One application that is ideally suited for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the treatment of insomnia. In fact it is so ideal that a tailored variation of cognitive behavioral therapy has been created for insomnia, sometimes designated CBT-I. CBT-I works by identifying and countering the thoughts and actions that make it hard for a person to sleep at night.
What’s Keeping You Up at Night?
Typically, insomnia is due to a few simple causes. One problem is that stress or stressful thoughts can interfere with one’s ability to sleep. Another possibility is that an individual has acquired bad sleep habits or practices. An individual may also not be giving sleep a high enough priority. Finally, a poor sleep environment can make a big difference in one’s ability to sleep.
Finding the Right Tool for the Job
When it comes to treating insomnia, CBT-I has a huge tool box. During your initial sessions we will attempt to identify your exact problem so we can find the right tool to improve your sleep. Among the techniques we might employ include:
- Identifying automatic thoughts that keep you awake. You may think you can’t stop these thoughts from appearing in your mind, and that may be true, but by learning to identify and counter them, you can minimize the damage they do to your ability to sleep.
- Sleep hygiene means making basic lifestyle changes that can make it easier to sleep. You might try getting more regular exercise or cut down on smoking, caffeine, and alcohol, or alter your consumption patterns so they don’t interfere with sleep. You will also work on developing a winding down routine.
- Sleep restriction means spending less time in bed to sleep more. It may seem paradoxical, but if you regularly spend too much time awake in bed, you can train your body not to sleep when it’s in bed. By not going to bed until you’re tired enough to fall asleep right away, you can train your body to fall asleep quicker when you go to bed. Then you can gradually lengthen the time you stay in bed—and therefore sleep.
- Relaxation training can be very useful for people who are kept awake or awakened by stress. Meditation, imagery training, yoga, and other approaches can be used.
- Passive wakefulness is a great technique for people who try too hard to go to sleep and find that anxiety about not sleeping is keeping them awake.
- Sleep environment changes can make a big difference in a person’s ability to sleep. A quiet, dark, cool, environment that is free of disruptive electronics can make a big difference in your ability to sleep.
- Biofeedback teaches you to monitor and control your body’s functions to help move yourself toward sleep.
We may employ several different methods to ensure we are properly targeting your sleep problems. The duration of treatments depends on the exact nature of your sleep disturbance, but sometimes results can be achieved in a very small number of sessions, perhaps five or less.