The sleep restriction method is an asleep regulation method, it will first cause mild sleep deprivation by reducing the time lying in bed to increase the sleep drive and promote falling asleep; then gradually increase the time lying in bed as the sleep efficiency improves to restore the sleep drive balance.
At first, many people will not understand why they need to shorten their sleep time when they obviously have insomnia and cannot sleep.
This question goes back to a misconception that some insomniacs tend to fall into, as I mentioned above, which is to equate the time spent lying in bed with the time spent sleeping. If we try to increase our chances of sleep by lying in bed longer or relieving insomnia fatigue by lying in bed with our eyes closed or taking daytime naps, what is produced is not ideal sleep, but shallow and fragmented sleep, which often further degrades sleep quality.
1. How can the sleep restriction method help you improve the quality of sleep?
The sleep restriction method actually improves the quality of nighttime sleep by reducing our time in bed, shortening the time it takes to fall asleep and wake up after falling asleep and limiting our daytime naps. In this way, it increases sleep drive, as well as sleep continuity and stability, thus directly improving sleep efficiency.
But this does not mean that you are not allowed to sleep, but that the connection between bed and sleep is reestablished by minimizing the time you spend awake in bed.
At the same time, the circadian rhythm of sleep is adjusted and consolidated because of the regular sleep and wake times. When sleep persistence is improved, sleep duration restriction can be relaxed appropriately so that insomniacs can get adequate rest through a gradually longer sleep duration.
In a nutshell, the idea of the Sleep Restriction Method is to improve sleep efficiency first, and then to gradually and reasonably extend the duration of sleep.
2. What is the Sleep Restriction Method for?
Most insomniacs can use the Sleep Restriction Method to improve their sleep quality. This method is particularly suitable for people with sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, too light sleep, and easy walking. It is also suitable for people who have a sleep efficiency of less than 85% and for people who suffer from insomnia at night due to excessive daytime catch-up sleep.
Although the sleep restriction method is suitable for most people, it is important to note that the following 3 types of people are not suitable for this method.
First, people whose jobs require them to maintain a high level of alertness, such as operators of large machinery and long-distance drivers.
Second, people whose health may be negatively affected by sleep deprivation, such as those with mania, epilepsy, severe sleep breathing disorders, and fall risk.
Third, insomniacs who have a short bedtime (less than 5 hours) or who fall asleep quickly.
3. 4-step sleep restriction method to improve sleep quality
Let’s take a look at how you can use the sleep restriction method to improve your sleep quality. To make it easier for you to put this method into practice, I have developed a “4-Step Sleep Restriction Method” that you can follow step-by-step.
Let’s start with the first step, keeping a sleep diary to get a handle on your average time in bed and average sleep time.
Step 1: Keep a sleep diary to keep track of your average time in bed and average sleep duration
In the Sleep Restriction Method, sleep efficiency is an important reference indicator, and to know our sleep efficiency, we have to keep a sleep diary.
For 1 week before starting the sleep restriction method and throughout the sleep adjustment process, you need to complete a sleep diary every day, while avoiding daytime naps. After keeping a sleep diary for 1 week, you will be able to calculate your average time in bed and average sleep time per day for 1 week from your sleep diary.
When filling out the sleep diary, it is important to note that since the conditions of waking up in the middle of the night are sometimes not easy to record accurately, it is only necessary to make a rough estimate when filling out the diary. If there are special circumstances, such as staying up all night or staying up all night, these extreme values must be excluded when calculating the average.
After you know your average time in bed and average time asleep, you can start the next step, which is to set your bedtime and wake-up time.
Step 2: Set bedtime and wake-up time
We need to first set the bedtime for the next week based on the average sleep time we mastered in the previous step. Specifically, take your current average sleep time and set it as your bedtime for the next week.
For example, in the previous step, you calculated your average sleep time to be 7 hours, and based on your real-life schedule, you can set your bedtime at 11 pm at night and your bedtime at 6 am in the morning. If you are worried about going to bed too late and can’t sleep, you can relax your bedtime slightly by moving it up half an hour and setting your bedtime and wake-up time between 10:30 and 6:00 am.
Generally, the sleep restriction method sets a bedtime of at least 5 1/2 hours. Be careful not to go to bed earlier than the set time, but you must get up every morning at the set time.
Step 3: Develop a sleep routine and avoid catching up on sleep during the day
After setting your bedtime and wake-up time, the third step you have to do is to strictly enforce this schedule you have set for yourself during the week. In addition to sleeping at night, avoid catching up on sleep during the day, and keep yourself awake with exercise if you need to. At the same time, make a point of keeping a sleep diary on an ongoing basis.
Step 4: Continuously adjust your bedtime based on your sleep diary for the new week
After a week of implementing the set bedtime and wake-up schedule, calculate your average sleep efficiency for the week based on your sleep diary and adjust your bedtime for the following week based on your average sleep efficiency. The specific adjustment is as follows
1. If your sleep efficiency is greater than 90%, increase your average time in bed by 15-30 minutes the following week.
2. If the sleep efficiency is between 85% and 90%, the bedtime will remain the same for the following week.
3. If the sleep efficiency is below 85%, reduce the average time in bed by 15-30 minutes the following week.
Repeat the above steps until your sleep efficiency remains stable between 85% and 90%, at which point your bedtime is your optimal bedtime.
Finally, when implementing sleep restrictions, you need to pay attention to two issues.
First, the bedtime should be set to suit your needs and then adhered to.
The implementation of the sleep restriction method should be based on your own sleep situation.
Some people are so worried about losing sleep that they start lying in bed at 8:00 p.m. and wait to fall asleep. In fact, if you go to bed too early, you may strengthen the tendency to wake up early, so you should use sleep restriction therapy to delay your bedtime.
Some people, even if they don’t have anything to do at night, are used to staying up late and tend to stay in bed or sleep too much during the day, so they are suitable for getting up earlier in the morning.
If it belongs to people who sleep very lightly all night, or always wake up in the middle of the night, it is okay to adjust the bedtime later or wake up earlier.
Second, what if I just can’t sleep during the set bedtime at night?
When the sleep restriction law is first implemented, even if you can’t sleep during the specified sleep time at night, you can’t stay in bed or make up for it during the day, and you must wake up at the set time without fail. After a period of implementation, although the sleep time will be reduced, the sleep will become more stable, fall asleep faster, and the sense of being asleep will be enhanced. As sleep efficiency improves, we then gradually increase the time spent in bed.
For people who spend a lot of time in bed and are very light sleepers, it is good to shorten their sleep time instead, to get the sense of familiarity that was previously missing and to improve the quality of sleep. As long as you can get enough sleep that your body needs, this is natural sleep.