Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, sleep disruptions, or waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep. It’s common especially among adults.
Insomnia could be a short- or long-term problem. Short-term insomnia is usually a result of stress, while long-term insomnia could be a sign of a more complex medical condition. You’re also at a risk of insomnia after quitting smoking.
Ideally, adults are required to have, at least, eight to nine hours of sleep. When these sleeping hours aren’t completed, it could lead to a myriad of health conditions, including:
- Mental health disorders like depression and anxiety
- Neurological problems
- Physical illness and fatigue
Other than fatigue, you may experience drowsiness during the day, affecting your productivity. Therefore, with time, insomnia reduces the quality of life. It’s, therefore, crucial that you seek treatment if you suspect you have insomnia.
How insomnia is treated will depend on if it’s long- or short-term. Basically, there are two methods used to treat insomnia. One prescribes sleep-inducing medication, and the other uses cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Sometimes, the doctor could combine both types of treatment for the best results. This article will focus on the latter type of treatment. Therefore, it’ll dig deep into cognitive behavioral therapy, giving you four tools and techniques you can use for insomnia treatment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Insomnia
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment that focuses on identifying and controlling or eliminating the thoughts and behaviors that keep you awake.
The cognitive part of the treatment refers to the ability of the treatment to help you recognize the thoughts and beliefs that deny you sleep. For example, if you can’t sleep because you’re worried you won’t have enough sleep because it’s late, the treatment helps you identify this thought that denies you sleep. The behavioral part of the treatment enables you to develop good sleeping habits that counter the thoughts. It also helps you get rid of bad habits and avoid them altogether. One bad habit that may lead to insomnia is too much screen time before bedtime. The treatment may recommend alternative activities, at least, 30 minutes before bedtime.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the first line of treatment for insomnia for the following reasons:
- It helps you identify and deal with the underlying cause of insomnia, reducing the chances of reoccurrence.
- The treatment doesn’t have the health risks associated with medication for insomnia.
Now that you understand what cognitive-behavioral therapy is, here are four tools and techniques under this treatment that your doctor may prescribe for treating insomnia.
- Sleep Hygiene
This tool consists of being educated about healthy lifestyle habits that promote a healthy quality and quantity of sleep. Sleep hygiene focuses on increasing behavior that will improve your sleeping patterns and eliminating those that cause insomnia. Some of the examples are:
- Don’t drink coffee or any other caffeinated drink, at least, four to six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid smoking or using any other stimulant before bedtime. This is because stimulants like nicotine increase your heart rate and alertness, making it difficult to fall asleep.
- Avoid watching TV or using electronic devices like your smartphone, at least, thirty minutes to one hour before going to bed. These devices emit blue light which restrict melatonin production, the hormone responsible for the sleep cycle. Therefore, if you don’t control your screen time before bed, you tend to have a hard time falling asleep and waking up the next day
- In place of the devices and screens, you can read a book while in bed.
- Avoid taking heavy meals before sleep. Studies found that when you take a heavy meal before sleeping, the muscles are forced to keep working to digest the food while they should be resting. In the process, it forces you to stay awake longer, and you, therefore, struggle to fall asleep.
- Still on food, you’re discouraged from eating spicy food before sleeping. Spicy food may sometimes cause indigestion which may disturb your sleep quality. Additionally, spicy food also makes you feel warmer, which may compromise your ability to stay asleep.
- It helps when you make your bedroom dark and quiet. This is especially for people who are easily interrupted by light and noise.
- Stimulus Control
This treatment tool is used to remove behavior, thoughts, or beliefs that are conditioned in your mind and cause you to resist sleep. For example, to help you fall asleep as soon as you’re in bed, the doctor can coach you to:
- Make it a rule to only retire to bed when you feel tired.
- Only use the bed for sleeping or sex. That is, avoid eating or watching from the bed.
- To set an alarm clock to help you get up at the same time every morning.
- To get up if you’re in bed and can’t fall asleep. This especially helps to ease the anxiety of being in bed and not falling asleep. Therefore, it helps you avoid attaching anxiety to sleeping time so that you can fall asleep easily in the future.
- Sleep Restriction
Sleep restriction is a technique that is used to help reduce the time spent between when you get to bed and when you actually fall asleep. It’s vital that you fall asleep as soon as you get to bed. It helps you get more hours of sleep so that you can wake up on time the next day. You also run your day productively when you aren’t sleep-deprived.
So, how does this technique work? You’ll first need a record of the time it takes for you to actually fall asleep after getting to bed. Say you take 30 minutes; your doctor may advise that you add 30 minutes to your sleeping time as well. Therefore, if you’re scheduled to sleep at 11 p.m, you’ll shift that to 10:30 p.m. to ensure you exhaust your sleeping hours.
- Relaxation Technique
The relaxation technique reduces physical and mental tension to help you fall asleep more quickly. When you’re mentally relaxed, it helps to intercept thoughts that may trigger insomnia. It also helps to avoid the anxiety associated with not being able to fall asleep.
Some of the relaxation habits done include
- Breathing exercises – You could try sitting with your back straight. Hold your breath for seven counts then exhale for eight counts. Repeat a few times.
- Biofeedback – This entails observing your heart rate to the end of controlling it. However, this would require a device and guidance from a doctor.
- Autogenic training – You could try programming yourself to relax different parts of the body leading to falling asleep.
- Imagery – You could try focusing your mind on a relaxing place until you fall asleep.
- Progressive relaxation exercises – Along with breathing exercises, you could try releasing the tension from your muscles.
If you suspect you have insomnia, visit a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The doctor will most likely put you under any of these four tools and techniques to help treat you. That way, you can enjoy quality and quantity of sleep.