Polyphasic Sleep Long-Term Consequences

October 12th, 2011 by Steve Pavlina

One long-term consequence of the polyphasic sleep experiments I did in 2005-2006 is that I still retain the ability to fall asleep very quickly. Enough time has passed that I suspect this is a permanent change.

These days when I decide to go to sleep, I can typically fall asleep within 30 seconds or less. Sometimes I can be asleep within just 2-3 seconds. As Rachelle can attest, this is no exaggeration.

This isn’t narcolepsy. I don’t drift off during the day, and I don’t fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. Unless I’m unusually super-tired, the decision to sleep is under conscious control. When I decide to sleep, my body falls asleep almost immediately.

This is true for falling asleep at night as well as for taking naps if I so desire.

On many occasions I’ve been startled awake while Rachelle and I were lying in bed together. After we talked for a while, I decided to fall sleep, so I did just that. A few seconds later I’m startled awake by Rachelle, who suddenly started talking again. To her it was just a pause in the conversation lasting only seconds, but for me that was enough time to fall asleep, start dreaming, and be startled awake, clearly remembering the details of my dream.

This sometimes happens 2-3 times in a row. After being startled awake once, I “thank” Rachelle for scaring me, and then I go right back to sleep within seconds. Rachelle mistakenly assumes I’m still awake and makes another verbal comment, which wakes me up yet again. Sometimes she laughs about it, not in a sadistic way but rather in semi-disbelief that I could be falling asleep so quickly. She also finds it amusing.

When this happens a few times in a row, sometimes I’ll re-enter the same dream and continue where I left off, but usually I’ll enter a different dream that doesn’t seem related to the first dream.

There’s a bit of time dilation when I’m dreaming, so I may feel that several minutes have passed in the dream world, while Rachelle tells me that only seconds passed within her waking time frame.

This has happened more times that I can count. It’s definitely not an isolated event.

Normally I start dreaming immediately as I’m falling asleep, sometimes even before I’m asleep. When I close my eyes at night, I can often see dream characters trying to interact with me and dream scenery beginning to open up. It’s very easy to slip into that dream world if I just keep my eyes closed.

Falling asleep in this way is like accepting an invitation. I don’t have to do anything. I just have to welcome the dream world that’s already beckoning me to join it. It’s a feeling of being pulled into the dream world as opposed to trying to get myself to fall asleep. It takes more effort to stay awake.

I’m not saying this ability is special or unique. I’ve studied various how-to aspects of sleep like lucid dreaming and sleep hacking, but I don’t know what the statistics are in terms of how long it takes most people to fall asleep. A bit of Google searching suggests it’s around 10 minutes though, unless you have insomnia.

For me this was a significant change since I didn’t have this “ability” before experimenting with polyphasic sleep. Those 5-1/2 months of sleeping in a different pattern must have trained my body to initiate sleep without delay. With only 20 minute naps around the clock, my body had to learn to go to sleep very quickly and not waste a minute of precious sleep time. Otherwise I’d have been very sleep deprived during those months. By necessity my body had to speed up the process it used to fall asleep. I couldn’t waste 10 minutes trying to fall asleep if my nap was only 20 minutes total — that would be like trying to function on half as much sleep.

Even though Rachelle sometimes finds it a bit odd, and I get startled awake more often than I’d like, I consider this change to be a beneficial gain. My sleep is much more efficient than it was before I experimented with sleep hacking. I don’t waste time lying in bed trying to fall asleep. When I want to go to sleep, I sleep. And if I want to delay sleep and stay up later, I can do that too.

I share this partly as a cautionary warning to others who want to experiment with different sleep patterns. There may be long-term consequences even if you only experiment for a short time. Some consequences may not be so positive. So if you do undertake such experiments, be aware that you’re taking a risk.


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