If you truly want freedom from insomnia, you may need to add in some restrictions.
In this episode, I take a closer look at sleep restriction therapy, how it differs from sleep deprivation, and new evidence on how it can help you sleep better.
Sleep Restriction is not sleep deprivation. Sleep restriction is a tactic to reduce problematic wake time in the bed; we restrict the use of the bed to just a little bit more than the actual sleep duration.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, does involve cutting out sleep time. And sleep deprivation is just terrible for your wellbeing.
In this episode I discussed just a couple issues of diet and immunity. Sleep deprivation makes it more likely that we’ll cope with stress in a maladaptive manner by emotionally eating - it triggers more negative emotions, makes us more impulsive in response to food, makes us hungrier and consume more than we would otherwise, and specifically consume more unhealthy foods like carbs and unhealthy fats. Conversely, going from a sleep deprived state to feeling well rested is associated with better metabolism and weight loss.
Sleep deprivation also impairs our immune system. Being sleep deprived either immediately before or immediately after a vaccine makes the vaccine less effective - lower antibody levels by as much as 50%, and lower likelihood of being protected from infection, all thanks to sleep deprivation, regardless of how good or bad the subjective sleep quality.
Sleep restriction seems to work by enhancing Process S, our homeostatic sleep drive, the pressure or need to sleep. With sleep restriction, we feel tired at the right times, and less aroused at the right times. Sleep restriction shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, reduces extra time spent awake after initially falling asleep, improves sleep efficiency, and increases the total amount of sleep we get, contrary to the confusion caused by its name.
Sleep restriction is effective all by itself, but is typically one strategy used as part of a wider treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, the gold standard intervention for the management of chronic insomnia.