3 Week Sleep Camp – Week 1 – Build Better Sleep

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably tried everything to help you sleep and are exhausted. Well, if you’re committed and willing, the 3-week sleep camp could change that.

In this series of 3 articles we’ll look at an intensive course that you’ll do in your own home, and should mean you’ll be feeling better in under a month. Like any diet, exercise or lifestyle change, it takes time and dedication, but can yield great results that are worth the effort.

What is the 3-week sleep camp?

  • During week 1 of the 3 weeks, you’ll get familiar with your sleeping patterns and habits, and audit your lifestyle.
  • During week 2 you’ll put sleep-friendly activities into place that will help you start to pay back your sleep debt. It’s the sleep debt (like any other sort of debt) that’s making you feel so lousy.
  • During week 3 you’ll continue to pay off the debt and build a new sleep rhythms and routines. These will help you maintain your newfound feeling of wellness and energy.

Notes for sleep camp:

  • You may find that some of the information here is contrary to what you’ve been taught about sleep. There is no one-size-fits-all for sleep (if there was you’d have solved your insomnia by now) but you have nothing to lose by following the instructions in these articles.
  • The information comes from Dr William C Dement of the Stamford University. He developed the 3-week sleep camp and is a leading sleep scientist. His book ‘The Promise of Sleep’ (Macmillan Press) details a lot of his research and the development of our understanding of sleep.
  • It will be easier if you can do the sleep camp with your roommate or sleeping partner.
  • Avoid starting the sleep camp when you have a tight deadline at work or another major stressor. If you’re never without a major stressor then pick the best possible time for you and commit to making sleep your number 1 priority. This will only work if you’re committed to it.
  • It’s not for you if you have chronic insomnia or sleep apnea (as diagnosed by your healthcare provider) but if this sounds like something you want to get to grips with, then keep reading.

Week 1 of the 3 week sleep camp

The goals for week 1 are to:

  • get familiar with your sleep habits;
  • find out how much you’re currently sleeping;
  • find out how much you need;
  • find out what might be stopping you from sleeping (if you don’t already know);
  • make your bedroom a haven for sleep.

To do this you’re going to need a sleep diary. Either buy a book that you can dedicate to this project or make a chart that you will use. You need to be able to carry it with you during the day.

Record your total sleep time. That’s (roughly):

  1. The time you go to bed
  2. The time you go to sleep
  3. When you wake in the morning
  4. Plus any wakenings when you sleep
  5. And any naps during the day.

Add up the amount of time you’re spending asleep at the moment.

Record how alert you feel during the day. The Stanford Sleepiness Scale will help:

Degree of Sleepiness Scale Rating
Feeling active, vital, alert, or wide awake 1
Functioning at high levels, but not at peak; able to concentrate 2
Awake, but relaxed; responsive but not fully alert 3
Somewhat foggy, let down 4
Foggy; losing interest in remaining awake; slowed down 5
Sleepy, woozy, fighting sleep; prefer to lie down 6
No longer fighting sleep, sleep onset soon; having dream-like thoughts 7
Asleep X

See http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/sss.html

6. Record what you’re drinking in terms of caffeine (tea, coffee, cola etc) and alcohol. Mark these as ‘C’ or ‘A’ in your sleep journal.

7. Record any exercise that you take during the day and the time you spend outdoors in daylight.

8. Record your bedtime routine activities. What did you do, for how long, etc, what’s on your mind.

9. Note the drugs (prescription, over the counter and recreational) that you take.

10. Record your moods, stress levels and anything that’s worrying you.

Review your diary at the end of the day and sum it up – how relaxed, anxious, sleepy etc were you? What patterns do you notice? Can you find any answers to your insomnia that you haven’t noticed before?

During this week, why not treat yourself to something special for your bedroom or address any ways you can make your bedroom as dark as possible when you’re asleep.

There’s a lot of information about how to make your bedroom right for sleep here: http://sleepbetterlivebetter.net/sblb/category/beds-and-bedrooms

What next?

For week 2 of the 3-week sleep camp, see article 2 in this series (next week).