MedicalNewsToday: Sleep restriction therapy (SRT) is an insomnia treatment that aims to improve a person’s sleep quality by limiting the time they spend in bed.

Some people may find that restricting the time they spend in bed trying to sleep may lead to fewer awakenings and more consolidated and efficient sleep. SRT aims to help people achieve a good night’s sleep by reducing the number of hours they spend in bed. The premise is that the more time a person spends lying in bed unable to sleep, the more they feel negative, stressed, and pressured.

These negative beliefs make people dread the time they spend lying awake, making falling and staying asleep much harder to achieve. A person may spend hours lying awake in frustration and wondering how to achieve better sleep. SRT is a behavioral treatment that addresses this pattern of worrying. It is a method that forms part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). The idea is that by limiting the time they spend awake in bed, a person can shorten the time it takes for them to fall asleep and improve their overall quality of sleep. This approach helps by:

  • Building homeostatic sleep drive: The less time a person spends in bed, the more tired they become. This builds up sleep pressure, or the drive to sleep, which increases the chance of a good night’s sleep.
  • Resetting the circadian rhythm: SRT realigns the behavioral timing of sleep, meaning the time that a person attempts to sleep, with the body’s circadian rhythm. This helps the individual follow bodily triggers of sleepiness and wakefulness.
  • Decreasing body and cognitive arousal: SRT decreases pre-sleep arousal and increases sleep pressure before a person goes to bed. Pre-sleep arousal refers to physical and mental processes, such as a rapidly beating heart and racing thoughts, which may stop a person from falling asleep.
  • Reduces negative thinking patterns: A 2019 study also found that SRT significantly reduced maladaptive thinking, depression, and hyperarousal, leading to better sleep in postmenopausal women.

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