Sleep Systems

The other night we watched an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in which we saw a doctor besides Bashir for possibly the first time, or at least the first time either of us remembered. It’s a necessary convention that the interesting stories have to take place while the main characters are on duty or at least awake, or that they have to be woken up to deal with whatever emergencies arise.

Then I was reading something about polyphasic sleep. There are a bunch of systems where people can take several short naps during the day instead of one long sleep, which (supposedly) keeps them just as functional on many fewer hours of sleep.

Since it would be extremely difficult to do this with the current typical lifestyle where most people have an employer-defined 8-hour work schedule, I’ve been thinking about what a society would be like if it were built around a polyphasic sleep schedule.

Would employers be required to provide cots for their employees? Would everyone have the same nap schedule, so that all businesses shut down for half an hour every four hours? Would families with kids try to stick to the same schedule, or would it be better for the adults to stagger their nap times so someone is always awake? If your scheduled naptime occurs during a friend’s barbecue, is it socially acceptable to go curl up on their couch for a bit? What would jet lag be like?

It would at least make it easier to believe that the main crew of the space station is always on duty.

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