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How Sleep Restriction Therapy Works

How Sleep Restriction Therapy Works

Sleep restriction therapy is a common feature of virtually all types of cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBTi). It aims to address difficulty staying asleep through reverse logic. Limiting the amount of time spent in bed can actually help those struggling with sleeplessness to sleep better.

This sounds strange, right? Read on to learn about sleep restriction therapy, how to utilize this method, and how it helps treat insomnia.

What is Sleep Restriction Therapy?

It was developed by Dr. Arthur Spielman a neurologist and specialist in sleep medicine from New York. Since then, decades of sleep research have proven it to be the most effective technique for improving sleep. It is considered a reliable treatment method for those with insomnia, and for anyone who is simply trying to sleep better.

The name of this method may be confusing because the goal is not to restrict sleep, but rather to restrict time spent in bed awake. The main concept is that the more time insomniacs spend in bed, the less time they spend asleep. Sleep restriction is designed to correct this imbalance.

Sleep Restriction Therapy Steps

This CBTi method works to increase your sleep efficiency.

  1. Record Your Sleep Patterns – Keep a sleep diary or use a sleep tracking app for at least two weeks. This will help you better identify your sleep habits and patterns.
  2. Average the Hours of Sleep per Night – Using your sleep log, you will need to find the average number of hours of nightly sleep.
  3. Set Your Bedtime – Start by going to bed in time to achieve only the average number of hours that you calculated. For example, if you usually only sleep 6 hours, and you need to wake up at 7:00 am, then your initial bedtime should be 1:00 am. It is recommended, however, that you do not restrict the sleep time less than 5.5 hours even if that is more than your average sleep time.
  4. Maintain the Same Wake Time – Keep the same wake time every day of the week.
  5. Stick to this Schedule for at Least Two Weeks – The time spent in bed should not vary according to the amount of sleep you got during the night either.
  6. Increase the Time Spent in Bed – When you are sleeping relatively well through the night and starting to feel tired during the day, gradually increase the time spent in bed. Move back your bedtime by adding 15 minutes each week.
  7. Find Your Ideal Bedtime – You will know that you have reached your ideal bedtime when you are sleeping better through the night and feeling rested during the day.

Does Sleep Restriction Therapy Work?

Sleep restriction works for most people with chronic insomnia. Though you may not reach the mythical 9 hours of sleep that is recommended, it can help you find the right amount of sleep for you. A few extra hours of quality sleep each night can make a world of difference to anyone feeling constantly tired and unrested.

Like all CBTi techniques, sleep restriction therapy is drug-free. It works by increasing sleep efficiency – the amount of time spent awake in bed versus sleeping – and eliminating prolonged awakenings in the middle of the night. Sleep restriction can also help you to look forward to bedtime and can provide a long-term solution for better, less fitful sleep patterns.

How Long Does It Take?

Sleep restriction therapy works for a lot of people with sleep disturbances, but it takes time. It generally takes several weeks of diligence. For this method to work well, it is important to stick to the schedule and the very gradual time extensions.

Sleep Restriction Therapy Tips

Here are some quick tips for success in overcoming insomnia.

  • Plan a strong start to your day. When the alarm goes off at your set wake-up time, go through your normal routine while adding some habits that signal to your body that it is morning. This could include opening the shades, turning on bright lights, taking a shower, or going out for a walk.
  • Resist the urge to take naps. Sleeping during the day will make sleep restriction less effective. It is better to avoid naps to ensure that you will be tired and looking forward to bed at the right time. Exercise and spending time outside can help shake off the drowsiness.
  • Continue using your sleep diary or app throughout the therapy process. This will help you and your doctor to adjust your schedule as needed.

Related article: 10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Fall Asleep Faster.

For more information about treatment options for sleep disorders, contact Sleep Health Solutions.

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