Are you having trouble sleeping? Shorten the time you spend in bed.

If you have insomnia, it seems logical to spend some time in bed in the hopes of falling asleep at some point. However, according to studies discussed at the SLEEP conference last week, it could be the worst thing you may do.

The sleep habits of 416 individuals were studied by the researchers. The researchers then looked at how bedtime differs among a) those who remain good sleepers, b) good sleepers who developed insomnia and healed, and c) good sleepers who developed chronic insomnia.

You might be surprised by the results.

It turns out that attempting to make up for missed sleep by increasing sleep times can increase the likelihood of your temporary insomnia becoming chronic insomnia.

According to Michael Perlis, PhD, director of the Penn Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, “those with insomnia usually prolong their sleep opportunity.” “They go to bed early, get up late, and take naps.”

“While this seems to be a reasonable thing to do in the short run, the longer term dilemma is that it causes a conflict between the individual’s actual sleep capacity and current sleep ability, which fuels insomnia.”

The results provide the first evidence supporting a theory proposed by Arthur Spielman in the 1980s. According to his theory, “sleep extension” is the cause for the transition from acute to chronic insomnia.

To put it another way, the more time you take to compensate for sleep loss, the more likely you are to experience long-term insomnia.

Rather than spending more time in bed, the latest research suggests that sleeping less may help 70 to 80 percent of people with new onset insomnia avoid developing chronic insomnia.

According to the scientists, one approach is to actually get up when you wake up. Don’t lie in bed if you go to bed at 11 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. (rather than the expected 7:30). Simply get out of bed and begin your day.

SOURCE: Shorter Time in Bed May Protect Against Chronic Insomnia. News Release. Penn Medicine

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