Free Sleep Quiz


How to Determine Your Initial Sleep Window: Uninterrupted vs. Total Nightly Sleep


Many of my clients often ask, “should I count only consolidated, uninterrupted sleep when calculating my initial sleep window, or should I count all the sleep I’m getting throughout the night?”

Hi, my name is Sherry and I help people reduce stress and improve their sleep.

If you’re looking to implement a sleep window, a core technique for insomnia, you’ll look at how many hours of sleep you’re getting on any given night, at any given time, and add a little bit to that, which then creates a sleep window according to how much total sleep time you’ve been averaging.

Average Sleep Duration is More Accurate Than Individual Nights

When it comes to calculating your average sleep duration, it’s usually helpful to use an average of your sleep duration over 1 or 2 weeks.

You’re not looking at your best nights or worst nights to determine your ideal sleep window at this point. You’re just looking at your average sleep time.

How to Calculate Average Sleep Duration

To do this effectively, you want to figure out how many hours of sleep you’re getting throughout the night, whether it’s 30 minutes, an hour, 20 minutes or even two hours at a time. Add up all these fragments (minus the time you spend awake in between), the time it initially takes you to fall asleep, etc.

The goal is to figure out the total number of hours of sleep you get on average (minus the time you spend awake) because this is the number of hours your body is currently able to generate. It’s the number of hours of sleep that you’re consistently able to produce over time.

Base Your Initial Sleep Window on Your Current Average

When you’re building that first sleep window, we’re going to set up a sleep window for you based on how much sleep you’re currently averaging + an extra hour or so to just wind down and relax a bit before bed. By doing this you will be reducing the amount of time you spend awake in bed during the night and, at the same time, you will be increasing sleep drive.

This will result in more consolidated sleep, which will improve sleep quality and help reduce sleep related worries and anxieties. All of this will make it easier to fall asleep.

It's Important Not to Be Too Aggressive With Your Sleep Window

Sometimes, if you are getting very little sleep, implementing a strict sleep window can feel too scary or not helpful. In this instance, think about how many hours of sleep you feel like you need to make it through the day and feel good. This is not your "optimal" amount of sleep. It's just the minimum amount of sleep you need that feels good and is realistic.

When calculating your sleep window, I usually advise clients not to go below 5 to 5.5 hours because I want you to give yourself the opportunity to get at least that amount of sleep.

Remember your first sleep window isn’t something you’re going to stick with forever. It’s just something to get you started, a way to increase sleepiness and reduce wakefulness throughout the night.

As your sleep improves, you’ll be able to increase that sleep window. So maybe you begin with 1 hour of wind down time + 5.5 hrs of sleep, then (when that becomes easy) you push that out to 1 hr of wind down time + 6 hrs of sleep and so on .

Interested in Learning More?

If you would like to learn more or book an individual session, please visit the Work With Me page or enroll in the 30 Day Beyond Sleep Course

In the meantime, I would like to leave you with this important message. You are not broken! You are whole, perfect, and healthy exactly as you are, and you CAN sleep!




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