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Sleep Restriction: How It Can Improve Your Sleep | Sleep Reset

How Sleep Restriction Therapy Works

If you’ve been looking for ways to help with insomnia and other sleep issues, you have probably heard of sleep restriction therapy. Sleep restriction therapy is commonly used in cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, or CBTi. It works by reducing the amount of time you spend in bed, helping you to get better and deeper sleep.

Though this may sound counterproductive, it can have great results for some individuals. In this article, we’ll talk about what sleep restriction therapy is, how it works, and whether it could be effective for your sleep concerns. Read on to learn more.

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What Is Sleep Restriction?

Sleep restriction therapy, or SRT, is a treatment method for insomnia. It’s also sometimes referred to as sleep compression or sleep consolidation. Whatever term you use for it, the point of the therapy is to limit the individual’s time in bed, gradually increasing this amount as the individual’s sleep improves. The time in bed is never less than 5 hours, and the end goal is usually to get the time in bed to 7 to 9 hours, depending on the person’s sleep needs.

Although sleep restriction therapy is sometimes used on its own for insomnia, it’s usually an extension of cognitive behavioral therapy.

How SRT Works

Sleep restriction therapy limits your time in bed and gradually increases that time until you’re falling asleep quickly and sleeping through the night. 

The reason this works is based on several factors:

  • Your circadian rhythm: SRT helps you balance your circadian cycle and align your body’s natural sleep-wake rhythms.
  • Setting your homeostatic sleep drive: Through SRT, you can increase your drive to sleep since you’ll initially be staying awake longer.
  • Decreasing pre-sleep arousal: Your mind and body will be less aroused before bedtime.

Though your SRT program may vary, there are some common steps that most of them share. 

  • Record your sleep habits: Before you start your sleep restriction therapy, you’ll need to keep a sleep diary to understand your current sleep habits. This process usually takes 1 or 2 weeks and will help determine how much sleep you’re getting per week. You’ll also keep your sleep diary throughout the SRT process, so you can track your progress.
  • Set your bedtime: Once you’ve determined your average sleep time, you’ll set your sleep window. This window will be your initial restriction window. So, if your average sleep time is five hours and you need to wake up at 8:00 a.m., then you should go to bed at 3:00 a.m. It’s not recommended to go lower than five hours, even if your average sleep time is lower.
  • Wake up at the same time every day: Although your sleep window is designed to make sure you get the same amount of sleep each night, you shouldn’t switch your times once you’ve started the process. Make sure to wake up at the same time each day. This will help get your body on a set schedule. 
  • Track your sleep closely for two weeks: You’ll keep the same sleep window for about two weeks. During this time, you should track your time in bed and your time spent actually sleeping. This will help track how efficient your sleep is.
  • Adjust your bedtime: If you’re able to sleep well during your sleep window and are sticking to your schedule, you can gradually increase your time in bed on a weekly basis. Usually, this means adding 15 minutes to your sleep window every week.
  • Measure success: You’ll know that SRT is working for you when you can sleep easily at night and feel rested during the day. As the process goes on, you’ll be able to learn your ideal sleep window, how much sleep you need, and what your quality of sleep is like.

Sleep restriction therapy can take time, but it is effective for many people.

The Benefits of Sleep Compression Therapy

The benefits of sleep compression therapy involve falling asleep faster, staying asleep throughout the night, and waking up feeling well rested.

Getting restful sleep is one of the most obvious benefits, but the act of getting better sleep is a benefit in and of itself. Quality sleep can make daily life easier, balance the body and mind, and decrease your risk for various health concerns.

Is Sleep Consolidation Effective?

Sleep consolidation, especially when combined with a cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia program, can be an effective treatment for insomnia and several other sleep issues. By decreasing your sleep opportunities, you are able to tune your sleep drive and circadian rhythm to feel sleepy at the right times and wakeful during the day.

According to one study, SRT used in conjunction with CBTi can help three out of four people achieve healthier sleep.

How Long Does It Take to See Results?

SRT doesn’t have a specific timeframe where individuals will suddenly start getting perfect sleep. For some people, a few weeks may be enough to get on track. Others may take months. Regardless, it’s going to require some patience and consistency from the individual.

For most people, therapy won’t even begin until you’ve established your baseline sleep habits for one or two weeks. Next, you’ll need to stick to a specific sleep schedule for at least two weeks before you start adding to your time in bed. It’s important that no steps are skipped in the SRT process, so you can gradually improve your sleep time along with the quality of your sleep.

As you follow the steps of the therapy, you’ll learn how much sleep you need and what your sleep schedule needs to be to feel awake and well rested throughout the day — while also being able to fall asleep easily at night.

What attracts many people to SRT combined with CBTi is the fact that it doesn’t require the use of drugs and supplements. While these methods may bring you immediate results, they only work in the very short term, and they may have unpleasant side effects. With SRT and CBTi, you can form lifelong habits that help you naturally get restful and quality sleep.

The Relationship Between Sleep and Memory

If you’re dealing with chronic insomnia, sleep deprivation, or any other sleep issues, you may have noticed how it can affect your life. It’s important to get quality sleep for a variety of reasons. Not only does quality sleep help you to feel healthy and awake, but it also helps you have a healthy mind and body.

In particular, there’s a very strong relationship between sleep and your ability to retain and consolidate memories. Research from the Sleep Division at Harvard Medical School indicates that sleep is linked to both our declarative and our procedural memory.

Declarative memory involves our ability to recall or know specific facts or events. Declarative memory that is complex or emotional may be more easily processed when we experience our full sleep cycles and get enough REM sleep. Also, deep sleep may help us process and consolidate new information that is introduced to our declarative memory during the day. Scientists have continued to study this relationship and develop new theories.

Your procedural memory is your ability to remember how to do something. The research also indicates that REM sleep and some of the other sleep stages can help consolidate procedural memory.

The Relationship Between Sleep and Learning

Research also indicates that there can be a strong link between sleep and learning. Naturally, the relationship between sleep and memory contributes to our ability to learn. Since we need to consolidate and recall our learning experiences in our memory, the sleep benefits that affect memory also contribute to our ability to learn.

Sleep contributes to learning outside of the processes that happen while we’re sleeping too. When you’re sleep deprived, it’s more difficult to concentrate and focus during the day, which hinders your ability to learn. Those who are sleep deprived may find it more difficult to learn and retain new concepts or learn as efficiently as they could when they’re well rested.

In short, the links between acquisition, recall, memory consolidation, and memory formation are strong enough that they shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re missing out on sleep, you could be making it more difficult to learn and retain memories as efficiently as you could if you were getting quality sleep every night.

If you feel like you’re not getting enough sleep at night or if your sleep isn’t restful, you may want to consider trying a sleep program. Fortunately, Sleep Reset makes it easy!

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Optimizing your sleep hygiene can be difficult to do on your own. With Sleep Reset, you’ll get all the tools and help you need to get better sleep and wake up feeling rested. We use a science-backed sleep program with proven methods to help you fall asleep easily and stay asleep throughout the night. Sleep Reset provides you with a personalized sleep program customized for your sleep concerns and lifestyle along with a dedicated sleep coach.

Sleep Reset is an all-natural, no-pills solution that will help you form sustainable sleep habits for life. With sleep tracking, our sleep app, your sleep plan, and your sleep coach, you’ll have everything you need on your journey to better and deeper sleep.

Take our sleep assessment today to find out how Sleep Reset can help you.

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