According to Science Of Us, about 30 percent of all Americans suffer from chronic insomnia, and the rest of us have, at some point in our lives, certainly had sleepless nights or weeks. In order to get a better night's sleep, we try everything from counting sheep to turning off our screens an hour before bed — but researchers say that perhaps the key to sleeping better is staying awake. I know what you're thinking: How is this possible? What is this sorcery? Isn't that the exact opposite of what I'm trying to do?
The method is something doctors call sleep restriction therapy, which aims to reduce the amount of time you try to sleep and increase the amount of time you actually sleep — a goal which it accomplishes by the act of staying awake. Though it sounds counterintuitive and potentially unpleasant for someone who just wants to go to sleep, various studies have shown that the method is actually just as effective as taking medication for insomnia. However, just because it works doesn't mean it isn't hard; after all, it consists of doctors essentially telling insomniacs, who chronically have a hard time sleeping anyway, to resist the urge to sleep when they finally are ready for bed.
In case you want to learn how to do this yourself, here are the suggested steps of sleep restriction therapy:
1. Start keeping track of how well you're sleeping.
Start a journal documenting your sleep patterns — when you fall asleep, how long you stay asleep, and when you wake up — in order to determine how many hours of sleep you usually get every night.
2. Set a constant, strict wake-up time.
And make sure that you stick to it. This time should be the latest you can possibly manage without being late for work, school, or other morning commitments.
3. Don't let yourself go to sleep until a strict, specific time.
Let's say you usually get five hours of sleep and need to wake up around 6 a.m. Don't let yourself sleep before 1 a.m., but once that time finally rolls around, try to go to sleep immediately.
4. Gradually allow yourself to go to sleep earlier and earlier.
When you start successfully and consistently sleeping within the time frame you've allotted, allow yourself to go to bed a little earlier, extending the time by about 15 minutes every now and then until you're sleeping a healthy amount.
So if you struggle with getting to bed and getting a restful eight hours every night, take a shot at doing the exact opposite of what you're trying to do. Who knows — it might cure your insomnia altogether.
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