Insomnia

Introduction

Insomnia is a very common and problematic sleep issue in humans. Scientists often refer to insomnia as the inability to fall asleep and maintain sleep1. Furthermore, insomnia also includes insufficient and nonrestorative sleep despite ample sleep duration2. Most notably, insomnia can develop into a chronic condition with destructive effects on health. The 2 types of insomnia are specifically: sleep onset insomnia (falling asleep) and wake after sleep onset (maintaining sleep).  

Over the years, the polyphasic community has welcomed many insomniac sleepers, from teenagers to middle-aged adults. These individuals markedly report the prominent inability to have good sleep, despite efforts to fix their sleep. However, whether polyphasic sleeping is the end-all-or-be-all tool for insomnia treatment deserves a lot of intensive studies.

As of the current status, insomnia is often no longer a threat to overall sleep quality in adapted polyphasic sleepers. 

Wake After Sleep Onset (WASO)

Wake After Sleep Onset

Refer to the above post for a detailed description on WASO and its behavior on a polyphasic sleep regime. Even though WASO is a common form of insomnia, it is not the focus of this post. Rather, this post will examine insomnia as a holistic medical condition and the motivation behind polyphasic sleep.

Classification of Insomnia & Causes

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Sleep onset insomnia, difficulty falling asleep

Different types

Even though we have listed different types of insomnia, the entire category of this medical condition contains much more. Comprehensively, it consists of the following relevant subtypes.

  • Primary: This condition is the usual reports of poor sleep. Specifically, it includes trouble initiating sleep, maintaining sleep and getting restorative sleep3. However, there is usually no identifiable cause for primary insomnia, along with impaired daytime performance1,3
  • Secondary: Contrary to the first type, this insomnia category is a probable cause of a psychiatric disorder that results in poor sleep3

On top of these types, insomnia can also be present in any other sleep sessions, including naps4. Even though napping takes practice, it is common to not be able to fall asleep in naps initially due to hyperarousal

Causes of Insomnia

There are possible contributors to varying degrees of insomniac behavior. We only list some common causes below.

  • Age1,2. The elderly commonly struggle with either falling asleep or maintaining sleep or both.
  • Caffeine5. This factor is highly individual, but many do report difficulty falling asleep if they consume caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
  •  Poor sleep hygiene5. Although the effects are unclear, this includes:
  1. Exercising too close to bedtime.
  2. Intentionally extending sleep duration in bed.
  3. Performing exhausting mental activities before sleep.
  4. Engaging in upsetting or exciting activities too close to sleep time.
  5. Napping. This may explain why certain people cannot fall asleep in daytime naps, or cannot sleep well at night if they nap. In addition, it also shows how polyphasic sleeping is not for everyone. However, this factor does not account for seasoned nappers and polyphasic sleeping in its truest sense. 

Other than these possible contributors (which may not apply to you), some other comorbidities include1:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Affective disorders

Consequences of Insomnia

It is a well-known fact that sleep is one of the most critical activities in human life. Obviously, insomnia can severely hinder good sleep quality. Thus, aside from poorer sleep quality, the following notable consequences include6:

  • Increased risks of depression and anxiety
  • More vulnerability to cardiovascular diseases
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Impaired work and daily functions
  • Hypertension

This is hardly a comprehensive list of devastating consequences that insomnia bring about.

Polyphasic Sleep Mechanics

If you are suffering from insomnia, polyphasic sleep could still be helpful! Some insomniac people claim to have been able to fall asleep instantly regardless, simply because of the sleep deprivation during adaptation. Their overall sleep quality is much higher and they sleep much more soundly than before. 

In fact, there is some subtle hint and evidence that can explain why polyphasic sleeping can combat insomnia effectively. 

  • Sleep restriction therapy has been conducted several times and has given some good results6,7. Overall, the goal of this therapy is to reduce total sleep time in insomniac sleepers to increase their sleep efficiency. 
  • Polyphasic sleep (especially reducing schedules) share some similarities with such therapeutic methods. The niche of sleep reduction coupled with naps to regulate homeostatic pressure enables the ability to fall asleep much faster in shorter sleep segments. 
  • However, note that napping is usually prohibited in such sleep reduction therapy studies. This is because there is certain evidence for naps interfering with nocturnal sleep. Regardless, that only hints non-reducing polyphasic schedules are ineffective at treating insomnia. Thus, for insomniac polyphasic sleepers, it is better if they attempt to reduce sleep compared to their monophasic baseline. 

