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Basically, I want to know if it would be humanely possible to sleep one day, skip the next, sleep, skip, sleep, skip, etc, with a 8 hour sleep time.

If you need any extra information, let me know.

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What window of time are we talking about? 1 month, 1 year, lifelong? –  nico Apr 30 '12 at 7:09
It would be interesting to consider 6 years and lifelong. –  Peter Tamaroff Apr 30 '12 at 7:38
You may be interested in Why do humans practice monophasic sleep cycles? biology.stackexchange.com/q/319/238 –  Gabriel Fair Jun 22 '12 at 14:31

2 Answers 2

I'm not aware of any study testing this hypothesis. I would surmise that adverse health effects are likely because the circadian clock operates on a 24-hour time frame, and because lack of sleep for ~40 hours every second day will alter hormone, cytokine and other measures to levels not normally seen in 8-hour sleep/16-hour wake cycle.

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You may want to cite some paper showing that perturbation of sleeping results in significant perturbation of hormonal rhythms. –  nico Apr 30 '12 at 17:25
@nico Why don't you add an answer explaining that? And what about splitting 4hs each day? –  Peter Tamaroff May 3 '12 at 1:57
@Peter Tamaroff: because I don't know any paper showing that (but I would be very interested in seeing one)! –  nico May 3 '12 at 5:47

(too long to be a comment)

You may be interested in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_response_curve.

This graph shows how the body's circadian rhythm normally works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Body_Temp_Variation.png. Body temperature decreases during the night (apparently due to more melatonin production.

I conjecture that the proposed schedule would interfere with the Circadian rhythm. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep--it causes drowsiness. It is suppressed by blue light (because we get exposed to blue light in the daytime).

Aside from this, I am also very interested in the effects because I have personally wondered about the same question. The thing I am worried about is significant immunosuppression.

A larger question might be--"Why is sleep necessary?" Does it serve only to conserve food (which is very useful if you are living on subsistence) or does it serve a greater purpose? (whenever I have asked anyone about it, they always cite "regeneration" and some have cited the recycling of neurotransmitters. Personally, I'm a little skeptical.)

One final study: there was a study by Dement on the effect of dream deprivation: he took several people and woke them up whenever they went into REM sleep. Then, there was a period when the patients were not woken up. He found that there was a "REM rebound"--that they would go into more REM sleep after they had been deprived of it. This seems to indicate that dreaming, specifically, may serve a significant purpose.

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