Sleep Restriction - The Nuclear Weapon for Insomnia
Posted Oct 03 2012 11:48pm
I've tried this, and know that it's the "go-to" cure for insomnia that every expert finally ends up at. As long as there's not another root for your sleeplessness (co-morbid or secondary insomnia), then this should work.
But it's hard. Very hard.
By using the natural sleep pressure you build up during the day to help us reboot your brain, you can permanently rewire yourself to sleep.
This method relies on an incredible strong personal will, but if you can pull it off, it will brute-force you back into a regular sleep pattern.
So here, in a very truncated form are the steps you need to take to try sleep restriction:
Because we use the power of sleep pressure with this technique, it's important that you don't nap during the duration of the program.
It's important that you keep a journal during your sleep restriction experiment. You need to know where you're at all the time.
Calculate the amount of time you actually spend asleep in bed at night. You'll need the journal for this. We're talking about the actual sleep you get, not the time you spend awake in bed. You might try inexpensive smartphone apps like Zeo for the iPhone or Sleep As Android for an Android phone.
Regardless of how much you sleep, the minimum sleep time you need to start at is 5 hours. Hopefully, you do better than that. For our example, we'll say you are a hopeless insomniac get 4 hours of sleep at night - so the number we'll use here is the minimum - 5 hours. If you sleep 6 hours a night, use 6. But I wonder if you're really an insomniac with that amount of sleep?!!?
Use the time you need to be up earliest in the morning as your new waking timeevery day (maybe it's 6:15am). Work backwards from that waking time to determine your new bedtime. If it's 6:15am and we subtract 5 hours, your new bedtime would be 1:15amevery night.
Go to bed at 1:15am for the next two weeks, regardless of how tired you feel. Wake up at 6:15am every day regardless of how well you've slept that night. There can beno exceptions to this new 1:15am-6:15am schedule for the duration of the two weeks.
Hopefully, sometime during this period you will start to sleep through the whole night. If it doesn't happen, and you can seriously say you've given it a real try, extend the experiment another week. If this still fails, seek out a sleep clinic!! You have a bigger problem than can be solved here, and something else is afoot. Know that you've done yourself no serious harm with this experiment.
If you passed Step 7, and are sleeping through the 5 hours, extend the time in bed another 15 minutes for the next 2 weeks. That means bedtime will now be 1:00am. Still get up at 6:15am. Same program as with Step 7.
After 2 weeks of doing this, and sleeping through the whole time, extend it another 15 minutes - making bedtime 12:45am. If you are not sleeping through the whole time, continue another week. If this fails, cut back to 5 hours and try it over again. Repeat the above, taking 15 minute steps every week.
When you are around 7 hours total sleep, you are now looking for your new permanent bedtime. Sometime in the next few weeks you'll get to a time where sleep is not improving anymore (quantity and quality). For example, bed at 11:15pm, and waking up at 6:15am, we find we aren't sleeping any more than from 11:30pm-6:15am. At this point revert back to your previous "best sleep" time and stay there - 11:30pm is your new bedtime, and 6:15am is your new risetime - giving you 6 hours and 45 minutes of good, quality sleep every night.
Understand that this is incredibly hard to do, as your urge to sleep is very very strong, but I've never heard of anyone with primary insomnia that didn't return to normal sleep after successfully trying this method.