Insomnia refers to a variety of sleep issues, including unsatisfactory duration, efficiency and quality of sleep. Not falling asleep at bedtime, waking up frequently during the night, and arising too early are just some of the problems associated with sleep. Not only is sleep impacted, but often individuals are very tired during day. Most people require about 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night to feel refreshed in the morning; however, some only require 5-6 hours of sleep. With chronic insomnia, these sleep issues continue and are not reflective of just one night of “bad sleep”.

When you don’t get sufficient quality sleep, you may experience psychological and health problems. Those with insomnia experience higher levels of distress and physical complaints, such as tension headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Fortunately, there are proven non-pharmacological techniques that can help improve your sleep. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a modality of psychological treatment used to treat a wide range of disorders, including anxiety, depression and sleep issues. CBT comprises various treatment components, which target adaptive changes in thinking, emotions and behaviors. In a recent study, 60% of patients diagnosed with acute insomnia were cured by a 60-minute cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) session. The primary components of CBT for insomnia treatment are Stimulus Control Therapy (SCT) and Sleep Hygiene.

Stimulus Control Therapy: This technique limits the amount of time an individual spends in the bed while awake and the types of behaviors engaged in while in the bedroom. SCT typically requires that an individual only go to bed when he or she is sleepy, engage only in sex or sleep while in the bedroom, leave the bedroom if awake for more than 20 minutes, and return to bed only when sleepy. Also, individuals are encouraged to maintain a specific sleep schedule, such as going to bed at 10 p.m. and awaking at 6 a.m. every day. The idea behind these behaviors is that the individual will only associate the bedroom with sleep and sex-not lying in bed awake or watching television.

Sleep Hygiene: Sleep hygiene essentially comprises “sleep tips” to help individuals improve their sleep. Some of these include disconnecting from electronics (which can disrupt natural sleep patterns), engage in wind-down time before bed (e.g. meditation, deep breathing, quiet time), limit naps during the day, eat a balanced diet, avoid alcohol and illegal drugs, restrict caffeine intake and maintain a sleep diary to track your progress.

Although these techniques have proven to be effective for many individuals, sometimes more intensive treatment is required. Outpatient counseling, such as the type of counseling we offer at Evolutions Behavioral Health, includes CBT and other techniques to improve sleep. Treatment is typically conducted in approximately 6 to 8 sessions, depending on the severity of the issues. Some individuals might benefit from more intensive therapy conducted at a sleep clinic.