Adding Time to Fall Asleep


When one chooses a schedule, a rather common question is, “how much time should I add to these sleep blocks to account for the time it takes for me to fall asleep”. While this is a very legitimate question, the answer to it is: none.

Preparing for E1 nap
  • In this example, the E1 nap starts at 13:00. First-time polyphasic sleepers should therefore spare some time beforehand to prepare for napping. Specifically, stopping the current workload and start relaxing 10 minutes (or more depending on how mentally active they are) before the designated nap time is a good idea. These minutes spent on cooling down, walking to find a nap spot (if necessary), etc. can be essential to achieve enough peace of the mind to ease into sleep. 
  • Next thing to note, they should only start lying down around 12:55, and close their eyes at 12:58-12:59. Consequently, this would make the TBT value of the E1 nap roughly 21-22 minutes total at most. 
  • Likewise, the other polyphasic schedules are also created to display the total bed time (TBT).
  • TBT is a scientific way to express the total duration of attempting to sleep and actually sleeping. In other words, the time one would spend lying down to prepare for sleep.
  • After a successful adaptation, the time it takes to fall sleep should not be any longer than a couple minutes. Thus, the TBT will be very close to the total sleep time (TST), even though this still depends on the total sleep of the polyphasic schedule of choice.

Polyphasic Adaptation Features

Polyphasic sleep adaptations utilize several different defense mechanisms to rake in the necessary amounts of SWS and REM.

  • One of these defense mechanisms is very short sleep onset values. In addition, this is the main reason why polyphasic sleep is potentially a good method to fight insomnia.
  • While it might take a very long time to fall asleep at the beginning of adaptations, this issue will fix itself later.
  • Simply adding more sleep time to cover the time it takes to fall asleep is a bad idea. This is because after sleep onset reduces, the alarms may go off during SWS. As a result, this increases the risk of oversleeping.

Sleep Onset Mechanisms

One suggested method to deal with long sleep onsets versus not sleeping at all is to allow for additional time to fall asleep, and then gradually decrease the duration of the sleep times as sleep onsets shorten. There are a few reasons why decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep gradually is a bad idea.

  • Primarily, it is easy to unpredictably trigger short sleep onset. This means that a normal nap/core can end with a mid-cycle wake.
  • Another reason is that the sleep onset duration might not actually decrease at all. There is no pressure for them to do so. This results in unnecessary time in bed.
  • A third reason is that either moving the alarm times or the start-of-sleep times can disorient the body. This can cause feelings of uneasiness and discomfort, possibly even affecting the adaptation negatively.

If falling asleep proves to be a major issue, increasing the sleep time of the naps by 2 minutes should be tolerable. Still, the optimal nap duration is often exactly 20 minutes. The cores should be at whole cycle lengths (e.g, 4.5h, 3h) by default.

However, if issues with severe insomnia persist after a month, the core duration can increase to allow for sufficient time to fall asleep and sleep for whole cycle lengths. On the other hand, these occurrences are extremely rare.

Methods to Fall Asleep Faster

There are ways to reduce the time to fall asleep. In addition, these are particularly useful to utilize at the beginning of adaptations. This is because it is normal for homeostatic pressure to remain as it is. As NREM1 naps accumulate, sleep pressure will continually rise. You might become dependent on these tricks to fall asleep if you use them throughout adaptation. Thus, pick wisely which method you go for. It is also possible that some won’t work for you, while others will.

This short (non-exhaustive) list of sleep onset aids contains the following suggestions:

  • Visualize a pendulum swinging to occupy your mind with something calming.
  • Create a sleep-inducing environment like a dark room.
  • Try focusing on your breath, inhale and exhale at regular intervals. The Wim Hof breathing method is also a strong option.
  • Stay away from thoughts; perhaps try reading something entertaining before sleeping.
  • Have a warm shower around 1-2h before sleep time. This has especially worked for a few people, but not for others. It would be best to assess the alertness level from warm showers on a monophasic schedule or in the early stage of a polyphasic adaptation.
  • Listen to lulling music, brown/white noise or ASMR.
  • Stay away from situations that would boost your alertness levels. This include, but not limited to looking at electronic screens at least 15m before bedtime.

Main author: Crimson & GeneralNguyen

Page last updated: 1 September 2022