PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is a new kind of sleep therapy aimed at people who wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep.
The new therapy says, instead of drugs, if you want to sleep more, try sleeping less.
“When I go to bed I would start, OK, I have eight hours, and then an hour goes by. OK, I only have seven hours, then six and then it’s the morning,” said Megan Grant.
This was the unhappy and unhealthy way the 20-year-old Grant tried to sleep at night.
“I would just be laying in my bed trying to sleep,” she said.
Her doctor suggested a new therapy that had Grant getting up and out of bed if she was awake for more than 30 minutes.
“I was like, ‘What do you mean? That doesn’t sound right to me,’” she said.
It’s called restrictive sleep therapy.
“Once you’re tossing and turning for 30 minutes, get out of bed, and don’t go back into bed until you’re tired again,” said Dr. Matthew Lorber, a sleep expert.
“The concept of just laying there and resting in bed felt better than going and doing something else, so I was very reluctant at first,” said Grant.
However, Grant liked the idea of a drug-free therapy, even as the doctor prepared for the discipline the process required.
“When I suggest to someone that if you’re up to 3 to 3:30 in the morning get out of bed, get out of your bedroom, they look at me like I’m crazy at first, but, intuitively, it does make sense,” said Lorber.
“Admittedly, the first few nights of this are going to be terrible,” said Dr. Steven Feinsilver of Sleep Center Lenox Hill.
Sleep experts say once patients are out of bed, they should try simply reading — no television or electronics, no food or alcohol.
“It seems very backwards, kind of counterintuitive that we ask people to sleep less in trying to get them to sleep better,” said Feinsilver.
The idea is to quiet the mind and staying calm as they wait to get tired again.
Doctors say it can take several weeks to relearn how to sleep.
“Eventually you’re going to sleep,” said Feinsilver. “It’s a simple idea, but it really works. It works very neatly.”
“Every night, I like love going to bed. It’s the greatest feeling,” said Grant. “I get in my bed, I’m cozy and ready to go. It makes such a world of difference.”
Doctors say usually people experience marked improvement in the quality of sleep after a week of restricted time in bed.