Insomnia can ruin your life, but with a few techniques, you can get relief. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) helps many people with chronic sleep issues.
What Is CBT-I?
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the connection between how you think and how you behave. It also links to your sleeping habits, thoughts, and patterns when applied to insomnia. Your thoughts and feelings are examined around sleep, dreams, and waking up.
Usually, a provider will conduct the CBT sessions and help you understand whether your thoughts and actions affect your sleep. If you have insomnia and chronically have difficulty sleeping, we recommend visiting a professional for evaluation. However, you can practice some of the techniques independently for less intrusive sleep issues.
In people with insomnia, inaccurate or dysfunctional thoughts regarding sleep may lead to poor pre-sleep behaviors, reinforcing the dysfunctional thoughts. For example, worrying about getting enough sleep for the night or thinking about how long it will take you to fall asleep can bring about the very trouble you are worried about. CBT-I can help you change your thoughts.
Poor behavior patterns can be adjusted, such as using electronic devices in the bedroom. Removing all cellphones, TVs, and even electronic clocks can help change the behaviors that make your sleep difficult. Other techniques, such as meditation, breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation techniques, can help, too.
How To Do CBT-I On Your Own
For moderate to severe sleep issues, visiting a professional specializing in CBT-I is recommended. It can be the fastest, most effective treatment for your sleep issue. The American College of Physicians recommends that all adult patients receive CBT-I as a first-line approach before medication.
If you have mild sleep issues, speaking to a professional is still recommended, but you can get started on some techniques on your own. First, establish a sleep schedule that mimics the natural light and dark cycles. That can help reestablish your circadian rhythms and make sleeping easier.
Secondly, remove all electronic devices from your bedroom and avoid any use for at least 1/2 hour before bed. Reading a physical book is fine, but electronic books can stimulate you and prevent sleep.
Finally, restricting sugar throughout the day can help your body relax and avoid unwanted cycles of stimulation and depression that can interfere with your sleep. Plus, some studies show a low sugar and carbohydrate diet can help positively adjust your gut bacteria and help reduce depression, insomnia, and other mental disorders.
Does CBT-I Have Risks?
Like most mental health counseling, CBT-I does pose the risk of uncovering uncomfortable and frightening thoughts and memories that need dealing with. For people with PTSD, you could end up experiencing triggering memories and experiences. However, as you deal with these issues, you help to resolve them, reducing potential issues in the future.
Otherwise, CBT-I is considered safe and effective. Using some of the techniques in this article and getting help from a professional will be your best bet to achieve a good night’s sleep.
1: Muench A, Vargas I, Grandner MA, Ellis JG, Posner D, Bastien CH, Drummond SP, Perlis ML. We know CBT-I works, now what? Fac Rev. 2022 Feb 1;11:4. doi: 10.12703/r/11-4. PMID: 35156100; PMCID: PMC8808745.
2: Belanger, L., Savard, J., & Morin, C. M. (2006). Clinical management of insomnia using cognitive therapy. Behavioral sleep medicine. 4(3), 179–198.
3: Kalam, Faiza, et al. Alternate day fasting combined with a low carbohydrate diet: Effect on sleep quality, duration, insomnia severity and risk of obstructive sleep apnea in adults with obesity. Nutrients. 13.1 (2021): 211.