Don’t get stressed by sleep restriction

Q:  Falling asleep isn’t my problem, but I awaken typically at 2 or 3 a.m. then often cannot fall back asleep or it takes me what seems like hours to do so.  I’ve tried sleep restriction and cannot do it anymore because I get overly stressed by the idea of limiting my sleep.  Any other ideas to help me sleep better through the night?

A:  Sleep restriction therapy (SR) is one of the most effective ways to help consolidate sleep into one unbroken period, but if it causes you stress then it might be helpful to take a new and better approach.

In the Sleep Training System (STS), our approach is to modify the practice of sleep restriction therapy with the intent of reducing stress, while also gaining its significant benefits to counter insomnia and improve sleep.

SR is a key component in cognitive behavioral therapy specifically designed for insomnia (CBTI), and its benefit has been proven repeatedly by empirical science.  The method can be modified in a number of ways, however, so what might work for you is to re-think the idea of SR to work to your advantage.

SR is critically important because it sets and maintains a consistent pattern of sleep and wakefulness.  Your inherent sleep system thrives on this sort of regularity.  By establishing a consistent sleep-wake pattern, you accomplish many things.

Most important is the profound benefit of regulating your circadian rhythm, and synchronizing that to your homeostatic sleep drive.  Circadian rhythm and sleep drive are the two most important internal components controlling sleep.  Control these two to your advantage, and you are well on your way to better sleep permanently.

In the STS, we call this practice sleep timing.  Instead of thinking of this idea in a stressful way, we suggest re-conceiving it in a strategic way — one that supports a comprehensive effort to improve sleep.

Part of this strategy for better sleep is simply to get up at the same time every day.  Another part is limit any daytime napping to no more than 10 to 15 minutes.  A third and key part is to limit your time allowed in bed to more closely match how much you are actually sleeping each night.

This is where the restriction comes in, but if that idea causes you stress, throw out the idea of restriction.  Think of it instead as your strategy, your beneficial plan that enables you sleep better permanently.  Focus on the rich rewards that idea holds!

Indeed, a separate and supporting method we call “constructive imagination” in the STS enables you to re-think your old ideas about sleep and let go of the counter-productive negativity that is causing you stress.  The re-casting of your old, stressful ideas about sleep into new, better, more positive, and more accurate ideas is actually a key part of the solution.

In this sense, you literally think your way to better sleep, while sleep timing methods enable you to regulate and synchronize your physical sleep system.  The two methods synergistically combine in a potent and very powerful way.

Don’t give up on SR, sleep timing, or however you conceive of this practice, because it works.  By making this positive effort, by controlling what you can reasonably control, by letting go of the stress-producing negative thoughts about sleep, you may find your sleep naturally consolidates much more easily into one unbroken period.  This is exactly what the science tells us, as well as the experience of many satisfied STS users … and there is every reason to believe it will work for you too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Health, Insomnia, sleep, stress

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One Comment on “Don’t get stressed by sleep restriction”

  1. Genuinelyellie Says:

    This is really interesting!

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