How Staying Up Later Could Be the Key to Better Sleep

Trust us, it makes sense.



Trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. An estimated 60 million Americans suffer from chronic sleeplessness every year. And while reaching for an Ambien might seem like the most sensible option to bring on the shuteye, the folks over at Science of Us have another idea that just might help you get better sleep, sans medication: Stay up later.

Yeah, it sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out: According to Science of Us, sleep research strongly supports the effectiveness of sleep restriction therapy when it comes to treating insomnia. The practice is a part of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT-1, which clinical trials have found works better than your typical sleep aids, like Ambien, when it comes to knocking out insomnia.

The idea is this: To get better sleep in the long run, instead of trying to go to bed at 10 p.m. and tossing and turning until 2 a.m. when you finally zonk out, give yourself a bedtime based on how many hours you’re realistically capable of sleeping. So let’s say you average five hours a night. To determine your bedtime, first pick a wake-up time — the latest you can get up, get yourself together without looking like a hot mess, and get to work on time — like 7 a.m., for example. Then, because you can only usually sleep for five hours a night, you would set your bedtime for 2 a.m. Late, I know, but it gets better.

Once you find that you are actually sleeping your full five hours on that schedule, you slowly start moving your bedtime up in 15-minute increments. Soon enough, you’re going to bed at midnight and getting a full seven hours of good sleep each night without trying.

So, if this works so well, why haven’t you ever heard of this method before? Well, let’s be real: Who really wants to push off sleep when they are so deprived they would give their left arm to a stranger if it meant they’d be able to get some? No one. Plus, actively staying awake until the middle of the night, rather than laying in bed — albeit sleeplessly — can make you feel like a zombie the next day. Hence sleep restriction therapy’s lack of popularity. But if hopelessly counting sheep every night is turning you into a complete nutcase (for good reason), just know: You do have other options.

Just note: Your goal isn’t to stay up late forever. After all, a recent study shows, the later you go to bed, the fatter you are. (We just can’t win, can we?)

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