What if I told you, that if you want to fall asleep faster, sleep better, and sleep longer, then you first have to sleep less? This is the premise of the aptly named “Sleep Restriction Therapy.” Used by professionals to treat some of the most extreme cases of insomnia, the goal is to deprive a person time in bed in order to improve sleep efficiency.
And with study results indicating twice the effectiveness of other sleep hygiene therapies, sleep restriction therapy most definitely has a solid track record to back up its recommendation.
So how does it work and should you give it a shot? As mentioned, sleep restriction therapy is achieved by limiting your time in bed. To determine how much restriction, we’ll break it down to 3 steps. b Step 1 is to track your average total sleep time per night for one to two weeks. The best way to find out is by using a sleep log, where you track down the estimated time you fall asleep, any disruptions during sleep, and the time you wake up.
This will give you an idea of how much actual sleep you get per night. The next step is where the “restriction” comes in. You’re now only allowed to be in your bed for as long as your average total sleep time you calculated in step 1. For example, after two weeks, if my average total sleep time is 6 hours and I need to wake up at 7 in the morning every day, I’m not allowed to go to bed until 1 in the morning. That’s pretty late, and pretty scary, but that’s what you have to do.
You’re not allowed to stay in bed for more than the 6 hours. However, if you get less than 4 and a half hours of sleep per night, then the lowest restriction of time in bed for you should be 5 hours. Oh, and, no naps. Do this for the next week while still keeping a sleep log because we need to know your new average total sleep time with the restriction.
Now in step 3, we’re going to find out if we should remove or add more time allowed in bed.
To do so, we need to determine your sleep efficiency, which is your new average total sleep time divided by the amount of time in bed. If your sleep efficiency is above 90 percent, you can now add 15 minutes to your time in bed. If it falls below 80 percent, you remove 15 minutes instead. Between 80 and 90 percent, you keep it the same. For example, my time in bed established in step two was 6 hours.
After looking at my log, I find out that now my average total sleep time is 5 and a half hours.
Convert this to minutes, which is 360 and 330 respectively, plug it into the sleep efficiency equation, and we get 92 percent, meaning I can go to bed 15 minutes earlier. However, if I only get 4 and a half hours of sleep, my sleep efficiency is only 75%. Unlucky me, that means I now go to sleep at 1:15. Repeat these steps every week, and either add, remove, or keep the same time for each week until you finally find the sweet spot that works for you.
It all might sound pretty simple to follow, but actually doing it can be pretty tough. In some cases, you’re sleeping very few hours each night which can have a very difficult impact to your time awake. We’re talking about extreme fatigue, reduced motivation, and you might even get some gnarly headaches.
Whether you think that’s worth experiencing will be up to you. But do note that, if you are able to get past this initial hump, then the studies say there’s a good chance that your sleep problems will get much better.
For people, though, that suffer from other disorders such as bipolar and sleepwalking, you might want to avoid this strategy since lack of sleep has shown to make those disorders much worse. For everyone else, before even attempting sleep restriction, you should try the less extreme methods mentioned in my insomnia video. Only if those methods do not work should you consider sleep restriction therapy. Even then, definitely talk to your healthcare provider first before moving forward.
Read More: Proven Sleep Tips | How to Fall Asleep Faster | Doctor Mike