Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Insomnia: Is It Effective?

Sleep problems occur in half of the world’s population from time to time. Insomnia is provoked by hormonal disruptions and problems with the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Do not ignore such factors as stress, constant nervous tension, and the frantic pace of life – all that city dwellers have to face. As a result of emotional overload, every third inhabitant of the metropolis is familiar with insomnia. Experts believe that a normal rest is enough for a person to allocate 6-8 hours of sleep.

However, for those who struggle with insomnia, a full night’s sleep is a real luxury. Experts strongly recommend that you pay attention to the following symptoms of sleep disorders: trouble going to sleep; abrupt, causeless awakening; fear of insomnia, superficial, shallow sleep that does not bring relaxation.

Neurologists note that the aforementioned disorders are usually characteristic of patients after 50 years of age. But recently, young people are increasingly turning to specialists for help with complaints of sleep disorders. The reasons for this lie on the surface: the information boom, gadget addiction, and chronic fatigue.

We offer you to pay attention to the most effective way to prevent episodic insomnia, which does not require medical treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia

According to recent research, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is well-established in the treatment of insomnia. And this applies not only to those who have had difficulty sleeping for a long time but also to those who have recently encountered this problem.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a type of psychotherapy based on the assumption that the basis of psychological problems and mental disorders of a person are errors of his thinking. CBT is aimed at changing the illogical or inappropriate thoughts and beliefs of the patient, and stereotypes of his perception of the surrounding reality. In the course of cognitive psychotherapy, a person learns to solve problems by rethinking and correcting his thinking.

For example, if a patient suffers from an anxiety disorder or depression, even the simplest activities, such as going to school, work, or the grocery store, may seem overwhelming. Do not put up with such discomfort every day. With the help of cognitive-behavioral therapy, one can not only better control the current situation, but also radically change it – learn to rethink the problem and alternatives for solving it.

Many people suffering from various mental disorders have found that the use of CBT helps them cope with their fears and anxieties and improves their quality of life. Unlike psychoanalysis, which studies people’s behavior in order to deeply understand their motives and reactions, CBT takes a more active approach. That is, it really changes the negative way of thinking.

In recent years, a growing number of clinicians have been using this technique to teach people to “reboot” their thoughts and reactions. This, in turn, contributes to the solution of many health problems.

Benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. CBT is recognized as an effective treatment and prevention for chronic sleep problems, including insomnia, and is therefore recommended as first-line therapy. There are several important advantages of cognitive behavioral therapy compared to other methods:

  • helps to identify and understand thoughts, as well as behavioral reactions that provoke and cause disturbances in falling asleep and sleep, reducing its quality;
  • teaches how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, acquire habits that contribute to a good rest;
  • Unlike sleeping pills, CBT helps to overcome the very cause of insomnia, which means it has the best effect and a low likelihood of relapse;
  • It is equally well suited for those with insomnia, which is the underlying disease, and for those whose sleep disorders occur against the background of anxiety1, depression, chronic pain, and other problems.

Who can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia?

CBT for insomnia can help almost everyone who has trouble sleeping, i.e. people who:

  • with primary insomnia;
  • with physical problems (chronic pain, injuries, etc.);
  • with psychoneurological disorders (depression, anxiety);

At the same time, the effect of therapy remains for a long time, and there are no side effects.

How does CBT work for insomnia?

Cognitive behavioral therapy includes two main parts, which are reflected in its name:

  1. The cognitive part teaches a person to recognize, and change their own beliefs that negatively affect the ability to sleep. Its main goal is to help control or eliminate negative thoughts, anxiety, and anxiety, because of which the onset of sleep is disturbed and its quality worsens.
  1. The behavioral part promotes the development of useful, healthy habits to restore normal sleep, and helps to avoid behavior that interferes with normal rest.

Depending on your needs and how your insomnia progresses, your doctor may recommend some effective CBT treatment techniques:

  • Stimulus control therapy. A technique aimed at eliminating the factors that cause the mind to resist sleep. For example, teaching a person to fall asleep and wake up at a strictly set time, that is, creating a rest-wake mode.
  • Sleep restriction. This method places strict limits on the time you spend in bed. It is understood that the habit of spending time in bed for a long time, including while awake, can negatively affect the quality and quantity of your sleep.
  • Sleep hygiene. The method involves changing the basic habits, and the prevailing lifestyle that affects sleep. For example, smoking, drinking a lot of caffeine, and alcohol at the end of the day, and lack of regular physical activity.
  • Improving sleep conditions. It is necessary to create comfortable conditions for your rest. Keeping silence will help, creating complete darkness, and a cool temperature in the room. Stop watching TV in the bedroom.
  • Relaxation. A method that helps calm the mind and body. Includes meditation, imaginative thinking, muscle relaxation, massage, etc.
  • Refusal of passive wakefulness. The method of paradoxical intention, that is, the avoidance of any effort to fall asleep. If you worry about not being able to sleep before you go to bed, it can actually interfere with your rest. By not thinking about it and not trying to force yourself to sleep, you can relax and fall asleep faster.
  • Biofeedback method. It allows you to monitor the biological indicators of a person, such as heart rate, number of respiratory movements, and muscle tension. Your doctor may ask you to take home a special device to record your daily circadian rhythms2. This information will help you identify patterns that affect your sleep. After all, circadian rhythms are our built-in biological clock, a complex and multifunctional sleep-wake system.
  • Cognitive control and psychotherapy. These methods are used to help identify attitudes and beliefs that interfere with your sleep (negative thoughts associated with anxiety and stress, anxiety). Your doctor helps you “process” the thoughts and feelings associated with sleep.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and medications

Sleeping pills are effective for insomnia 3and give quick results. For example, they give a person quick relief during a period of severe stress, fear, and grief. Some of them have successfully passed clinical trials and are for long-term use. However, sleeping pills are not the best option for the long-term treatment of insomnia, at least because of the side effects involved.

In this case, a good alternative would be the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy. It is recommended if:

  • You have long-term problems with sleep;
  • You are afraid of becoming addicted to drugs;
  • Their action is ineffective, causing a large number of adverse reactions.

Unlike pills, CBT 4aims to address the underlying causes of insomnia, not just the symptoms. But for psychotherapy to work, it takes time and your personal efforts. In some special cases, a combination of sleep medications and CBT may be the most effective treatment regimen.

  1. Pihkala, Panu. “Anxiety and the ecological crisis: An analysis of eco-anxiety and climate anxiety.” Sustainability 12.19 (2020): 7836. ↩︎
  2. Patke, Alina, Michael W. Young, and Sofia Axelrod. “Molecular mechanisms and physiological importance of circadian rhythms.” Nature reviews Molecular cell biology 21.2 (2020): 67-84. ↩︎
  3. Riemann, Dieter, et al. “Sleep, insomnia, and depression.” Neuropsychopharmacology 45.1 (2020): 74-89. ↩︎
  4. Atwood, Molly E., and Aliza Friedman. “A systematic review of enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT‐E) for eating disorders.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 53.3 (2020): 311-330. ↩︎

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Icy Health Editorial Team

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