First, the topic must be defined. This topic is not about an increased energy need. When you’re awake and physically active, you will need to consume more energy to not lose weight. This is because your body will be burning more energy compared to when you are sleeping. It is only natural to expect that when you are sleeping a reduced-sleep polyphasic pattern, you’re going to need more energy. Because of that, this is not an issue for polyphasic sleepers.
This topic is instead about how sleep deprivation can alter your appetite, leading to possible weight gain. The research paper titled “The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain” by Greer et al states that when you are sleep deprived, the region of your brain that is responsible for regulating your appetite is activated less when presented with food choices. They also explain that this is associated with a significantly increased desire for high-calorie foods. Hence, when sleep deprived, you’re more likely to crave high-calorie foods, and eat more of them. That’s a great recipe for weight gain.
At this point in time the community is in the development-phase of monitoring the weight change of people as they are adapting, and then seeing how their weight is going to be altered as they have adapted to a polyphasic schedule. Some specifics still need to be considered, but overall, it should be relatively easy to complete the weight monitoring.
Now onto anecdotal evidence. One of the adaptation criteria that the community uses is that adapted people should have a good appetite. This notion suggests that because people are managing to adapt, they most likely have recovered their appetites once they have completed a successful adaptation. Again, this is in no way solid evidence that polyphasic sleepers have fully recovered their appetites, but it’s still something to think about. Note that a “good” appetite also means that it should be proportional to need in this definition.
So far, it seems like polyphasic sleepers shouldn’t experience appetite changes after they are adapted to a schedule. But what about weight changes? Well, since the awake body is going to be demanding more energy to function, it’s expected that with consistent calorie intake, the final weight should be kept somewhat constant. This is apparently under the assumption that you aren’t eating around the clock, and are following the dark period practices that the community suggests.
How the food intake of polyphasic sleepers changes after switching from a monophasic sleep pattern has actually been tracked in the 2018 polyphasic survey. Switching to polyphasic sleep schedules caused the following changes in the amounts of food consumed: 17 people ate more, 11 ate less and 31 ate the same amount after adapting to a polyphasic schedule.
If you are looking to debunk polyphasic sleep with this topic in mind, you would need to show:
- That the appetite of adapted polyphasic sleepers indicated that they were sleep deprived even after a successful adaptation was completed.
It should be noted that this is a relatively poor type of evidence, since the eating habits are also dependent on psychological factors. Regardless, it would be better than nothing; plus it would be easy to track.