The Sleep app for iPhone is an at-home way to do Intensive Sleep Retraining.  There are two ways to use the app:  1) periodically in the late afternoon for an hour or two following any rough night of sleep, or 2) for 24 hours, all-night and then all-day, starting and ending at bedtime.  This second method (24-hours) was used in the original sleep training research, and the success of this method was clear.

Preliminary results of users of the SleepQ app indicate that the majority have done this 24 hour method, mostly because they have “tried everything” or “hate sleeping pills”.  There is usually a sense of urgency with insomnia.  Having worked with patients with sleep disorders for over 25 years, I understand the feeling of desperation in someone with chronic insomnia.  Let’s be honest – sleep deprivation is used as torture in horrible places around the world.  People suffering with insomnia want relief fast, which unfortunately is what causes many to become dependent on fast acting and potentially dangerous substances: sleeping pills and/or alcohol.

So what does it take to do this 24-hour (all-night and then all-day) intensive method?  For starters, it is imperative that you have discussed your sleep with your doctor.  Chronic insomnia can be caused by organic sleep disorders like sleep apnea, restless legs, or narcolepsy, and your doctor can order a formal sleep study to test for those.  Your doctor needs to know what you are doing about your health, which includes your sleep.  Do not embark on a 24-hour sleep training session without first discussing your plans with your doctor.

Cleared of any organic sleep disorders, you need to be weaned off any sleeping pills.  This follows the original Intensive Sleep Retraining research protocol, and again requires close guidance from your doctor.  Sleeping pills should never be stopped “cold turkey”.  Many are very powerful drugs that create tolerance over time, and there have been reports of problems when abruptly stopping (e.g., seizures).  The goal of sleep training with SleepQ is to learn to put yourself to sleep, so it really does not make sense to begin 24 hours of sleep training after taking sleeping medication or consuming a significant amount of alcohol.

With the OK from your doctor, plan ahead for your 24-hour session.  Remember: it will run bedtime to bedtime.  Many of our users choose a Thursday or Friday night to begin the 24 hours to best fit their schedule, and also because it gives them a couple full nights of recovery sleep.  Ideally, no naps should be taken the day leading up to the start at bedtime.  In fact, if you are not feeling somewhat sleepy at bedtime, stay up a while and begin later in the night.  With SleepQ you can take short breaks along the way, and in fact between each sleep trial you should leave the bed for a couple minutes (the SleepQ app has a timer to guide you) to stretch, use the bathroom, get a drink of water, etc.  Returning to bed each time will begin to reinforce the act with falling asleep.  There is a “Skip” button to go straight to the next trial, but this should be used sparingly if at all.

As the sun comes up, you may naturally become a bit alert for a little while, even after little sleep in your sleep training during the night.  This is normal (caused by your circadian rhythm), and you you may want to take a short break for a snack and a stretch.  There is no rush – just remember not to let yourself fall asleep for the day.  You must keep your sleep training going until that night.  And use common sense – don’t drive or do anything during the day that requires vigilance for safety.

After each trial, the SleepQ app asks if you would like to continue.  You can choose “No Thanks” anytime to see your summary graph being built, and then hit the “Back” button to keep training.  This graph shows your progress, and when you are done it can be saved or shared.  You can even send it to me if you’d like and I’ll give you my thoughts about your sleep training session.  You can even share your graph on the SleepQ facebook page 🙂

Perhaps the best, consistent feedback I’ve received is that sleep training with the SleepQ app reduces fear of not sleeping.  This is accomplished by the patented way the app detects sleep (not responding to a tone), then asking you if you thought you fell asleep each trial.  Over time, your awareness of falling asleep improves…you “learn” what it feels like to fall asleep.  This learned skill was shown to last for over six months in the original Intensive Sleep Training research from Australia.  All it took was one 24 hour session.  One and done!

Til Morning,

Michael