If you struggle to sleep at night, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that more than a third of American adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. And lack of sleep doesn’t just drag you down and make it hard to function – insomnia increases the risk for nearly every mental health and physical health issue. So, getting quality sleep is an absolute must.
If sleep hygiene improvements (using a sleep mask, skipping naps, avoiding electronics before bedtime, etc.) and prescription or over-the-counter medication haven’t solved your sleep challenges, I have an effective intervention you may like. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Insomnia (CBT-I), and the American College of Physicians recommends that all adult patients receive CBT-I as first-line treatment for chronic insomnia disorder (ongoing insomnia).
CBT-I is a systematized program that identifies behaviors and thoughts that contribute to, and worsen, sleep problems. These challenging behaviors and thoughts are replaced with habits that promote quality sleep. The goal is to overcome the underlying causes of insomnia rather than simply treating the symptoms. Below are a few elements of CBT-I:
- Sleep Restriction Therapy – avoid napping during the day to increase sleepiness at bedtime
- Stimulus Control Instructions – identify behaviors that limit sleep
- Sleep Hygiene Education – avoid caffeine, limit ambient light in your bedroom, limiting electronics before bed, etc.
- Sleep Assessments and Sleep Diaries
- Relapse Prevention
It’s best to do this work with a trained CBT-I practitioner, but if you don’t have access to a trained clinician, there’s an app that can help. It’s called CBT-I Coach – and it’s free!
The app offers a structured program that guides users through the process of learning about sleep, developing positive sleep routines, and improving sleep environments. You can use the app to enhance face-to-face care with a CBT-I clinician or it can be used on its own. It’s not intended to replace your relationship with a healthcare practitioner, so be sure to talk to your clinician.
Improving your sleep will absolutely make a difference in your overall well-being, both physically and mentally. So, if you’re experiencing sleep challenges, seek solutions.