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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Insomnia

Insomnia Treatment: CBT Instead of Sleeping Pills

Before you try sleeping pills or sleep studies as an insomnia treatment, consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Countless people have used CBT to escape their reliance on sleeping medications and address the underlying causes of their sleeping difficulties. Here's how CBT can help you sleep better.

A Natural Solution for Insomnia

According to recent estimates, as many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. This has created a lucrative opportunity for drug manufacturers who market powerful and expensive medications as solutions for this all-too-common issue. Unfortunately, sleeping medications can have troublesome side-effects, including mental and physical dependence.

CBT is a safe, natural way of combating insomnia while promoting better health at the same time. According to recent studies , CBT is an effective treatment for insomnia when compared to common medications. What's more, research indicates it is more durable than medications, meaning the beneficial effects tend to last longer after treatment. In turn, researchers recommend CBT as a first-line treatment option for traditional insomnia.

How CBT for Insomnia Works

Sleep disorder counselors utilize CBT to influence cognition and behavior. The cognitive aspect of CBT is designed to teach your brain to recognize and alter beliefs that impact your ability to sleep. This therapy can help you eliminate or control worries and negative thoughts that keep you awake. The behavioral aspect of CBT shows you how to develop better sleep hygiene and avoid behaviors that are known to disrupt sleep.

Depending on your unique needs, your therapist may recommend some or all of the following CBT techniques:

Stimulus control: This therapy is designed to help eliminate factors that condition your mind to resist sleep. For instance, you may be coached to set specific, consistent times for sleeping and waking. You may also be coached to avoid naps and use the bed only for sleep and sex. Your therapist may also advise you to get out of bed if you haven't fallen asleep in 20 minutes and try again when you are sleepy.

Restriction : Lying in bed awake can turn into a habit that promotes poor sleep. Through sleep restriction, you reduce the time spent in bed, leading to partial sleep deprivation, which leaves you feeling more tired the following night. Once your sleep begins to improve, you can gradually increase the time spent in bed.

Improved sleep hygiene: This involves altering certain lifestyle habits that negatively affect sleep. This includes avoiding known sleep disruptors such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. It may also mean getting more exercise and sunlight during the day. Since recent studies have shown that blue light from tablets and smartphones can disrupt sleep, your therapist may recommend avoiding them within an hour of bedtime. Your sleep hygiene therapy may also involve developing a nightly sleep routine to help condition your mind and body to wind down at the end of the day.

Sleep environment: This part of CBT focuses on creating a more comfortable sleep environment by making your bedroom dark, quiet and cool. It may also mean removing the television from the room and moving the clock so you can't see it at night.

Relaxation training: This involves leveraging imagery, meditation, muscle relaxation and other proven relaxation methods to help calm your body and mind.

Paradoxical intention: With this strategy, you remain passively awake avoiding any effort to fall asleep. Since worrying about not sleeping can keep you awake, letting go of this worry can help you relax.

Biofeedback: This involves learning to observe and adjust biological signs such as muscle tension and heart rate. Your therapist may have you take a biofeedback device home to record daily patterns.

The most effective treatment approach generally combines several of these methods. That said, your CBT therapy plan will be tailored to address your specific needs and circumstances.

The caring therapists at Foundations Counseling can help you live your best life. Contact us today!