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31 Oct 2016

Can CBT Relieve Symptoms of Insomnia?

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By: Leorra Newman, M.A.

Most people have had experience with sleep difficulties at one time or another.  We are bombarded with media messages emphasizing the dangers of sleep deprivation and the importance of healthy sleep habits, yet it is difficult for many of us to find the time to disconnect and wind down.  In addition, periods of stress, illness, or transition may trigger interruptions to our usual sleep patterns.  Sleep difficulties are also often intertwined with other psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety, and by physical complaints such as illness or pain.  Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that most large scale studies have found that approximately 30% of people report one or more symptoms of insomnia such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking too early, or non-restorative or poor quality sleep. Insomnia arises when such sleep problems persist over time and affect individuals’ daytime functioning. Fortunately, there is a scientifically validated psychological insomnia treatment that can relieve symptoms of insomnia known as CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioural Treatment for Insomnia).

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CBT-I: What Can You Expect?

In CBT-I, treatment usually starts with monitoring your sleep for a predetermined period using sleep logs.  Logging your sleep will allow your therapist to determine how much sleep your body is currently producing, as well as review your sleep patterns.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no “magic” formula for total sleep or the optimal time for sleeping; rather, there is a great deal of variability in sleep needs between individuals.  Reviewing your current patterns and expectations will help your therapist tailor treatment to you.  Together with your therapist, you will target some of the factors that are maintaining your insomnia, and work to develop a healthy approach to sleep.

Unfortunately some of the strategies or habits that people with insomnia rely on to improve their sleep problem may actually serve to maintain it over time.  Many have experienced the paradox of sleep effort:  the harder we try for sleep, the more elusive it becomes!  In addition, beliefs and attitudes about sleep have a huge impact on insomnia, and anxiety about improving sleep can even interfere with your natural sleep drive.  In CBT-I you will learn about the main processes governing sleep and experiment with ways of improving your sleep, including strengthening the sleep cue provided by your bed, restricting time in bed, and cognitive strategies for coping with your sleep concerns.  The goal is to help you develop trust in your natural sleep system and establish a foundation for long-term improvements in sleep quality.

How We Can Help

Leorra Newman is an MA-Level Associate at CBT Associates with specialized training in cognitive-behavioural therapy for anxiety-based problems, insomnia, depression, and a variety of other concerns. Leorra, as well as a number of associates at CBT Associates has a vast amount of experience treating insomnia and other mental health concerns.

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