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Treating Insomnia with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

insomnia and sleep disorders

March 18: World Sleep Day

Sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, can be challenging. When you can’t sleep well at night, it can make the rest of the day difficult. This cycle can negatively affect your relationships, mental health, and physical health.  

Good news: insomnia does not have to be a permanent problem. Sleeping well and improving your well-being is possible with cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). March 18th is World Sleep Day, so we want to recognize the role that therapy can play for individuals who suffer from insomnia. 

What is Insomnia? 

A person with insomnia has difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Over time, it can lead to other problems, such as low energy, problems at work or school, and difficulties concentrating. Mental health problems may also worsen as a result.  

Life stressors can cause insomnia. Stressors in life include things like your job, relationships, finances, and life transitions. These stressors make it difficult to get quality rest. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to chronic pain, poor sleeping habits, hormone imbalances, and mental health disorders. 

Insomnia & Mental Health 

Sleep disorders, for most people, are not isolated disorders. Most often, these disorders are associated with a mental illness or another medical condition. It is also associated with lifestyle choices and life stressors.

Sleep disturbances can also occur as a result of certain mental health disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for instance, is one disorder that can affect sleep patterns. Insomnia is also a common symptom of depression and anxiety.

What Is CBT-I?  

With CBT-I, an experienced professional treats the underlying causes of insomnia without using sleeping pills.

The goal is to identify thoughts and/or behaviors that stop or impede sleep. In addition, CBT-I aims to promote habits that lead to restful sleep.  CBT-I has also been shown to be effective in treating insomnia that occurs along with another mental health or medical condition. 

During treatment, individuals will focus on cognitive, behavioral, and psychoeducational interventions. These include: 

  • Changing unhelpful thought patterns about sleep.
  • Developing good sleep habits and relaxation techniques. For example, breathing exercises, meditation, and muscle relaxation. 
  • Connecting behaviors, thoughts, and feelings to sleep.

People who opt to treat their insomnia with CBT-I often experience diminished mental health symptoms or better management of mental health symptoms. In essence, therapy can help you to understand why you are finding it difficult to sleep and provide you with guidance to help you get a good night’s sleep.

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