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  • barefootbellringer

Sleep Deprivation...or something

I've struggled with insomnia for most of my adult life. I have a new family doctor and he's quite good. When I went to my first appointment we talked about my major stressors and about the sleep issues I have. He recommended something to me called "Sleep Restriction" therapy. It works like this...

You figure out what time you want to wake up in the morning. Then for the first seven days you count back 5 1/2 hours. My usual wake up time was 7:30 am. Actually, not quite true. My alarm would go off at 7:30, then I'd switch it off, and wait for the 8:30 alarm, and then eventually get up. The challenge with a 7:30 wake up is I'd have to go to bed at 2:00 am for the first week. For some reason 2:00 am felt like a huge barrier. I could not fathom staying up until 2:00 am.

So I moved my wake up time back to 6:00 am. Went to bed at 12:30 am, which was unpleasant and my alarm went off at 6:00 am which was also unpleasant. I decided I need to get an alarm clock for beside my bed so I could wake up to something pleasant but not my phone. I got through the first week, relatively unscathed. Success! Got to the second week and moved bedtime up to Midnight. Still unpleasant, but getting somewhat easier.

There has been one day each week when I've had a physical issue. I'm so weary that my body insists it needs rest and I end up in a brain fogged daze which causes me to lose focus, forget where I am and other frightening things. So then I surrender and have a lie down. Waking up a couple of hours later I feel somewhat refreshed but also incredibly guilty because there are two hard and fast rules...well four really.

Rule #1 - Get up at your assigned time, no snooze.

Rule #2 - Go to bed at your assigned time, no earlier.

Rule #3 - Absolutely no naps.

Rule #4 - Absolutely no lying down during the day.

What I'm learning through this process is I am beginning to enjoy at 6:00 am wake up time. I don't hit the snooze button anymore when my alarm, which is birdsong, goes off. I don't reach for my phone as soon as I get to the kitchen. I still have an alarm set at 7:30 as that is my "official" wake up time, or when the Sleep Focus stops and my phone "wakes up". So for 90 minutes I make a cup of tea, read the daily lectionary, write in my journal, watch the sun come up and then I write a letter, or daydream, or do a crossword puzzle, or read from a book not a screen and have a productive yet slow start to my day.

At 7:30 I get dressed, make breakfast if I'm hungry, a second cup of tea and generally head out to the office or any appointments I have. My energy slumps and the yawning begins about 2:00 pm and again about 6:00 pm but I have a 15 minute dance party in my kitchen or go for a walk. I'm cautious of how much caffeine I consume.

I'm cautious of when I last eat, and when I turn off my screens. I'm lessening my dependency on my phone. I have a timer set for Instagram that tells me when I've been on there half an hour. Sometimes I dismiss the notification and keep scrolling, sometimes I log out of Instagram and do something else.

Overall I'm feeling better, when I wake I feel rested and yet I'm still dragging and fatigued during the day. I can see the benefit of this therapy. And yet it's hard. My fuse is short, I don't think as much before I reply and I will challenge someone, whereas when I'm well rested I prefer to take the high ground.

And so, baby steps will amount to huge strides. If I am successful in this therapy, in a few more weeks I should be sleeping 8 1/2 hours a night, which I'm thinking will be my ideal, I'm not 100% certain. I like getting up before the sun. And reading the Bible, and writing in my journal. I'm intending to keep up these rituals because they are life giving.

And so it goes....

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