Anecdotally, polyphasic sleeping has helped a ton of insomniac sleepers combat their sleep issues, which are prevalent on their monophasic schedule.

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Tri Core sleep for chronic insomniacs
  • Puredoxyk, who created Everyman sleep system, noted that polyphasic sleep has been a tremendous gift for her sleep and well-being. For many years, she has practiced Everyman sleep and used it to great effects.
  • Other insomniac sleepers have reportedly adapted to a vast array of sleep schedules. For example, Dual Core sleep, Everyman sleep, reduced Biphasic sleep and even Tri Core sleep for heavier insomniacs. 

However, further research into the interactions between insomnia and polyphasic sleep is necessary.

Other Notes for Polyphasic Sleep

  • Using Naptation to first establish the ability to fall asleep for naps fast, or simply staying awake for over a day before switching to the desired schedule could prove to give an edge in adaptation. This is because it could otherwise take a very long time to fall asleep for any naps.
  • On the other hand, long-term sleep deprivation (e.g, a failed, prolonged adaptation) can lead to insomnia8. If there is no treatment, it can even turn out to become chronic9. Thus, it is only important to understand and take action if:
  1. Adaptation feels like it stagnates
  2. Getting stuck in a perpetual loop of oversleeping every few days

If adaptation stagnates and there seems to be no change after a few weeks, change something!

  • Analyze when you are tired, possibly move naps, add naps or extend the core.
  • In case of oversleeping, recover all sleep debt and try again. This usually takes at least a week.

However, some studies have concluded that insomnia does not increase mortality rate10. What this means is twofold.

  1. First, sleep deprivation from in-progress polyphasic adaptation should not be too much of a concern. This is because it does not increase their mortality rate.
  2. Second, even if polyphasic sleep was unhealthy (which is unknown), human life is not at stake from some NREM2 reduction

Main authors: Crimson & GeneralNguyen

Page last updated: 8 February 2021

Reference

  1. Drake, C. L., Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. (2003). Insomnia causes, consequences, and therapeutics: An overview. Depression and Anxiety, 18(4), 163–176. doi:10.1002/da.10151.
  2. Dautovich, N. D., McCrae, C. S., & Rowe, M. (2008). Subjective and Objective Napping and Sleep in Older Adults: Are Evening Naps “Bad” for Nighttime Sleep? Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 56(9), 1681–1686. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.01822.x.
  3. Drake, C. L., Roehrs, T., & Roth, T. (2003). Insomnia causes, consequences, and therapeutics: An overview. Depression and Anxiety, 18(4), 163–176. doi:10.1002/da.10151. 
  4. Pérusse, A. D., Turcotte, I., St-Jean, G., Ellis, J., Hudon, C., & Bastien, C. H. (2013). Types of Primary Insomnia: Is Hyperarousal Also Present during Napping? Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 09(12), 1273–1280. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3268 
  5. Stepanski, E. J., & Wyatt, J. K. (2003). Use of sleep hygiene in the treatment of insomnia. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 7(3), 215–225. doi:10.1053/smrv.2001.0246.
  6. Falloon, K., Elley, C. R., Fernando, A., Lee, A. C., & Arroll, B. (2015). Simplified sleep restriction for insomnia in general practice: a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of General Practice, 65(637), e508–e515. doi:10.3399/bjgp15x686137.
  7. Miller, C. B., Espie, C. A., Epstein, D. R., Friedman, L., Morin, C. M., Pigeon, W. R., … Kyle, S. D. (2014). The evidence base of sleep restriction therapy for treating insomnia disorder. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 18(5), 415–424. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.01.006. 
  8. What Causes Insomnia? https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-causes-insomnia. Published 2018. Accessed October 21, 2018.
  9. Insomnia – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167. Published October 16, 2016. Accessed October 21, 2018.
  10. Lovato N, Lack L. Insomnia and mortality: A meta-analysis. S. 2019;43:71-83. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2018.10.004