“I have nights when I can’t sleep at all and other nights when I sleep a lot,” Philippa wrote last week. “If I don’t fall asleep straight away I find I often don’t sleep the whole night! Do you think sleep restriction would work for me?”
My answer to Philippa’s question is an unqualified “yes.” But first I want to look at sleep that’s inconsistent and unpredictable and how anxious it can make you feel.
When people ask what insomnia treatment helped me the most, I mention sleep restriction therapy (SRT) and exercise.
But I’d never seen SRT and exercise paired as equal partners in a therapeutic intervention for insomnia until last week. Trolling the Internet, I came across a study conducted in China to determine whether adding an individualized exercise program to SRT would result in better outcomes than SRT alone. The investigators came up with interesting results.
“I’m on Day 4 of SRT and it isn’t going well,” Jenny wrote recently. “I finally had an appointment with a sleep therapist last week. He talked to me about SRT and gave me a 7-hour sleep window, from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. My usual bedtime is 9:30 so I had some apprehensions. But I started 4 days ago.
“Since then I haven’t slept more than 3 hours a night. It’s really hard for me to stay up till 11, and then when I get in bed I’m wide awake! In the morning I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open! Is this normal? I’m afraid I may be a treatment failure. Any advice?”
My video and blog on Sleep Restriction Therapy get lots of comments, and certain questions about SRT come up again and again. Here I’ll review the concepts behind this treatment for insomnia and offer pointers on how to succeed.
“What good is keeping a sleep diary,” Lawrence wrote to Ask The Savvy Insomniac recently, “when all it’s going to do is confirm what I already know?”
It might seem pointless—and like a whole lot of bother—to keep a sleep diary when you’ve lived many years with insomnia and know its shape and contour like the back of your hands. But I think it’s a valuable investigative tool.
For several years, I jogged, rode a bicycle or worked out at a gym three days a week. This physical activity was both a duty and a pleasure. It kept me healthy, and often it made me feel good. But it didn’t seem to affect my sleep one way or the other.
A new survey suggests that exercise generally tends to improve sleep.