Since finishing The Disappearing Spoon, I moved on to The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I bought this book shortly after reading an abridged biography about Tim in a New Yorker. The book is an anthology of minimalist eating, exercise, and health hygiene regimens for losing (or maintaining) weight, eating healthy, being fit, and optimizing physical and mental health, etc, etc.  While I have no interest in any particular one of these goals (because I’ve had this type of lifestyle since a teen),  I was piqued by the meticulous consultation and experimentation that Ferriss undertook to reach these results, especially since he had a background (er at least appeared mindful of) in statistics, rational thinking, and skepticism; he accurately identified the “woo” (lunacy) of homeopathy, the trickery of false positives, and caveats of self-reports vs. observational studies.

While I agree with a majority of the “training” plans that he presents, I am annoyed by his recommendation of minimalist sleep (i.e. polyphasic sleep). The rationale being that REM sleep is the only sleep state necessary for physical and mental well-being as shown in nearly four decades of REM-related research, and therefore should be exploited by means of sleeping in six 20-min intervals evenly spaced across a 24-hr period when the pressure for REM sleep is predicted to be high; REM sleep nicely aligns with rhythms of core body temperature.  This type of sleep schedule would thus prevent an individual from progressing through the normal, classic chronological cycle of sleep states, which typically is NREM to REM, and have sleep patterns that mirror those found in a narcoleptic; wake to immediate REM, which is clearly viewed AS PATHOLOGICAL. The “beauty” of this polyphasic schedule, at least for someone who thrives in a 24-7 modern world, is that only 2 HOURS of sleep per a 24 hr period is required because the body, in the absence of environmental challenges (excluding the polyphasic sleep schedule, of course) only requires this amount of REM sleep .Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

While NREM sleep does put one in a state of near unconsciousness for 6-7 hrs across the 24 hr period, this near comatose experience is necessary for general tissue repair and neuron recuperation…..to name a few. Clearly one of Tim’s 100+ health professionals of whom were consulted for the book needs a crash course in basic (and clinical) sleep research, and Tim needs to think more critically about this particular area of health.

I did happen to find a list of helpful sleep tips on Tim’s blog of which I do generally concur though.