What is sleep restriction therapy?
Sleep restriction therapy is one of the most powerful tools in sleep psychology and has been extensively researched. People with insomnia often find it counterintuitive that you have to try to stay awake in order to get better sleep, but this is fundamental psychology at work. You’re so sleepy by the time you hit the pillow that you immediately fall into a deep, restorative sleep. In time, your mind starts forming a strong, permanent association between your bed and quickly falling into a restorative sleep. This association will benefit your sleep for the rest of your life.
The way sleep restriction works is by narrowing your sleep window at the beginning of treatment to increase sleep efficiency, or the ratio of time asleep to time-in-bed. Your sleep window is then gradually adjusted in each subsequent session so that you would be able to achieve your sleep goals eventually. There are techniques used by sleep clinics to calibrate your time-in-bed on a regular basis, using your past sleep data and combining it with results from a sleep questionnaire.
Sleep restriction may cause daytime sleepiness until sleep has been regulated. In general, sleep restriction is safe for most people. But it is not recommended if you have:
- Bipolar disorder
- Untreated obstructive sleep apnea.
Anyone in a profession where they need to be alert or cautious to avoid serious accidents (e.g. air traffic controllers, operators of heavy machinery, long-haul truck drivers) should also consult with their health care provider before starting the program.
Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT) - Frequently Asked Questions
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