Australia’s free-to-air channel SBSOne recently aired an interesting documentary based on the premise that we only need a few hours of sleep a night (if that), to function normally.
Michael Mosley, the presenter and guinea-pig of the show undertakes a mission to sustained wakefulness as long as he can. A former doctor himself, Mosley finds that after 48 hours of wakefulness, the agony is unbearable and proceeds to recover with a long night’s sleep. This was followed with a successful second attempt, only this time, assisted by the stimulant prescription medication Modafinil.
The notion of the documentary stems from claims made by Tony Wright and Graham Gynn, arguing that a diet of raw fruit changes the biochemistry in the brain, increasing human potential – including the amount of time needed for sleeping. This interesting theory has gained popularity with a handful of neuroscientists and psychologists, however there no published peer reviewed research supporting this hypothesis .
Indeed there is well documented research proving the value of power-naps, with much research showing dramatic hormonal, physiological and cerebrovascular changes in the brain during wake-sleep transitions, suggesting that short sleep periods can in fact have significant beneficial effects for a short period of time.
Other research has proven that there are specific times during which mammals are most likely to fall asleep (that is, sleepability increases). Providing a person can sustain wakefulness through these times (3-5pm and 2-4am), that correlate with core body temperature oscillations, the following period will prove easier to maintain wakefulness. Combining this research one could assume power-napping during these times of low core body temperature could potentially allow someone to sustain wakefulness for a rather long period of time.
Saying this however, there are multiple studies that repeatedly show the detrimental impacts on cognition, memory, mood, immune health, physical health and mental health following sleep deprivation. As of yet Wright’s theory is just that, a theory, with no apparent research to back it.