This Practice Could Solve Your Insomnia

If you've got insomnia, you've probably given in to the urge to take a daytime nap. The problem with allowing yourself a little afternoon snooze is that it perpetuates the cycle of difficult sleep. Getting just enough daytime to rest to take the edge off your exhaustion means you'll be less motivated to sleep at night. Less sleep at night means a greater desire to nap during the day—and on and on it goes.

The solution? For some insomniacs, it's a technique known as sleep restriction therapy. While restricting the sleep of someone who has trouble sleeping may sound counterintuitive, the goal of this behavioral therapy is to prevent you from catching a few z's wherever and whenever the urge strikes—that simply keeps a variable sleep cycle from normalizing. Instead, you need to consolidate all of your sleep time into one distinct overnight period, which will help you sleep more deeply and restfully.

The first step in sleep restriction therapy is figuring out your allowed time in bed. This takes a couple of weeks, as you will need to keep a sleep log for that long in order to determine the amount of time you actually sleep each night. Once you've figured that out, add a half hour to it. This will be your total allowed sleep time per night. Experts suggest you make sure this number is at least five and a half hours per night to start—this way you won't fall asleep on the job or while driving. Next, pick bedtimes and wakeup times, and make a vow to stick with them. This means going to bed at the same time every night and setting your alarm for the same time every morning, whether it's a weekend or weekday and whether or not you slept well the night before. If your allowed sleep time per night is six hours, you might set a bedtime of midnight and a wake time of 6:00 a.m.

A very important component of sleep restriction therapy is the use of light to regulate your sleep cycle. When you wake up, try to get a half-hour of bright light, either naturally or via the use of a light box. Conversely, when you get ready for bed at night, make sure all the lights are off and that you dim any sources of ambient light such as digital alarm clocks, computers, and cell phone chargers.

Sleep restriction therapy can be tough at first. If you don't get enough rest one night, you may be tempted to crawl into bed early the next night. Don't! Stick to your midnight bedtime, even if your eyes are closing at 10:00 p.m. Ideally your body should be so tired from this compressed schedule that you will begin sleeping well when you actually are in bed. If you're still sleepy during the day, add 15 minutes of sleep each night. You can go up by 15-minute increments each week until you're well rested and alert during the day.




Kaiser Permanente. "Sleep Restriction Therapy." Web.