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Lifestyle changes that promote sleep

The following approaches may be used on their own or combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Sleep restriction. People with insomnia tend to spend more time in bed, hoping this will lead to sleep. In reality, spending less time in bed — a technique known as sleep restriction — promotes more restful sleep and helps make the bedroom a welcome sight instead of a torture chamber. As the patient learns to fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly, the time in bed is slowly extended until it provides a full night’s sleep.

Some sleep experts suggest starting with six hours at first, or whatever amount of time the patient typically sleeps at night. Setting a rigid early morning waking time often works best. If the alarm is set for 7 a.m., a six-hour restriction means staying awake until 1 a.m., no matter how sleepy. Once the patient is sleeping well during the allotted six hours, he or she can add another 15 or 30 minutes until attaining a healthy amount of sleep.

Reconditioning. This technique reconditions people with insomnia to associate the bedroom with sleep instead of sleeplessness and frustration. It incorporates elements of stimulus control and sleep hygiene education by suggesting strategies such as these:

  • Use the bed only for sleeping or sex.
  • Go to bed only when sleepy. If unable to sleep, move to another room and do something relaxing. Stay up until feeling sleepy, then return to bed. If sleep does not follow quickly, repeat.
  • During the reconditioning process, get up at the same time every day and do not nap.

Relaxation techniques. For some people with insomnia, a racing or worried mind is the enemy of sleep. In others, physical tension is to blame. A variety of techniques — such as meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization of peaceful settings — can calm the mind and relax the body enough to foster sleep.



Excerpt from: “Overcoming Insomnia”. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. Feb 2011



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