Learning To Nap

By Abby Wood

One of the key difficulties people encounter (but not cats, since cats are already polyphasic) is learning to nap. This article is specifically geared towards the catnap (20-minute naps, +/- 5 minutes) since most people don’t have a problem sleeping for 90 minutes (a full sleep cycle), and most of the intermediate and all of the advanced schedules require learning how to catnap efficiently.

General Catnapping Rules

  • Catnaps can be between 15-26 minutes long. As you begin your adaptation, start with longer naps and as you get to sleep, shorten them. A good rule of thumb is you should always wake up feeling refreshed from a catnap – if you wake up, know you got to sleep and feel groggy or disoriented, you slept too long.
  • You probably won’t get sleep when you try napping at first. It takes practice, like any other skill. Patience with yourself will go a long way.
  • Nap at the same time, every time, and set the alarm for the same length of time. The stricter your adherence to the schedule during adaptation the more likely you are to be successful.
  • You may wake up early – if you do, get up even if you got no sleep. It’s difficult at first, but you’re much more likely to oversleep if you try to reset your alarm.
  • Avoid napping for at least an entire BRAC after you wake up.
  • Stay away from computer screens and bright lights for 15 minutes before your nap if it is at night.
  • You may not sleep for your naps in the beginning. Smile – the next nap will be better for it. Stressing out about not sleeping won’t do any good.
  • Taymaxi: “I nap with both white noise and ambient sleep music playing, also while wearing earplugs. This completely drowns out all the noises in my environment and makes me feel like I’m in some sort of…I don’t know…extraterrestrial dream cave type thing.  My sleep is always MUCH more deep and refreshing than when I don’t do this.”

Falling Asleep

  • Set your alarm(s)
  • Pick your favorite position, some swear by lying on your back, some the side curl
  •  Now go through your getting into a sleep routine, here is an example 2 step routine
    • 1.) Focus on lowering heartbeat, do this by first counting it for 60 beats then hearing it slow down for another 60 beats
    • 2.) After this switch to clearing your head and having a completely blank mind, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Any thought that comes into my head imagine it rising up out of your mind and disappearing.
    • After 1-2 mins of stage 2, I am usually asleep. Also quite often I don’t feel tired, but as soon as I have done stage 1 and have just started on stage 2 a feel a wave of warm tiredness sweep over my body. Sometimes this can feel a little uncomfortable as it’s like feeling the transition into sleep.
    • EDIT: Any mental/physical routine will work. just keep it consistent, every single time. If you’re building a routine, don’t expect it to work the first time, but definitely look for improvement by the 10th time. Universally the consistent thing with falling asleep is trying to keep yourself from thinking too much about the whole process  – your body knows how to do this, you just have to create a routine so it knows “okay, time to sleep.” Thanks, Pavlov.

Waking Up

  • Get up immediately. Make sure to use an alarm clock that you can put somewhere you have to stand up to reach. Some people literally jump out of bed!
  • Avoid going straight back to bed. “Another 5 minutes” will easily become another 5 hours while you are sleep deprived if you are cold either do some Cold Thermogenesis or some exercise until you are warm.
  • Eat something small immediately on waking. Something non-carb and munchy like almonds or macadamias, it’s easy to keep a jar of them within reach. Even try chewing gum!
    • Tip from taymaxi: “During my early morning naps, I had trouble for a while with turning off my alarms and going back to bed. I tried getting food out to prepare upon waking, which would theoretically make me more inclined to stay awake, but I’d never remember it in my half-asleep state. Finally, I started to half-prepare small meals and then place my alarm in the (turned off) oven with the food or on the plate next to it so that I actually SAW the food. You have to sleep relatively near the kitchen for this, but I haven’t gone back to sleep once when doing this.”
  • Create a waking up routine. Same idea as the falling asleep routine – it may not be as effective at first, but it will get better with time.
  • If you wake up and are still tired, go for a quick walk. Fresh air + being out in the world will help promote alertness. You can also try light therapy.

For Napping At Home

  • Create a space that all you do is nap in. Lay in the exact same spot every time, for every nap.
  • Take 10-20 minutes beforehand and be alone in the quiet, away from computer screens and other bright lights.
  • Avoid napping in an area shared with pets, especially cats. Although they are master nappers themselves, they seem to take an almost sadistic delight in finding ways to wake you up – just so you pay attention to them of course!
  • Sleep in a totally black room or with a sleep mask over your eyes. A wadded up t-shirt will work as a last resort
  • Eat a high protein meal an hour before a nap so your stomach doesn’t growl while it’s asleep. Eat carbs in the day, and fats in the evenings and nights.

For Napping While Out and About

  • Know where you’re going to nap long before you need to. Suddenly needing to find a place to fall asleep = stress = no point in even taking a nap
  • Pack a “sleep kit” with you. Maybe include earplugs, a sleep mask, something to bolster your knees (so they don’t lockout) and your phone.
  • Create a routine, as close to the routine at home as you can, for falling asleep. For me, this involves putting in the earplugs first, then setting up my sleeping space, turning off the broadcast on my phone (so I can set it on my chest safely), setting the alarm, then finally the blindfold and laying my head on the neck roll
  • If you’re napping at work or school and people begin to notice, remember: you don’t owe them an explanation unless you want to explain it. Although polyphasic sleep has greatly improved my quality of life, I generally don’t talk about it with strangers and prefer to simply say “I didn’t get much sleep last night.”


Listening to your body

Not everyone sleeps perfectly as they schedule for. Even though they do not follow the schedule perfectly, it is still important to have something to follow, otherwise, your overall sleep quality becomes low.

If you are on E3 you might set your alarm for 3.5h, but sometimes wake up at 3h sleep and get up and be fine… if you forced yourself back to sleep for that 30 mins then you might wake up with bad sleep inertia. If you sometimes wake up 2h in, you could go back to sleep without consequence because you have time for another cycle.

If you are DC1 and set your alarm for 4h, 90% of the time you may wake up naturally after 3.5h. If you sleep through to the 4h mark you should still wake up feeling good. At first train yourself to sleep 1.5h for your second core by listening to your alarm, but later you could start to set your alarm for 2.5h. Then, 90% of the time you will wake up after 1.5h but sometimes you will sleep through to the 2.5h alarm and wake up feeling good.

It is generally a good idea to never sleep more than 4h, though, so be aware of that when it comes to ‘listening to your body’, it may want more than 4h in a row, but in that case, it is just wrong!

Sleep is variable, day to day, but there is also a lot of consistency when you are getting good quality sleep. You may average 3.5h+1.5h+25min but other days it will look like 1.5h+1.5h+25min, or 0h+3.5h+25min, or 4h+1.5h+25min, or 4h+2.5h+25min.

When you are first learning to sleep polyphasically, alarms are important to help quicken entrainment, later they are not so useful because if you are a successful polyphasic sleeper you will listen to your body as well as the alarm.

So basically, it is important to listen to your alarm, but later when you have the hang of things, it is important to also listen to your body. If you are to be successful in the long term knowing which one to listen to is an important skill to have, but don’t panic, it will become intuitive quickly, after a few months of consistent polyphasic sleep and mindful introspection.