ITV This Morning doctor Michael Mosley says one of the classic mistakes made by anyone who can’t sleep is to try to spend MORE time in bed.
The popular TV doctor said the most effective way to cure insomnia is to “reboot your brain”.
Mr Mosley said: “It might sound like a good idea, but lying in bed wide awake, worrying about how tired you’re going to feel in the morning, can be very stressful and certainly not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
“If you’ve got into the habit of going to bed early to try to catch up on lost sleep, you could be spending a disproportionate amount of your time in bed both awake and stressed.
“This can set up an unwitting pattern of behavior where your brain comes to associate being in bed with being awake, making it even more likely that you’ll have trouble sleeping.”
The doctor said if you spend a lot of time in bed, but only a few hours actually asleep you have poor ‘sleep efficiency’.
This is a scientific way to measure your sleep quality and 85 per cent or more is the ideal score.
He said: “The most effective way to cure insomnia is to reboot your brain by putting yourself through a short course of Sleep Restriction Therapy which actually demands that you cut back on your sleep.
“It sounds barbaric, but studies have shown that sleep restriction is more effective than drugs, and the results last, long-term.
“Cutting down on the amount of time you spend in bed really does reset the brain.
“People who try it find they sleep more deeply, wake up less often and feel much better during the day.”
The doctor said there are five steps to better sleep efficiency which include keeping a sleep diary for a week to measure exactly how much time each night you spend asleep.
The idea is to add up the total time you spend asleep and take an average per night – it might be five or six hours- and for one week, restrict yourself to only five or six hours in bed.
This might mean forcing yourself to stay awake until 1am before going to bed and it is important that you set your alarm to wake yourself up at the same time every morning.
No matter how little you sleep, you must not restrict your time in bed to less than five hours.
You must then stick to this plan rigorously – no snoozes or naps.
The doctor points out it’s not easy – and you need to avoid driving or using machinery while you go through this process.
The idea is that within a few days you should find you sleep solidly during the hours you are in bed and when this happens for a few nights in a row, you can extend the time you spend in bed by 20-minute intervals every few days .
Most people will find four weeks of sleep restriction is enough, but it can take up to eight weeks if you have serious long-term insomnia.
Mr Mosley added: “If full sleep restriction is just too much for you to contemplate, try a milder version: simply try reducing your sleep window by one hour.
“So, for example, if your normal sleep window is 11pm to 7am, try going to bed at 12pm and then gradually increase your sleep window as your sleep efficiency improves.”