We all know what it is like to get a poor night’s sleep. We become groggy, moody, and have difficulty concentrating at work. When insomnia becomes a pattern it can create a crisis in our lives. We become desperate for rest and search for solutions to get much needed relief. What’s more, chronic insomnia leads to increased health conditions including depression. Often we turn to pharmacy or natural forms of medication. In the short term, medications appear to solve the problem. However, sleeping pills make you feel groggy during the day and actually interfere with our natural sleep cycles. Plus, medicines actually lead to increased problems with insomnia after two-to-three weeks of use. So what is the solution to insomnia? The answer is one that many people, even in the medical community are not aware of: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-I) has shown to be highly effective for treating insomnia.

Different Types of Insomnia

Not all insomnia is the same. Insomnia that results from chronic pain or medical conditions is called Secondary Insomnia. Primary Insomnia results from stress, jet lag, diet, and other factors. Most people with primary insomnia have trouble falling asleep, referred to as sleep onset insomnia, or they have trouble remaining asleep, which is called sleep maintenance insomnia. Insomnia often develops into a pattern known as “conditioned” or “learned” insomnia. Conditioned insomnia leads to increased rumination about sleeping during the day and arousal during sleep times. When untreated, conditioned insomnia is very persistent. However, with assistance from a licensed mental health professional, CBT-I is a highly effective way to manage insomnia in the long run.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

CBT-I is a short-term, comprehensive form of treatment that examines every area of a person’s life to determine what factors contribute to their insomnia. Issues such as anxiety, alcohol, or a crying baby may all contribute to a person’s insomnia. In our modern world, there are many stressors that lead to conditioned insomnia. Here are several steps involved in CBT-I that will help you begin to retake the rest you need:

1) Keep a sleep journal

Journaling your sleep patterns not only includes sleep time activity such as time spent in a bed, time going to sleep, time falling asleep, wake times, etc. It also involves daily activities such as caffeine and alcohol intake, time watching television, and stressful events or conversations. This helps develop awareness of factors may be influencing your sleep. Most people are surprised as how their daily activities influence their sleep patterns. This is why keeping a sleep journal is an essential part of insomnia treatment.

2) Practice good sleep hygiene

While good sleep hygiene is not the only way to manage insomnia, it is an essential ingredient to successful sleep. Practices such as limiting alcohol and caffeine, reducing the temperature before sleeping, and limiting time spent lying in bed (including watching TV) begin to condition the mind for rest and helps to “decondition” wakefulness a times of sleep. Remember, just 150 years ago, we didn’t have artificial lighting and temperature control. When darkness came the light and heat went away. This told us it was time to settle down. Fostering these conditions can have a profound effect on our ability to fall asleep.

3) Sleep Restriction

Sleep restriction tends to be the least favorite intervention for insomnia. When tired, most people lie in bed and attempt to fall asleep. With insomnia, however, lying in bed leads to anxious arousal, rumination, and longer periods of failure to sleep. As we spend more time in bed, the problem becomes worse. Sleep restriction sets a specific timeframe when a person attempts to sleep and is required to get up. When restricting the amount of time spent in bed, our bodies learn there is only a window of time to fall asleep. After one or two weeks, we adjust to these parameters. Sleep restriction results in more easily falling asleep and getting better quality of sleep.

4) Mindfulness Meditation

Life is stressful. It is not uncommon to become anxious, especially when trying to wind down to sleep for the night. With insomnia, settling into bed often results in anxious arousal as well as wandering thoughts about the day. Mindfulness meditation is a scientifically researched tool to effectively manage anxiety. Practicing mindfulness meditation on a daily or weekly basis helps manage unwanted anxiety and thoughts that perpetuate insomnia. Insomnia can greatly hinder quality of life. If you or a loved one experiences prolonged insomnia and want to learn more about ending the struggle, contact Foundations Family Counseling to meet with a provider who can get you onto a path of consistent restful sleep.