Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
The number one recommended treatment for insomnia. Learn all about it here.
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If you're reading this, you probably already know the effects insomnia can have on you.
And I'm not talking about the classic statements that we read everywhere:
- "A sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep."
- "Did you know insomnia can also manifest as difficulties staying asleep?"
- "Did you also know that insomnia can also result in waking up too early and being unable to fall back asleep?"
Chances are, you know this already. You've probably been putting up with these problems for far too long.
So you know what insomnia is better than most people. And you want a no-BS solution. Preferably one explained to you in easy-to-understand English without too much technical jargon or salesy nonsense.
Well, dear reader. Ask and you shall receive.
You're going to learn exactly why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (also known as CBT for insomnia or CBT-I) is the first-line recommended treatment if you're not happy with the quality of your sleep.
And if you make it to the end of the article, you'll learn more about you can acheive your sleep goals as efficiently and cheaply as possible.
Read on and reap the rewards.
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)?
Everything we do in life begins with a single thought. If you can think of any exceptions, please leave a comment and prove me wrong!
Sleep is no different. We decide to go to sleep and plan how to get to it, even if those thoughts are so automated and basic that we don't really think about them consciously anymore. But they are there.
And these thoughts become especially relevant when we're suffering from insomnia.
In most cases, there is a faulty connection between our thoughts, our actions, and how we're sleeping.
That's where CBT for insomnia comes in.
CBT for insomnia focuses on identifying this connection between what we think, what we do, and how we ultimately sleep. Let's face it, as humans we're not exactly the best judge of ourselves so the best thing to do is to let an expert help.
You wouldn't sort out the electrical wiring in your own home, represent yourself in court, or try to be your own doctor, so why should this be any different? And here's another thought: how successful are people who try to take these specialist matters into their own hands?
You get my point.
An expert trained in CBT for insomnia can do what no one else can.
They can examine your thoughts and feelings related to sleep and assess which ones are stopping you from sleeping. Likewise, they will also examine your behaviors to figure out which ones are stopping you from getting the sleep you want.
Once the problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors are identified, your expert can rework any issues in a way tailored to you, helping you regain control over your sleep.
I'm telling you: it's first-line treatment for insomnia for a reason. It's been shown to be one of the best treatments for insomnia, given its high success rate and no side effects. I'm telling you, if it was a pill, everyone would be downing them like shots.
One of the best things about CBT for insomnia is that it starts working rapidly. You may only need up to 6-8 sessions, although again, this treatment is completely tailored to your needs.
How Exactly Does CBT-I Work?
Your expert may use many different techniques to explore and optimise the connection between our thoughts, actions, and sleep.
As insomnia is a multifactorial issue, the approach to fix it is usually multifactorial too and includes cognitive, behavioral, and educational interventions:
- Cognitive restructuring which aims to change unhealthy thoughts that are stopping you from sleeping well.
- Behavioral interventions such as stimulus control, relaxation training, and sleep restriction are very effective in improving total sleep time and quality.
- Education about the connection between thoughts, actions, and sleep is an essential component of CBT for insomnia.
I'll go through a little more about each of these interventions in detail.
Do you have any negative thoughts about sleep?
Many people with insomnia experience unhealthy or inaccurate thoughts about sleep, which leads to behaviors that make it harder to get high-quality sleep. This then reinforces those thoughts and the vicious cycle continues.
One of the most common examples for this is worrying about being unable to fall asleep. This worry leads to overthinking in bed for hours and a very poor night of sleep. Sound familiar?
Cognitive restructuring tries to break this cycle by identifying those problematic thoughts and altering them.
Do you associate your bedroom with frustration and tossing and turning? Just to clarify that I'm still talking about sleep here!
A lot of people with insomnia end up associating their bedroom with being awake, in addition to other habits such as eating, watching TV or messing around on their laptops or phones.
Stimulus control changes these associations by ensuring that the bed is only used for sleep and sex.
If you're struggling to fall asleep for a certain period of time, you may be asked to get out of bed and only go back when you're feeling sleepy again. This way, you learn to only associate your bed with sleeping. Other measures include setting an alarm for the same time every day and avoiding daytime naps, to further regiment these habits.
Would you like to reduce the tension and racing thoughts that come with lying in bed wide awake? Relaxation training may be for you.
Your expert can teach you lots of proven techniques to make you feel more relaxed and capable of getting a good night's sleep. This can be tailored to whichever techniques would work best for you in your everyday life.
These techniques include: breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and much more. Another exciting option is biofeedback, which uses electronic devices to help you monitor and control your heart rate, breathing, body temperature and brain waves.
As the name suggestions, sleep restriction limits the amount of time you spend in bed.
You may be thinking that this sounds counterintuitive. Hear me out.
This technique can actually increase the amount of total sleep you get by temporarily making you sleepier during the day.
For example, let's say you're trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night but you can actually only manage 6. Take the amount of time you're actually asleep and add 30 minutes. So, in this case, that's 6 hours and 30 minutes. You'll adjust your bedtime to give yourself 6 hours and 30 minutes in bed, which will increase the chance of you spending the majority of time in bed asleep.
Basically, that extra time you spend in bed being miserable? We cut it out.
There is a more gentle way of doing this called sleep compression, where the time spent in bed is more gradually reduced. This may be more suitable for older people.
It's also important to bear in mind that people with medical conditions that can worsen with reduced sleep may not be suitable for this therapy, such as those with epilepsy or bipolar disorder.
All the more reason to only use an expert.
Is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia Better Than Sleeping Pills?
CBT for insomnia is recommended as first-line treatment for insomnia by the American College of Physicians. And that's because it's an incredible treatment.
Research suggests that CBT for insomnia is more effective than medications in some patients.
CBT for insomnia also has several advantages over medication:
- The treatment is tailored to you
- It has no side effects
- The benefits persist after finishing the treatment
- It can help with other related conditions such as anxiety and depression
If CBT for insomnia alone doesn't manage to cure your insomnia, you should have a discussion with your doctor about whether using sleep medications or supplements alongside therapy would benefit you.
Don't Sign Up For CBT-I Before Reading This
There is one very important thing you need to know before you sign up for CBT for insomnia.
The likelihood of successful treatment hinges on these challenges:
- Finding a trained therapist in your area
- Finding a therapist you connect with
- Finding affordable treatment
- Finding treatment that provides adequate support for you even outside of your sessions
But please don't be put off or worried, because I've got a solution for you.
So what do I do now?
You may remember that I promised that if you made it to the end of the article, you'd learn more about how to improve your sleep as efficiently and cheaply as possible.
And here it is.
BetterHelp is the leading online therapy service.
They take the time to understand your individual needs and pair you with a very highly qualified therapist who can deliver personalised therapy at a reasonable price.
It’s of the highest quality.
It’s tailored for you.
There are lots of online therapy services available and it's important that you pick one that suits your needs. This option is certainly one that you should consider and if it's a match, great!
Below is a link to a quiz that will start matching you with a therapist tailored to your needs.
Whichever option you go for and wherever you are, I hope you get the sleep you deserve.