Mastering self-discipline can be very useful, especially when it comes to sleep. One particularly effective technique, although very difficult, is sleep restriction. It is a method of increasing the need for sleep through controlled sleep deprivation which leads to rapid improvement in sleep quality. It might not suit everyone as a long-term solution, but trying it out as an experiment at least once can be very beneficial.
If you are ready to experiment with sleep restriction, here is how you can get started:
1. Sleep diary: Keep a sleep diary for about 1 week before starting with sleep restriction, and fill it out continuously during the experiment.
2. Calculations: Use the data you collected in week 1 of sleep diary to calculate your average total sleep time (TST). TST is the amount of actual sleep you get during the night. It should not include the time you spend trying to fall asleep nor the duration of nocturnal awakening.
3. Set boundaries: Set your average TST from week 1 as the maximum amount of time you’ll spend in bed during the experiment. To start with, allow for a minimum of 5 hours.
4. Create your schedule: Choose the time you’ll go to sleep and wake up at. Try to maintain the same schedule during the experiment.
4. Sleep efficiency: Calculate your sleep efficiency (SE) every third day or once a week. You can do this by dividing the time you actually slept by the total time you spent in bed and multiplying by 100 ([time slept/time in bed] x 100).
5. Adjustment: When your SE has reached 80/85% or more, increase the time you spend in bed by 15-20 minutes. It is recommended to adjust the evening bedtime and keep the wake up time constant.
6. Loop: Review your sleep diary and adjust your total time in bed every week to track changes in your sleeping pattern. Try running this experiment for at least two weeks.
7. Long-term benefit: Sleep restriction is an effective way to reset your biological sleep clock. Most people find it beneficial as their attitude towards sleep gets more positive and they enjoy more uninterrupted sleep.