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The Six Stages of Sleep Retraining

The Six Stages of Sleep Retraining

My previous two blogs looked at the key ways of establishing a good routine around sleep but with chronic insomnia and disturbed sleep, sometimes a more radical approach is needed. Retraining ourselves to sleep better will take time – our bad habits will probably have built up over a long time. The following approach, the six stages of sleep retraining is based on solid scientific research but it is also a hard one to follow. It will, over time, help you change your poor sleep pattern and will be life-changing but you must follow this approach to the letter.

There are six stages:


Don’t go to bed until you feel sleepy Only go to bed once you start to feel sleepy. Don’t go to bed because the others are going to bed, or because you feel bored or because it is ‘bed-time’. You must stay up until you feel tired no matter how long this takes.


Your bedroom is only for sleeping This step gets rid of the things that keep you from sleep. While reading a book seems like a good idea, it is not. If you are reading, you are not sleeping, so it must go. So you should not read, watch TV, listen to the radio, phone friends, etc. As soon as you get into bed, put the light out and try to sleep.


If you don’t fall asleep in 25 minutes, get up If you are not asleep in 25 minutes, you may not be asleep in 50. So after 25 minutes, go back to the living room. Don’t watch TV. Don’t eat or drink. Read something light (preferably something quite bland and boring) or listen to relaxing music. You must stay in the living room until you feel tired again, no matter how long this takes. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed. At the start, you may be up many times each night. It is hard to get out of a warm bed but you must do this. You are retraining your brain and body back into good sleep habits.


Repeat (and repeat and repeat) steps 1,2 and 3 again and again.


Get up early each morning Get up no later than 8.30am. Set the alarm and as soon as it goes off, get up and out of the bedroom. Even if you feel that you have hardly slept a wink, you must follow this to the letter. You should also try to do this seven days a week, i.e. no lie-ins until you get this problem sorted out.


Don’t try to catch up on sleep You may want to nap during the day to catch up on lost sleep, for example after a meal. Don’t do it! Work out when you most want to sleep during the day. Then work out a way of dealing with this such as going out for a walk.

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with sleep or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

Book a counselling session today!

See also: Sleep Hygiene, Sleep Well!, Depression and Sleep


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