What is insomnia?
Do you take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night without being able to drift back to sleep quickly? You might be suffering from insomnia. A lack of sleep has been linked to a number of psychological and physical health problems, such as depression and diabetes. There are a number of other sleep disorders (e.g., sleep apnea, sleep terrors) that can also cause disruption and impairment.
How is it treated?
For many people with insomnia, there are several factors contributing to their lack of sleep. Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) addresses these factors in order to improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. CBT-I is found to be as effective as sleep medication without all of the side effects and tolerance issues associated with medication. In fact, CBT-I appears to be more effective long-term compared to medication. Many of us experience insomnia as a secondary outcome of another mental or physical health problem. Luckily, research shows that CBT-I is helpful in patients with chronic pain, cancer, HIV, depression, PTSD, and alcohol dependency. CBT-I includes practicing good sleep hygiene, restructuring thoughts related to insomnia, and implementing evidence-based relaxation strategies.
Practicing sleep hygiene is one of the best way to improve your sleep. It is crucial that your bed be used for nothing but sleep. No eating, no watching TV, and absolutely no phone in your bed. Okay, so this is a pretty hard rule to follow, but it makes a huge difference. We want your body to associate your bed with sleep so it serves as a cue to make initiating sleep easier. There are other components of sleep hygiene, such as exercise. Exercise is known to improve sleep, but you need to be thoughtful about it. Exercising too close to bedtime may make it more difficult to go to sleep.
Many people with insomnia experience anxious thoughts about being able to fall asleep. Unfortunately, this tends to have the unintended effect of keeping us awake. When you find yourself thinking, “If I fall asleep now, I will only get X hours of sleep,” reframe that thought to something like, “My body knows how to fall asleep and it will happen without me forcing it.” The more you can stop worrying about falling asleep, the sooner sleep with come.
Relaxation training is an essential component of treating insomnia. CBT-I is focused on finding ways to relax your body and mind enough that sleep will come naturally. We can’t make ourselves fall asleep, but we can practice evidence-based relaxation strategies, such as progressive muscle relaxation, that can prepare the body for sleep. Relaxation training is straightforward, brief, and effective for many people that suffer from insomnia.
If you are struggling with insomnia, consider calling us at 612-470-4099. We specialize in treatment of insomnia using research-supported techniques, including CBT-I.