While many of us are plagued with occasional bouts of insomnia from time to time, others unfortunately find insomnia a part of their regular nighttime ritual. For these individuals, a glass of warm milk isn’t enough to help them fall asleep and stay asleep. That’s when cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can step in and help, as the Mayo Clinic points out.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia?
This long-winded name isn’t as complex as it sounds. Basically, it is a methodic, tailored program that aims to figure out the thoughts and actions that are worsening your sleep problems, and then replace them with thoughts, behaviors, and habits to promote sound sleep. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is not to cover up your sleep problems, but discover the underlying causes of your insomnia. It’s a long-term treatment for insomnia, without the worry of dependence on medications.
What’s Involved in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia?
There are actually two parts at work in this therapy. The first part, the cognitive side, strives to teach you how to identify and alter beliefs that are affecting your sleep. The second part, the behavioral side, teaches you how to avoid bad sleep habits while promoting good sleep habits.
Most cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia programs include one or more of the following components:
- Sleep education. Before anything else, it’s important for you to understand how sleep cycles work and how your behaviors, environment, and beliefs can impact your sleep cycles.
- Sleep diary. As it’s important to understand you sleep patterns to improve your sleep, sleep specialists often recommend keeping a sleep diary. Among other things, you’ll record when you go to bed, the length of time it took to fall asleep, how many times you woke up, and total time spent in bed. Over time, you may detect a pattern that will help you to make changes for better sleep.
- Sleep restriction. A technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is to restrict your sleep so that you are more sleepy when you go to bed.
- Sleep hygiene. This is all about alternating your lifestyle to include activities that are sleep promoting, rather than sleep deterring. This includes removing habits that aren’t conducive to sound sleep, such as caffeine, alcohol, and eating or exercising too late.
- Psychotherapy. To help you eliminate worries and negative thoughts that may be an obstacle to you falling or staying asleep, this part of therapy teaches you to control these thoughts.
- Relaxation techniques. Sleep hypnosis, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback are all relaxation techniques used as part of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.
Keep in mind that one therapy method may work better for you than another. That said, generally speaking, the best cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a combination of techniques.
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