Are You Suffering From Sleep Problems? Restrict The Time That You Spend In Bed
Chances are that at one point or another you’ve probably experienced some difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep. After all, in the United States alone, 30 to 35 percent of adults occasionally experience symptoms of insomnia, 15 to 20 percent have a short-term insomnia disorder (lasting less than three months) and 10 percent have a chronic insomnia disorder (at least three times per week for at least three months). Like a fever or pain, insomnia is usually associated with a deeper underlying illness like depression, anxiety or chronic stress. Nearly half of insomnia cases stem from psychological or emotional problems.
If you’ve been experiencing problems falling and/or staying asleep for more than a few consecutive nights in a row, you might start associating the bedroom with a restless night. You’ll probably start feeling a little anxious about getting enough sleep and this will likely make falling and staying asleep even harder for you — and the vicious cycle will continue. But according to top sleep experts, the sleep restriction method could help you break this cycle of sleep deprivation. Here’s how it works.
Instead of spending more time in bed each night hoping to give your body more time to fall asleep, try deliberately restricting your sleep time instead. Sleep experts at Harvard Medical School suggest that restricting the time that you spend in bed each night to six hours could help you get a more restful night’s sleep if you’ve been having consistent sleep problems since your body will actually be tired when you get into bed.
Experts suggest that those who try the sleep restriction method should set a consistent early wake-up time by setting a daily alarm for say, 7 a.m. If you choose to set your morning alarm to 7 a.m., you should force yourself to stay awake until 1 a.m. before heading to bed — no matter how sleepy you are the night before. Once your slumber improves and you’re clocking good Zzz’s for those six hours, you can add another 15 to 30 minutes to your sleep time. You’ll repeat this process of adding time to your bedtime until you’re getting good-quality sleep for seven to nine hours each night.
Many sleep experts swear by this sleep restriction method and maintain that it helps promote more restful sleep in those who have insomnia symptoms (whether mild or severe). It can turn the bedroom back into a place of sleep and rest, rather than a chamber of nightly torment. Since getting six hours or less of sleep a night over an extended period of time can lead to a plethora of health problems, we recommend that you only try this method for a couple weeks at a time. If your sleep doesn’t improve after two weeks of using this method, consult your primary care doctor for advice — even a mild form of insomnia could be a symptom of a more serious underlying illness.
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