schedules in preparation. 🙂 Yeah, right!
  5. When the baby’s born, we’d sleep when the baby sleeps and wake up when the baby wakes up. We’d mimic whatever comes naturally for our child.
  6. When the baby’s a couple months old, we’d gradually start trying to shift into a more consistent pattern. It wouldn’t really happen, but we’d try.
  7. Over time, though, our baby would settle into a consistent polyphasic sleep cycle instead of the normal monophasic version we’re all trained to accept when we’re babies.

Here’s the interesting part for me.

Most polyphasic sleepers now have to train their minds and bodies to adapt to the cycle. Once they adapt, they don’t feel tired. In fact, most report feeling even more alert than they did before they switched to polyphasic. Still, polyphasic sleepers usually have to use an alarm clock and stick closely to their schedule or they’ll feel totally exhausted.

But if a baby never learned to sleep a monophasic schedule, I wonder if they’d have more flexibility. Maybe they’d be able to stay up longer at times or even miss naps and still return to the normal polyphasic schedule without any problems. Except for all the artificial lighting, maybe this would be the more natural approach.

Somebody’s going to try this. It’s just a matter of when. And who. And how it turns out.