Tired of Insomnia? Get Out of Bed!

Self-restricting time in bed prevents chronic insomnia, University of Pennsylvania study found.

Many people know the vicious cycle of insomnia. Often, not sleeping at night leads to naps, which leads to not being able to sleep at night. Luckily, new research may provide the key to fighting insomnia and getting your sleep cycle back on track.

According to a press release issued by the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, a new study found that self-restricting time in bed prevents acute insomnia from developing into chronic insomnia in almost 80 percent of individuals.

Acute insomnia, also called new onset insomnia, affects between 20 and 50 percent of Americans. It is categorized by difficulty falling asleep or trouble staying asleep three or more nights a week for between two weeks and three months.

When acute insomnia lasts more than three months it is classified as chronic insomnia. Chronic Insomnia affects about 10 percent of Americans and is dangerous to physical and mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links insufficient sleep to a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Many people combat insufficient sleep by increasing their sleep opportunity–such as taking naps–a practice that Penn Medicine finds not only ineffective but also harmful.

“Those with insomnia typically extend their sleep opportunity,” Michael Perlis, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Penn Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, said in the press release. “They go to bed early, get out of bed late, and they nap. While this seems a reasonable thing to do, and may well be in the short-term, the problem in the longer term is it creates a mismatch between the individual’s current sleep ability and their current sleep opportunity; this fuels insomnia.”

To conduct the study, researchers evaluated 416 individuals’ time spent in bed for over a year. The team divided the individuals into three categories—a good sleeper, a good sleeper who develops acute insomnia but recovers and a good sleeper who transitions from acute insomnia to chronic insomnia.

After evaluating these individuals, the study concluded that attempting to recover lost sleep by increasing sleep opportunity increases insomnia from acute to chronic.

The study suggests that electing to stay awake and wake up rather than spending more time in bed trying to sleep is the only productive way to stop acute insomnia.

The CDC recommends that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep a day. If you’re suffering from acute or chronic insomnia, the CDC recommends keeping a diary of daily sleep habits for 10 days before making an appointment with a physician.

The study was presented at SLEEP 2016, a joint meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Economic Social Research Council.

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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