Are you having trouble falling asleep at night? Do you wake up frequently throughout the night, feeling groggy and unproductive during the day? If so, you’re not alone because one in 10 adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Believe it or not, restricting the amount of time you spend in bed is one technique that can help combat your insomnia.
Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT) is a behavioral strategy that includes limiting your time in bed to reduce insomnia, enhance sleep efficiency, and improve sleep quality. Contrary to common assumptions, the purpose of SRT is not to limit sleep itself, but to limit the amount of time spent awake in bed. Reducing the time you spend in bed to only “sleep time” teaches your body to identify your bed with sleep, making it simpler to fall and remain asleep throughout the night.
In this post, we’ll look at the concepts of SRT as an important Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for treating insomnia, how it works, and the processes required to apply SRT into yourl life. So, let’s dive in!
How SRT Improves Your Sleep and Overall Health
Spending time in bed, being unable to fall asleep, and tossing and turning for hours only results in frustration. Eventually, you’ll start associating being in bed with being awake, as well as with stress and anxiety, rather than with sleeping. And that’s a problem when it comes to insomnia!
Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT) involves gradually reducing the amount of time you spend in bed to only the amount of time you sleep. Spending less time in bed makes you less likely to toss and turn and more likely to associate your time in bed with sleep rather than wakefulness.
SRT increases your sleep drive, which is the innate need your body has for sleep, thus making it easier to fall and stay asleep. SRT does this by creating a sleep debt, which is the difference between the amount of sleep you need and the amount of sleep you actually get. By restricting your time in bed, you increase your sleep debt, increasing your sleep drive.
SRT also helps reset the circadian rhythm for people who have thrown-off schedules. Circadian rhythms are biological processes that follow a 24-hour cycle and play an essential role in regulating sleep and wakefulness. Disruptions to the circadian rhythm, such as those caused by shift work or jet lag, can lead to sleep problems. By going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, your body learns when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up and this can greatly improve your circadian rhythm.
Insomnia is often characterized by anxiety about falling asleep and staying asleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of sleeplessness, where the more you worry about not sleeping, the harder it becomes to fall asleep. When you only go to bed when you’re sleepy rather than lying in bed worrying about falling asleep, however, anxiety levels go down. SRT helps break this cycle by reducing the time spent in bed awake. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that sleep restriction effectively reduced sleep-related anxiety in individuals with insomnia.
Overcoming Sleep Issues: How to Implement SRT Effectively
Now that you understand the basics of Sleep Restriction Therapy (SRT), it’s time to dive into the protocol. Here’s how to implement SRT in your own life:
First, keep a sleep diary for about two weeks, paying attention to how much time you spend in bed and how much of that time you’re asleep. Then calculate your average sleep time from the sleep diary, i.e., if you are in bed for eight hours but only sleep 6.5 on average.
Next, limit your bed schedule to only your average sleep time. In this example that would be 6.5 hours. This means you’ll be spending less time in bed but setting yourself up for better sleep. Set a bedtime and wake time based on your average total sleep time, ensuring your wake time is consistent daily. This helps train your body to wake up at the same time every day.
Give yourself two to three weeks to form this habit by sticking to the schedules no matter what. Try to avoid going to bed earlier or sleeping later. This behavioral change may be difficult initially, but sticking to the schedule is important. Afterward, you should gradually increase your sleeping time by 15 minutes to ensure you’re more fully rested.
Professional Guidance for Sleep Restriction Therapy
SRT is a highly effective method for improving sleep quality and quantity, but sticking with the protocol may take patience and persistence. You may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep during the initial phase of the therapy. Engaging in relaxing activities before bedtime and creating a more comfortable sleep environment can help. Some people also have trouble resisting the urge to nap during the day, which disrupts your sleep-wake cycle. It helps to stay active during the day and avoid activities that may promote drowsiness.
Our therapists successfully help patients treat their sleep issues using behavioral techniques like SRT. Contact us today for more information about our services and how we can create a custom sleep treatment plan to address your struggles with insomnia.