Sleep Restriction Therapy

We learned about a new therapy designed to help those suffering from insomnia. It is called Sleep Restriction Therapy. There are specific and unconventional rules involved with this therapy, and the methods are very different than what you'd think would be best to do when having trouble sleeping. For instance, one rule can be summed up as "Can't sleep? Then don't!". The goal of this therapy is the teach the insomniac to that going to bed means falling asleep and fast.

The Rules

1) Only go to bed when you are sleepy.
2) If you can't fall asleep within 15 minutes, get out of bed. Do whatever you'd like until you feel sleepy again (even if that means waiting hours and hours).
3) Have a regular wake-up time, even if that means getting 2 hours sleep. For example, get up everyday at 7 AM, even if you didn't go to sleep at 5 AM or even if you were asleep by 10 AM, either way, you must get up at the same time!
4) No napping.
5) Don't do anything in your bedroom except for sleeping.
6) Follow the bedtime rule (see below).

How It Works

Decide on your set wake-up time (see above). Then, determine what is the minimum amount of sleep you can function with.  As an example, say you are waking up at 7 AM and you only need 5 hours to function. Given these numbers, your new bedtime is going to be 2 AM. Do not go to bed until 2 AM. Ideally, you should be very tired and fall asleep right at 2 AM, especially if you been used to going to bed at 10 PM and lying in wake for hours and hours trying to go to sleep but failing. Remember that you still have to get up at 7 AM, so you'll likely be tired the next day, which may make you sleepier than 2 AM. Remember to only go to bed when you are feeling sleepy and only stay in bed if you can fall asleep within 15 minutes. Otherwise, get up! 

When you are successful in falling asleep immediately at 2 AM, then move your bedtime earlier by 15 minutes. Then, when (after a couple of days) you can fall asleep right at 145 AM, then move your bedtime earlier again by 15 minutes, to 130 AM. Continue creeping your bedtime back earlier until you are receiving a comfortable amount of sleep (6-8 hours). Within a month you can potentially turn your sleep bedtime from 2 AM until 11 PM. 


If you don't fall asleep (at 2 AM, your originally calculated bedtime) within 15 minutes, remember to get up and don't go back to bed until you feel sleepy. At whatever time you do feel sleepy and once you go back in bed, you fall asleep immediately, then this will be your new bedtime for future nights (so say you went to bed at 2 AM, didn't sleep, got up, but then went to bed and fell right asleep at 3 AM, then for the rest of the week, go to bed at 3 AM). Then continue to creep this bedtime earlier by 15 minutes as described above.

Goals of the Treatment

This treatment works by restricting your sleeping time making you so tired that your body must sleep! This method also works by preventing you from spending hours and hours lying in your bed not sleeping and worrying about not sleeping. Sleep Restriction Therapy will make insomniacs tired/sleepy again and helps them develop a good routine in order to fall asleep.


  1. Interesting therapy, definitely counter-intuitive. Do you know how successful it is?

  2. I can send you the paper we reviewed in class!


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