The Secrets of Sleep Restriction Therapy for Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Sleep restriction therapy is helping many chronic insomnia sufferers reset their sleep/wake cycles. It works by breaking the learned behaviors that have created the bad sleep cycle and insomnia. If you would like to see if it could work for you, here are the steps you should follow:

To begin sleep restriction therapy you must first find out how much sleep you normally get at night. To do this, log how long you sleep each night for a week to 10 days.

Sleep restriction therapy: step two

Take the average amount of time you are able to sleep from step one, add one hour and only allow yourself to spend that much time in bed at night.

Use this to calculate your new bed time as well as out-of-bed time.

For example: If you are averaging 5 hours of sleep each night and you want to get up at 6am, your bedtime should be 12am (5hours plus 1 hour makes 6 hours of total time spent in bed).

Sleep restriction therapy: step three

Make sure that when you go to bed, you switch off the lights within half an hour. Also, make sure that you get out of bed within half an hour of your final morning wake time. This will help your brain associate the bed with sleep.

When you do get up, expose yourself to bright light for at least 30 minutes. This will help your body regulate its sleep/wake cycle.

Sleep restriction therapy: step four

This step is very important and cannot be skipped.

After sticking to your new bedtime and out-of-bed time for a week, add a half hour to the amount of time you spend in bed each night.

For example: Based on the scenario listed in step two, you would change your bedtime to 11:30pm for a week.

One week later, you would go to bed at 11pm, and so on.

Continue with this process until you feel you are beginning to have trouble falling and staying asleep again.

For example, if you find that when you reach a bedtime of 10:30pm you are having trouble falling asleep, change your bedtime back to 11pm. You can always try adding the half hour back in a week later if you so wish.

If your insomnia is the result of a physical or mental condition, sleep restriction therapy may not work for you. However, if your insomnia is the result of bad sleeping behaviors that you are unable to break on your own, it could be worth your time to go through these steps.

Bizarrely, a little sleep deprivation could cure your insomnia once and for all.


Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free sleep training for insomnia. His course will help you identify the issues that are harming your sleep and teach you how to fix them. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.