This week, we covered how to get a regular sleep schedule with sleep efficiency.

This is a very necessary journey towards getting a regular sleep schedule and dramatically improving your sleep efficiency. Because sleep restriction can be difficult, I want you to remember why you are committed to getting better. As you recall in week 1, commitment is a necessary mindset to have when overcoming chronic insomnia. This commitment is a deep seeded belief that you absolutely can and deserve sleep. And with the information this week, I hope the commitment is renewed when you know there’s an end date to your insomnia.

If you don’t yet believe that you can sleep and feel rested and refreshed, you absolutely can.

silver tabby cat sleeping on white blanket on an article talking about getting a regular sleep schedule

As I mentioned on my about page, I slept between 0-6 hours per night for four years. I could count on one hand the number of times I felt rested in that time. I’d sometimes sleep 2 hours at night, then collapse mid-day from exhaustion. I would try to sleep again only to find myself awake until 6am when I had to wake up for work at 7am. I tried taking pills, sometimes a knowingly dangerous concoction of them, to sleep and it still wouldn’t work. It didn’t matter if I was awake for 36 hours straight, nothing would wrestle my consciousness to sleep. I was anxious, depressed, and at one point suicidal, from my lack of sleep. 

The first major turning point in my journey to overcome insomnia was sleep restriction.

I couldn’t believe that after years of suffering I was finally sleeping a solid block of 5 hours per night. I felt like a million bucks, even though I was still tired every day. It was a major breakthrough to know that I still had the ability to sleep, and I could do it at regular intervals. It gave me hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and I’d sleep normally again one day. 

And guess what?

For the past four years, I have mostly slept regularly. Yes, there have still been periods of transient and acute insomnia because of stress, but chronic insomnia has never come back in full force. I simply get back on track once I manage my stress and move on. 

If this worked for me, it’ll work for you too. 

If you’re thinking “well I haven’t slept for three DECADES so three years is nothing”, it doesn’t matter. Chronic insomnia is chronic insomnia whether you have had it for a few months for  most of your life. It’s not a competition for how long you’ve suffered – there is no award for feeling like shit for longer than someone else. The process is the same for any chronic insomniac. 

Say it to yourself every single day. I CAN have a regular sleep schedule. I WILL sleep regularly. I DESERVE to feel rested, refreshed, and relaxed. Commit to the process and the journey and you will get there. 

Let’s quickly recap how to get a regular sleep schedule:

This week, you will learn to accept insomnia as it is, right now. 

Now that you have capital C ~Committed~ to getting better, your goal this week is to accept insomnia. This will help you diffuse from the strong negative connotations associated with sleep, because when you do that, you make room for positive associations with sleep.

You will restrict your sleep according to your new bedtime and wake time. 

Have you found your new wake time and bedtime? If not, here is the sleep diary aka sleep restriction calculator again. Again, this is based on the average time you slept last week and the time you need to get up for the day, whether that’s because of work, school, kids, or whatever else. 

So, let’s say you need to wake up at 7 a.m. If you average 5 hours, your goal is to fall asleep by 2 a.m.. The earliest you should go to bed in this case is 1 a.m. If your average is 6 hours, your goal is to get to sleep by 1 a.m. and go to bed at 12 a.m. at the earliest. If you average less than 5 hours, your goal is to give yourself at least 5 and a half hours in bed, so go to bed by 2:30am at the latest. 

You will limit naps

Remember – nap only for a maximum of 45 minutes, and only before 3pm. If you can’t nap, get up and go about the rest of your day.

You will get out of bed when you can’t sleep

Use the 20/30 rule – get out of bed if you don’t fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes and go do something quiet and relaxing. After 20 – 30 minutes, go back to bed and try again. Repeat the process as needed. This applies when you are sleep restricting.

You will pick at least two ways to improve your sleep hygiene this week

Pick two things you can do that will help your sleep. The big two that I initially made were around caffeine and alcohol. I still to this day do not drink more than 2 cups of coffee (175ml or 6oz each) and never past 10am. When I do drink alcohol, I always stop drinking 4 hours before bedtime, and rarely is it more than two drinks total for the evening. 

You’ll continue to relax your nervous system 

Whether it’s just a moment of anxiety and stress, or a second wind, the more you practice calming yourself down with relaxation tactics, the easier it’ll become. And the easier it becomes, the quicker you’ll fall (or fall back) to sleep. 

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