A 5-Minute Guide to Sleep Restriction Therapy


Sleep Restriction Therapy

If you’re tossing and turning throughout the night, sleep restriction therapy may sound like the last thing you’d want to try. However, it’s a method that’s been successful for many patients.

The concept started with Arthur Spielman, a neurologist who specialized in sleep disorders. It’s mostly used with patients who remain awake for much of the night. Reducing the time that they spend in bed can help to increase their sleep efficiency.

In many cases, positive results can be achieved within a few weeks, and may last for years. That probably sounds intriguing if you’re struggling with insomnia or trying to get back on track because the pandemic has affected your slumbers.

Learn more with this quick guide to sleep restriction therapy:

How to Use Sleep Restriction Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapists often use sleep restriction therapy to treat insomnia. You may also be able to adapt some of the techniques to develop your own home remedy.

Try these techniques:

1. Calculate your starting point. Figure out the average number of hours you sleep each night. That will be how much time you’re going to spend in bed initially. However, make 5 and a half hours your minimum even if you’ve been sleeping less than that.

2. Keep a diary. A sleep journal is an effective way to keep track of your sleep. Update it daily to track how much sleep you get and how you feel.

3. Make gradual adjustments. Once you’re able to stay asleep longer, you can start going to bed about 15 minutes earlier each week. The goal is to find your ideal bedtime that enables you to sleep through the night and wake up feeling refreshed.

4. Avoid naps. You’ll probably be tempted to lie down during the day. However, resisting the urge to nap will help you to get results faster.


5. Stay safe. Sleep restriction is inadvisable for some patients. For example, you’d want to avoid disrupting your sleep if you have bipolar disorder or you drive a bus.

6. Talk with your doctor. Your physician can help you find an individual treatment plan for your sleep issues. Even if sleep restriction therapy is not an option, you might try alternative methods like compression that reduces sleep time more gradually.

How to Deal with Daytime Drowsiness

As you might expect, feeling tired during the day can make sleep restriction therapy uncomfortable at first.

Try these tips for staying safe and productive while you’re getting used to your new schedule:

1. Limit caffeine. A couple of cups of coffee are safe for most adults. More than that will probably make you jittery rather than more alert. That caffeine also stays in your system for hours, so avoid caffeine later in the day.

2. Drink water. Staying hydrated will increase your energy levels. Carry a water bottle around with you.

3. Eat healthy. A nutritious diet will also provide the fuel you need. Focus on whole foods and try eating more frequent meals and snacks.

4. Turn up the lights. Exposure to light helps your brain to regulate your sleep cycles. Use the morning sun to wake you up. Keep your bedroom dark at night and turn off electronic devices with bright screens.

5. Move around. Physical activity perks you up. Engage in moderate and vigorous cardio workouts, as well as strength training. Take stretching breaks when you’re sitting for long periods of time.

6. Relax. Do distressing thoughts keep you up at night? Relaxation practices may help you clear your mind and stay alert during the day.

Sleep restriction therapy can be challenging during your first weeks, but the long-term benefits are often worth the temporary fatigue. Talk with your doctor to see if it’s an appropriate option for you.